Alabama State Federation of Labor v. McAdory

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Citation18 So.2d 810,246 Ala. 1
Docket Number6 Div. 234.
Decision Date25 May 1944

18 So.2d 810

246 Ala. 1


6 Div. 234.

Supreme Court of Alabama

May 25, 1944

Rehearing Denied June 22, 1944. [18 So.2d 811] [Copyrighted Material Omitted] [18 So.2d 812] [Copyrighted Material Omitted] [18 So.2d 813] [Copyrighted Material Omitted] [18 So.2d 814]

[246 Ala. 5] Horace C. Wilkinson and Fred G. Koenig, both of Birmingham, for appellants.

[246 Ala. 8] Wm. N. McQueen, Acting Atty. Gen., Geo. C. Hawkins, Asst. Atty. Gen., and David Satterwhite and Evans Dunn, both of Birmingham, John E. Adams, of Grove Hill, and John W. Lapsley, of Birmingham, for appellees.

[246 Ala. 9] GARDNER, Chief Justice.

Plaintiffs, under the Declaratory Judgment Statute of this State (Title 7,§§ 156-168, Code of 1940), seek to test the constitutional validity of what is commonly referred to as the "Bradford Act," which concerns labor and labor organizations and passed by the Legislature in 1943. Acts 1943, p. 252, Code 1940, Tit. 26, § 376 et seq. All parties upon this appeal argue the case upon the assumption of the regularity of the proceeding in every respect, and the case will be so considered here.

The attack is upon the Act as a whole and upon several of its separate sections. The cause was, by consent, tried before a court of Jefferson County composed of three of its judges, including the presiding judge of that circuit. In the court below the ruling was that the Act as a whole was constitutional, and Section 7, here so vigorously assailed, was likewise held valid. Sections 12 and 17 were held void, and Sections 13 and 14 void in part, but that the validity of these particular features of the Act did not affect the validity of the Act as a whole. The court refrained from passing upon the constitutionality of Sections 15 and 16. But upon this appeal counsel for the respective parties have very ably argued all the questions presented as to each feature of the Act, and seek a conclusion of the whole matter. We acquiesce in this treatment of the appeal and proceed to decision of all questions raised.

At the outset reference may be made, as is often done, to the principles by which courts are guided when it is sought to strike down as violative of the constitution a legislative act. Uniformly, the courts recognize that this power is a delicate one, and to be used with great caution. It [18 So.2d 815] should be borne in mind, also, that legislative power is not derived either from the state or federal constitutions. These instruments are only limitations upon the power. Apart from limitations imposed by these fundamental charters of government, the power of the legislature has no bounds and is as plenary as that of the British Parliament. It follows that, in passing upon the constitutionality of a legislative act, the courts uniformly approach the question with every presumption and intendment in favor of its validity, and seek to sustain rather than strike down the enactment of a coordinate branch of the government. All these principles are embraced in the simple statement that it is the recognized duty of the court to sustain the act unless it is clear beyond reasonable doubt that it is violative of the fundamental law State ex rel. Wilkinson v. Murphy, 237 Ala. 332, 186 So. 487, 121 A.L.R. 283.

Another principle which is recognized with practical unanimity, and leading to the same end, is that the courts do not hold statutes invalid because they think there are elements therein which are violative of natural justice or in conflict with the court's notions of natural, social, or political rights of the citizen, not guaranteed by the constitution itself. Nor even if the courts think the act is harsh or in some degree unfair, and presents chances for abuse, or is of doubtful propriety. All of these questions of propriety, wisdom, necessity, utility, and expediency are held exclusively for the legislative bodies, and are matters with which the courts have no concern. This principle is embraced within the simple statement that the only question for the court to decide is one of power, not of expediency [246 Ala. 10] or wisdom. 11 Am.Jur. pp. 799-812; A. F. of L. v. Reilly, District Court of Colorado, 7 Labor Cases No. 61,761.

The broad doctrine as thus announced is sustained by the weight of authority, both in the Federal and the state courts. For our own State the cases of City of Ensley v. Simpson, 166 Ala. 366, 52 So. 61, and State v. Ala. Fuel & Iron Co., 188 Ala. 487, 66 So. 169, L.R.A.1915A, 185 Ann.Cas. 1916E, 752, furnish apt illustrations. And as for the Federal courts, reference may be made to Flint v. Stone Tracy Co., 220 U.S. 107, 31 S.Ct. 342, 55 L.Ed. 389, Ann. Cas.1912B, 1312.

