361 U.S. 363 (1960), 42, Local No. 8-6, Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers

Docket Nº:No. 42
Citation:361 U.S. 363, 80 S.Ct. 391, 4 L.Ed.2d 373
Party Name:Local No. 8-6, Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers
Case Date:January 25, 1960
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 363

361 U.S. 363 (1960)

80 S.Ct. 391, 4 L.Ed.2d 373

Local No. 8-6, Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers

No. 42

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 25, 1960

International Union, AFL-CIO

Argued November 19, 1959



Proceeding under a Missouri statute, the Governor of Missouri found that the public interest, health, and welfare were jeopardized by an existing strike against a public utility in the State, and issued executive orders taking possession of the company and directing that it continue operations. Pursuant to the statute, a state court enjoined continuation of the strike. The strike was then terminated, a new labor agreement was entered into between the unions and the company, and the Governor ended the seizure. On appeal from the injunction decree, the Supreme Court of Missouri noted that the injunction had "expired by its own terms," but it proceeded to sustain the constitutionality of those sections of the statute authorizing the seizure, forbidding continuation of a strike after seizure, and authorizing the state courts to enjoin violations of the Act. On appeal to this Court,

Held: since the injunction has long since expired by its own terms, the cause has become moot. Pp. 364-371.

(a) Because the injunction has long since "expired by its own terms," there remains for this Court no actual matter in controversy essential to a decision of this case. Harris v. Battle, 348 U.S. 803. Pp. 367-369.

(b) Life is not given to this appeal by the fact that the statute contains provisions which impose (1) monetary penalties upon labor unions which continue a strike after seizure, and (2) loss of seniority for employees participating in such a strike; since the Supreme Court of Missouri found that those separable provisions of the Act were not involved in this case, it carefully refrained from passing on their validity, and they are not properly before this Court in this case. Pp. 369-371.

317 S.W.2d 309, judgment vacated and cause remanded.

Page 364

STEWART, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Supreme Court of Missouri affirming a decree which enjoined the appellants from continuing a strike against a St. Louis public utility. The judgment upheld the constitutionality of certain provisions [80 S.Ct. 393] of a Missouri law, commonly known as the King-Thompson Act, which authorizes the Governor, on behalf of the State, to take possession of and operate a public utility affected by a work stoppage when, in his opinion, "the public interest, health and welfare are jeopardized" and "the exercise of such authority is necessary to insure the operation of such public utility."1

Page 365

In the state courts and in this Court, the appellants have contended that the Missouri law conflicts with federal legislation enacted under the Commerce Clause of the Federal Constitution, and that it violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Because of doubt as to whether the controversy was moot, we postponed further consideration of the question of jurisdiction to the hearing of the case on the merits. 359 U.S. 982.

The appellants are labor unions which represent employees of the Laclede Gas Company, a corporation engaged in the business of selling natural gas in the St. Louis area. In the spring of 1956, the appellants notified Laclede of their desire to negotiate changes in the terms of the collective bargaining agreement which was to expire in that year. Extended negotiations were conducted, but no new agreement was reached, and, upon expiration of the existing contract on June 30, 1956, the employees went out on strike.2

Five days later, the Governor of Missouri issued a proclamation stating that, after investigation, he believed that the public interest, health, and welfare were in jeopardy, and that seizure under authority of the state law was necessary to insure the company's continued operation. In an executive order issued the same day, the Governor took "possession" of Laclede "for the use and operation by the State of Missouri in the public interest." A second executive order provided that all the

rules and regulations . . . governing the internal management and organization of the company, and its duties and responsibilities, shall remain in force and effect throughout the term of operation by the State of Missouri.

Page 366

After the seizure, the appellants continued the strike in violation of the statute,3 and the State of Missouri filed suit for an injunction against them in the Circuit Court of St. Louis.4 At the end of a three-day hearing, the trial court entered an order enjoining the appellants from continuing the strike, and, in an amendment to the decree, declared the entire King-Thompson Act constitutional and valid. On July 14, 1956, the day after the injunction issued, the strike was terminated. On August 10, 1956, the appellants and Laclede signed a new labor agreement, and, on October 31, 1956, the Governor ended the seizure.

[80 S.Ct. 394] On appeal, the Supreme Court of Missouri, although noting that the injunction had "expired by its own terms," nevertheless proceeded to consider the merits of certain of the appellants' contentions. The court restricted its consideration, however, to those sections of the King-Thompson Act "directly involved" --


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