American Steel Foundries v. Tricity Central Trades Council 1921

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation27 A. L. R. 360,66 L.Ed. 189,42 S.Ct. 72,257 U.S. 184
Docket NumberNo. 2,2
Decision Date05 December 1921

[Syllabus from pages 184-186 intentionally omitted] Mr. Max Pam, of Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 186-189 intentionally omitted] Mr. Frank C. Smith, of St. Louis, Mo., for respondents.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 189-192 intentionally omitted] Mr. Chief Justice TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

The American Steel Foundries is a New Jersey corporation operating a large plant for the manufacture of steel products in Granite City, Ill. In May, 1914, it filed a bill in the District Court for the Southern District of Illinois to enjoin the defendants, the Tri-City Central Trades Council, and 14 individual defendants, some of them officers of the Council, all of them citizens of other states than New Jersey, from carrying on a conspiracy to prevent complainant from retaining and obtaining skilled laborers to operate its plant. The bill charged that the conspiracy was being executed by organized picketing, accompanied by threats, intimidation and violence toward persons employed or seeking employment there. The defendants in their answer admitted that the Central Trades Council had established a picket upon streets leading to the plant, with instructions to notify all persons entering it that a strike had been called because of reduction of wages, and to use all honorable means to persuade such persons not to take the places of the men on the strike; admitted the participation of individual defendants in the picketing, but denied threats of injury or violence or responsibility for the violence that admittedly had occurred. After replication was filed, the cause was heard. A restraining order issued on filing of the bill, and a final decree was entered by which defendants were——

'perpetually restrained and enjoined from in any way or manner whatsoever by use of persuasion, threats, or personal injury, intimidation, suggestion of danger or threats of violence of any kind, interfering with, hindering, obstructing or stopping any person engaged in the employ of the American Steel Foundries in connection with its business or its foundry in the city of Granite City, county of Madison, state of Illinois, or elsewhere, and from interfering by persuasion, violence or threats of violence, in any manner with any person desiring to be employed by said American Steel Foundries in its said foundry or plant, and from inducing or attempting to compel or induce by persuasion, threats, intimidation, force or violence or putting in fear or suggestions of danger any of the employees of the American Steel Foundries or persons seeking employment with it so as to cause them to refuse to perform any of their duties as employees of the American Steel Foundries, and from preventing any person by persuasion, threats, intimidation, force or violence, or suggestion of danger or violence, from entering into the employ of said American Steel Foundreies, and from protecting, aiding or assisting any person or persons in committing any of said acts, and from assembling, loitering or congregating about or in proximity of the said plant or factory of the American Steel Foundries for the purpose of doing, or aiding or encouraging others in doing, any of the said unlawful or forbidden acts or things, and from picketing or maintaining at or near the premises of the complainant, or on the streets leading to the premises of said complainant, any picket or pickets, and from doing any acts or things whatever in furtherance of any conspiracy or combination among them, or any of them, to obstruct, or interfere with said American Steel Foundries, its officers, agents or employees, in the free and unrestrained control and operation of its plant, foundry and property and the operation of its business, and also from ordering, directing, aiding, assisting or in any manner abetting any person committing any or either of the acts aforesaid, and also from entering upon the grounds, foundry, or premises of the American Steel Foundries without first obtaining its consent, and from injuring or destroying any of the property of the said American Steel Foundries.'

There were 12 assignments of error on the appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals, but the important ones which raised the issue in this case were as follows:

'Eight. Because the complainant was not entitled to an injunction prohibiting the defendants while on the streets of Granite City or while in proximity to such foundry, from trying to persuade strike breakers from taking the places of the strikers.

'Ninth. Because the complainant was not entitled to an injunction prohibiting the defendants from stopping employees of complainant and suggesting to them that they should not work at such plant while a strike was on.

'Tenth. Because the complainant was not entitled to an injunction prohibiting the defendants from assembling, or congregating, in proximity of said foundry, or on the streets leading to such foundry.