Likewise, another principle should be kept in mind, and that is: Where the validity of a statute is assailed and there are two possible interpretations, by one of which the statute would be unconstitutional and by the other would be valid, the courts should adopt the construction which would uphold it. 11 Am.Jur. p. 725. Or, as otherwise stated, it is the duty of the courts to adopt the construction of a statute to bring it into harmony with the constitution, if its language will permit. This principle has been often recognized by our own Court. State v. Birmingham So. Ry. Co., 182 Ala. 475, 62 So. 77, Ann.Cas.1915D, 436; Whaley v. State, 168 Ala. 152, 52 So. 941, 30 L.R.A.,N.S., 499; State ex rel. Collman v. Pitts, 160 Ala. 133, 49 So. 441, 135 Am.St. Rep. 79. It was well stated by the Supreme Court of the United States in National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, 57 S.Ct. 615, 621, 81 L.Ed. 893, 108 A.L.R. 1352, in the following language:

"The cardinal principle of statutory construction is to save and not to destroy. We have repeatedly held that as between two possible interpretations of a statute, by one of which it would be unconstitutional and by the other valid, our plain duty is to adopt that which will save the act. Even to avoid a serious doubt the rule is the same."

Bearing in mind these well-recognized principles, we proceed to a consideration of the constitutional questions here presented.

The Act as a Whole.

The first constitutional question presented relates to the Act as a whole. It is insisted that its passage violated Section 45 of our Constitution, which provides that every law should contain but one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title. This constitutional provision is mandatory upon the courts, and its purpose fully stated in the leading case of Ballentyne v. Wickersham, 75 Ala. 533. Numerous cases have dealt with this constitutional provision, with full discussion and varied illustrations.

The particular objection here urged so strenuously is that the Act contains more than one subject. Of course, as has been often stated, the purpose of the requirement of a single subject is primarily to prevent "log-rolling" legislation, which would result in the support of doubtful measures induced by adding others upon unrelated subjects. It has been stated, also, that incidentally, the purpose was to avoid [18 So.2d 816] ill-considered provisions passing into law while the thought of the Legislature is directed to another subject.

The title to the Act, like every instrument known to the law, is to be construed as a whole. Gibson v. State, 214 Ala. 38, 106 So. 231; Davidson v. Phelps, 214 Ala. 236, 107 So. 86; State ex rel. Ward v. Henry, 224 Ala. 224, 139 So. 278; Yeilding v. State ex rel. Wilkinson, 232 Ala. 292, 167 So. 580, 583. "A statute has but one subject, no matter how many different matters it relates to, if they are all cognate, and but different branches of the same subject." Yeilding v. State, supra. And in State v. Henry, supra [224 Ala. 224, 139 So. 281], speaking to this question the Court said:

"It is settled under our decisions that however numerous the subjects stated in the title, and however numerous the provisions in the body of the act may be, if they can be by fair intendment considered as falling within the subject-matter legislated upon in the act, or necessary as ends and means to the attainment of such subject, the act does not offend our constitutional provision that no law shall embrace more than one subject, which must be expressed in its title."

Counsel in argument ingeniously select different phases of the subject of the Act, insisting that each is separate and distinct. But we cannot agree. As we have previously noted, the title of the Act must be construed as a whole and considered in the light of the subject matter treated in the body of the Act. When so considered, we find in the passage of this Act no infringement of Section 45. The entire Act, as well as the title, indicates that the subject [246 Ala. 11] matter concerns labor and the regulation of labor organizations. Clearly enough, the establishment of a Department of Labor and a provision for a Mediation Board come within the influence of this subject. So, likewise, as to the numerous regulations contained in the several provisions of the Act.

Counsel refer to some of the prohibitions embraced in the Act, which, it is urged, do not come within the meaning of the word "regulation"; citing to this effect Miller v. Jones, 80 Ala. 89. Like argument was advanced in Davidson v. Phelps, supra, where this Court observed, in answer to this insistence, that there are elements of prohibition or restriction inherent in all regulations. Numerous states have like constitutional provisions, among them the State of Illinois. Similar argument was advanced before the Supreme Court of Illinois in Fenske Bros. v. Upholsterers' International Union, 358 Ill. 239, 193 N.E. 112, 120, 97 A.L.R. 1318, concerning an act, the title of which was: "An Act relating to disputes concerning terms and conditions of employment." Smith-Hurd Stats. c. 48, § 2a. The body of the act...

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