45 Cal.2d 657, 23005, Garmon v. San Diego Bldg. Trades Council

Docket Nº:23005
Citation:45 Cal.2d 657, 291 P.2d 1
Opinion Judge:[10] Edmonds
Party Name:Garmon v. San Diego Bldg. Trades Council
Attorney:[7] Todd & Todd, Thomas Whelan, John T. Holt and Clarence E. Todd for Appellants. [8] Gray, Cary, Ames & Frye, James W. Archer and Ward W. Waddell, Jr., for Respondents.
Case Date:December 02, 1955
Court:Supreme Court of California

Page 657

45 Cal.2d 657

291 P.2d 1

J. S. GARMON et al., Respondents,



L. A. No. 23005.

Supreme Court of California

Dec. 2, 1955

In Bank.

Page 658

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 659


Todd &amp Todd, Thomas Whelan, John T. Holt and Clarence E. Todd for Appellants. Gray, Cary, Ames &amp Frye, James W. Archer and Ward W. Waddell, Jr., for Respondents



The Garmons, while engaged in business as partners under the name of Valley Lumber Company, became involved in a dispute with union labor organizations. The appeal is from a judgment which enjoins the unions and their members from carrying on certain activities and awards damages in the amount of $1,000 against them.

Following a trial, the court made these findings of fact:

Valley Lumber Company is engaged in the business of selling lumber and building materials, and its operations affect interstate commerce. In the previous year it sold materials originating and manufactured out of California of a value exceeding $250,000. None of its employees belong to any of the defendant unions and none have designated either of them as a labor representative. The employees have indicated that they do not desire to join, or be represented by, a union. The National Labor Relations Board has not certified either of the

Page 660

unions as the representative of the employees and the company has not recognized any union as such.

The union demanded a labor agreement containing a clause which would require the company to employ, and continue in employment, only such persons as are, or immediately become, members of the defendant unions. 1 The company refused to execute the agreement, upon the grounds that it would be a violation of the National Labor Relations Act to do so before the employees, or an appropriate unit thereof, designated a union as its collective bargaining agent. Shortly thereafter, the unions placed pickets at the company's place of business.

The intent of the unions was not to induce the employees to join one of them, nor to provide education or information as to the benefits of unionization. The only purpose was to force the company to execute the agreement or suffer destruction of its business. In addition to picketing, union agents followed the company's trucks and threatened persons about to enter its place of business with economic injury. By this conduct, and the use of language calculated to instill fear of such injury, the unions induced building contractors to discontinue their patronage of the company, with consequent damage to the business amounting to $1,000.

The National Labor Relations Board, "... pursuant to a policy declared by it, refused to take jurisdiction of the controversy between plaintiffs and defendants for the purpose of determining whether defendants should be designated as the collective bargaining representative of the employees of plaintiffs."

Upon these findings a judgment was entered which awards the company $1,000 damages and enjoins the unions "... from picketing the places of business of plaintiffs, from following the trucks of the plaintiffs, from preventing or attempting to prevent, by means of threats, express or implied, persons having business with the plaintiffs from entering the premises of the plaintiffs, from inducing or attempting to induce by such means potential customers of plaintiffs to refuse to purchase from plaintiffs or to refuse to accept delivery of goods

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from plaintiffs or in plaintiffs' trucks, and from doing any other acts tending or intended to injure plaintiffs' business, in order to compel, plaintiffs to execute any contract with the defendants, or any of them, requiring plaintiffs to discriminate with respect to conditions of employment by reason of membership, or lack thereof, in any labor organization unless and until defendants, or any one or more of them, have been properly designated as the collective bargaining representative of plaintiffs' employees or an appropriate unit thereof."

The unions contend that jurisdiction of the controversy is exclusively in the National Labor Relations Board. They also attack the judgment upon the ground that the company did not exhaust its administrative remedies. Other points presented are: the evidence does not support the findings; the findings do not include all issues tendered; the award of damages is based upon evidence entirely speculative; and, the record shows no violation of any state law.

In support of the judgment, the company asserts that the jurisdiction of the national board is not exclusive, or if it is, the state court may enjoin unlawful conduct when the board has declined to act. Another point relied upon is that, regardless of state jurisdiction to enjoin the unions, the superior court's award of damages for violation of the state's public policy is not contrary to any federal law.