'Eleventh. Because the complainant was not entitled to an injunction prohibiting the defendants from placing any picket, or pickets, upon the streets leading to such foundry, whose duty it was to notify those entering said foundry that there was a strike on.'

The Circuit Court of Appeals modified the final decree by striking out the word 'persuasion' in the four places in which it occurred, and by inserting after the clause restraining picketing the following: 'In a threatening or intimidating manner.' Fed. 728.

The Tri-City Central Trades Council is a labor organization composed of representatives of 37 trade unions of Granite City, Madison and Venice, adjoining towns in Illinois, including among them electricians, cranemen, mill hands, machinists, and stationary engineers. In April, 1914, the complainant, which ordinarily in full operation employed 1,600 men and, whose plant had been shut down since November of the previous year, resumed operations with about 350 of its regular men, 150 of whom belonged to the skilled trades, electricians cranemen, mill hands, machinists and blacksmiths. At this trial, the works manager testified:

'When we opened April 6th we employed whoever we saw fit, whoever applied for employment at the gate. We had only called for in round numbers 300 men and laid off approximately 1,300. Eighty or 90 per cent. of the employees were old men. I assume these men were members of various organizations; I can't state definitely as to that.'

When business was resumed in April, half of skilled workmen were given wages at rates from 2 cents to 10 cents an hour below those paid before the plant had shut down. The Trades Council was advised of this about April 15th, and appointed a committee to secure reinstatement of the previous wages. The manager of the complainant told them that he ran an open shop, did not recognize organized labor and would not deal with the committee, but would entertain any complaint by an employee. The Council thereupon, on April 22d, declared a strike on complainant's plant and displayed outside of the entrance to the plant a printed notice announcing that a strike was on at the plant and calling on union men and all labor to remain away from the works in order that an increase in wages might be secured. Only two men, defendants Churchill and Cook, acted upon the order to strike. Churchill was a member of the Machinist's Union. Cook was not a member of any union. The Council then established a picket, which was carried on for 3 or 4 weeks without intermission until the bill was filed on May 18th, and a restraining order issued.

Complainant's plant was in an enclosure of 25 acres and fronted on Niedringhaus avenue. The Wabash and other railroads crossed this street and ran along the side of the plant. There were four tracks. The timekeeper's gate of the plant opened on to the tracks. Directly opposite on the other side of the tracks was the Wabash depot, from 300 to 400 feet from the plant. It was on Niedringhaus avenue, and this street was the one used by many of the plant's employees in going to their homes in Granite City and in reaching the terminal of the street car line which many used. Complainant's employees testified that just as the picketing began, they were warned by some of the defendants that they would be hurt if they did not quit. The master mechanic of the plant, Hall, testified that Lamb, one of the defendants, the national representative of the Machinist's Union at St. Louis, when in company with 4 other pickets, handed him the circular of the Trades Council, and told him:

'We don't like the way you have treated our boys down here, and we just came down to raise a little hell.'

Lamb admitted saying to Hall that the cut in wages was a severe one and that it looked as though they were going to raise hell in the town because conditions were good; that he did not like to see a fight going on, but it looked as though it would come. The evidence showed that the pickets would stand about near the Wabash tracks, sometimes on the foundries' side, sometimes on the depot side, sometimes on Niedringhaus avenue, and that there were 3 or 4 groups of them varying from 4 to a dozen in each group. The headquarters of all the groups was at the Wabash depot.

There was an assault on April 30th, in which one Haefner, an employee, was attacked by 3 of the picketers. On May 8th, a man named Crabtree and 4 other employees were attacked by a group of more than 7 of the pickets. On May 13th, another assault occurred, which developed into a mob, and 2 witnesses for complainant swore positively that the president of the Trades Council, Galloway, was engaged in this disturbance and was throwing bricks. There were other assaults, the last one on May 18th, before the restraining order issued that day reached the picketers. Officers of the company...

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