The National Labor Relations Board has exclusive primary jurisdiction to prevent unlawful demands. (Weber v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 348 US 468 [75 SCt 480, 99 LEd 546]; Garner v Teamsters, Chauffeurs & Helpers Local Union No 776, 346 US 485 [74 SCt 161, 98 LEd 228]; United Const Workers v Laburnum Const Corp, 347 US 656 [74 SCt 833, 98 LEd 1025]; Bethlehem Steel v New York State Labor Relations Board, 330 US 767, 769 [67 SCt 1026, 91 LEd 1234]) The purpose of the picketing was to compel the company to sign an agreement which included a clause requiring the employer to encourage membership in the unions In the circumstances here shown, under the Labor Management Relations Act, this was an unfair labor practice 2

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In the Garner case, a Pennsylvania court enjoined picketing which, contrary to a state statute, was being carried on for the purpose of coercing an employer to compel or "influence" employees to join the union. The state Supreme Court reversed the judgment upon the ground that the employer's sole remedy was that provided by the National Labor Management Relations Act. (Garner v. Teamsters, 373 Pa. 19 [94 A.2d 893].) The United States Supreme Court agreed, holding "that petitioner's grievance fell within the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board to prevent unfair labor practices. ..."

However, the board need not accept every controversy of which it has jurisdiction. (Haleston Drug Stores v. National Labor Relations Board, 187 F.2d 418. See discussion by Philip Feldblum, Jurisdictional "Tidelands" in Labor Relations, 3 Labor Law Journal 114.) It hears and determines controversies only in connection with "enterprises whose operations have, or at which labor disputes would have, a pronounced impact upon the flow of interstate commerce." (National Board Press release dated October 6, 1950.)

In the present case, the employer's position is that, when the National Labor Relations Board refuses to take jurisdiction of a dispute because the effect of the company's business on interstate commerce is not substantial, the state courts may act. The United States Supreme Court has not decided this question. In the Garner case it pointed to the lack of any indication that "the federal Board would decline to exercise its powers once its jurisdiction was invoked." (Garner v. Teamsters, Chauffeurs & Helpers Local Union No. 776, 346 U.S. 485 [74 S.Ct. 161 at 164, 98 L.Ed. 228].) Later in Building Trades Council v. Kinard Const. Co., 346 U.S. 933 [74 S.Ct. 373, 98 L.Ed 423], in reversing a state court's affirmance of an injunction on the authority of the Garner case, it said: "Since there has been no clear showing that respondent has applied to the National Labor Relations Board for appropriate relief, or that it would be futile to do so, the Court does not pass upon the question suggested by the opinion below of whether the state court could grant its own relief should the Board decline to exercise its jurisdiction."

The reason for prohibiting state courts from acting in cases in which the board has jurisdiction is to obtain uniform

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application of the substantive rules as expressed by Congress, and to avoid diversities and conflicts likely to result from a variety of local procedures and attitudes toward labor controversies. (Garner v. Teamsters, Chauffeurs & Helpers Local Union No. 776, 346 U.S. 485 [74 S.Ct. 161, 166, 98 L.Ed. 228].) A remedy under federal laws available to an injured party may justify preemption of the field of labor relations, but when the application of that rule would result in the loss of all protection, there is no reason to bar state courts from providing relief. There is no conflict of jurisdiction when the federal board determines not to adjudicate the issues. Furthermore, a refusal to accept jurisdiction upon the ground that the issue presented does not sufficiently affect the national welfare to justify the board's attention, in effect, is a declaration that the national labor policy will not be jeopardized if the state assumes jurisdiction.

When Congress enacted the applicable statutes, it must have been aware that an unfair labor practice may affect management and labor in a small business to the same extent as in a large industry. The difference is only the effect on the national labor and economic level. Certainly Congress did not intend to deprive a business having only a limited effect on interstate commerce of all protection in a labor-management controversy. By giving the board discretion to accept or refuse jurisdiction, the legislative purpose must have been to give the state courts jurisdiction when the board specifically determines that the controversy will not affect the national economy. (Accord: Your Food Stores v. Retail Clerks' Local No. 1564, 124 F.Supp. 697, 703; Truck Drivers, Chauffeurs, W. & Helpers Local No. 941 v. Whitfield Transportation, Inc., ___ Tex. ___ [273 S.W.2d 857, 860.]; but cf.: New York State Labor Relations...

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