Blossom Dairy Co v. Int'l Bhd., No. 9336.

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtROSE
Citation23 S.E.2d 645
Decision Date08 December 1942
Docket NumberNo. 9336.

23 S.E.2d 645


No. 9336.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Dec. 8, 1942.

[23 S.E.2d 646]
Syllabus by the Court.

1. Picketing of the place of business of an employer by a labor union will not be enjoined on the ground that it tends, or is intended, to cause the breach of a labor contract between such employer and another labor organization, when such picketing is not otherwise unlawful.

2. The word "unfair", as commonly used by organized labor, bears a special and peculiar meaning, and, when so used without qualifying words or statements, is not to be treated as connoting fraudulent, dishonest or like inequitable conduct.

3. The carrying by pickets of a labor union of placards charging an employer with being "unfair to organized labor", although no unfairness in the ordinary meaning of that term is shown to exist, may not be inhibited by injunction, if such picketing is otherwise lawful.

FOX, President, and KENNA, Judge, dissenting.

Appeal from Circuit Court, Kanawha County.

Suit by the Blossom Dairy Company against International Brotherhood of Teamsters and others to enjoin the defendants from picketing plaintiff's places of business and from doing certain other acts. From an adverse order, defendants appeal.

Order reversed and bill dismissed.

Martin Bowles, of Charleston, for appellant.

Henry Sloman, Ritchie, Hill & Thomas, and Charles Ritchie, all of Charleston, for appellees.

[23 S.E.2d 647]

ROSE, Judge.

By the decree appealed from, the Circuit Court of Kanawha County awarded the Blossom Dairy Company »n injunction against International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Stablemen and Helpers of America, Local No. 175, Frank Rebhan and Eugene Carter, and, upon petition of the enjoined defendants, we granted this appeal.

The Blossom Dairy Company is a corporation. Its president and general manager is Sam Sloman. William Sloman, son of the president, is its secretary-treasurer and manager, and Henry Sloman, another son and attorney at law, is its vice-president and manager of the office and plant. This company, with its principal place of business at 116 Virginia Street in the City of Charleston, began business in 1927, and conducts a business of "preparation, distribution and sale of milk and other dairy products at retail and wholesale, through six retail stores in Charleston and its vicinity and operates thirty motor vehicles for the delivery of its products over and along twenty-one routes" radiating about fifty miles from its place of business.

Until 1937, the company operated on a non-union basis. In May of that year, the drivers of these delivery vehicles, who also were salesmen and collectors, after protracted negotiations by union representatives, became members of the defendant, Local No. 175, an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor; and the employer, Blossom Dairy Company, then entered into a six months' wage contract agreement with this local. As the agreement was about to expire, negotiations for a new contract were begun by the representatives of the union. At this point the Blossom Dairy Company employees belonging to Local No. 175 withdrew en masse from that union, formed themselves into an independent organization, since incorporated, as the "Brotherhood of Dairy Salesmen, Inc." The employer then promptly, and without notice of any kind to the former union, signed a contract with this newly organized group, which contract, with slight alterations, has been renewed from time to time, the last renewal of which being still in effect. Upon the withdrawal of these employees from Local No. 175, the Blossom Dairy Company was placed on the "unfair list" by the Kanawha Valley Central Labor Union, an organization consisting of representatives of all the American Federation of Labor Union affiliates in the Kanawha Valley.

In May, 1941, an American Federation of Labor representative opened negotiations with the Blossom Dairy Company, through its president, with the purpose of obtaining a new contract, but was unsuccessful. Immediately thereafter, the defendants caused a single picket to be placed before each of four of the company's retail stores who carried placards with the inscription "Blossom Dairy Unfair to Organized Labor, Teamsters Local 175, Endorsed by Kanawha Valley Central Labor Union." This picketing was perfectly peaceable in every respect, and lasted only four hours. No disorder arose, and no customers absented themselves, so far as can be ascertained, and no contract between customers and the dairy company existed. About the same time, there appeared in "The Labor Union", a newspaper published under the legend "Official Publication of the American Federation of Labor Organizations In This Territory", a certain article stating that certain American Federation of Labor leaders in Charleston charged that the Brotherhood of Dairy Salesmen, Inc., was a "company" union, a "phony" union, and a "bogus" organization, and certain handbills were circulated throughout a part of the business territory of the Blossom Dairy Company criticising its labor policy.

Immediately, the Blossom Dairy Company presented to the Circuit Court of Kanawha County its bill for an injunction, which was based upon the allegation that the charge that it was "unfair to organized labor" and was dealing with a "company", "bogus", or "phony" union was false and tended to bring about a breach of its contract with the Brotherhood of Dairy Salesmen, Inc., and thus to cause irreparable injury to the plaintiff. An injunction, as prayed for, was awarded without notice to, or appearance by, the defendants, whereupon the picketing immediately ceased.

By answer, the defendants deny that they were responsible for the article published in "The Labor Union", or the distribution of the handbills mentioned, but admit their responsibility for the picketing alleged; and assert that the statements published and disseminated by the handbills and borne on the placards of the pickets were truthful and published and displayed for a just end. Also, both by demurrer and answer, they defend upon the proposi-

[23 S.E.2d 648]

tion that the injunction sought would violate the right of free speech and free press guarantied the defendants by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Federal Constitution, and by Section 7, Article III of the Constitution of West Virginia. The demurrer was overruled, and evidence was taken at the bar of the, court, at the conclusion of which, the court, by an oral opinion preserved in the record, announced that in his judgment it had not been shown that the Brotherhood of Dairy Salesmen, Inc., was not a bona fide organization, that its inception was sponsored by the plaintiff or by its responsible officials, or that its existence was dominated by them. The preliminary injunction was then perpetuated for the term of the contract then in force between the Blossom Dairy Company and the Brotherhood of Dairy Salesmen, Inc., inhibiting the defendants:

"(1) From picketing the stores and places of business of the plaintiff, Blossom Dairy Company, a corporation, wheresoever located, or from persuading or attempting to persuade any person, persons, firms, or corporations from purchasing plaintiff's products;

"(2) From publishing, or causing to be published statements designed to cause persons or prospective customers, of plaintiff, at any of its stores, not to enter same, or to deal therein, or otherwise to boycott the plaintiff or plaintiff's stores wheresoever located;

"(3) From doing or performing any act designed and intended to induce plaintiff's employees to violate or attempt to violate the collective bargaining contract now existing between the plaintiff and the Brotherhood of Dairy Salesmen, Inc., a corporation, during the existence of such contract, or inducing or attempting to induce the said Brotherhood of Dairy Salesmen, Inc., a corporation, to violate the terms of said contract."

The finding by the chancellor on the question of the bona fides of the Brotherhood of Dairy Salesmen, Inc., cannot be disturbed. A single former employee of the plaintiff, now discharged, testified that this independent union was organized, supported in part and dominated by Sam Sloman, the president of the plaintiff company. But Sam Sloman, one of his sons, the superintendent of the company, and five drivers and salesmen testify to the contrary. This finding, therefore, must be treated as a fact in the case. Wright v. Goins, 105 W. Va. 332, 142 S.E. 438; Walton v. Pritt, 93 W.Va. 375, 116 S.E. 759; Baughman v. Hoffman, 90 W.Va. 388, 110 S.E. 829; Milk Wagon Drivers Union v. Meadow-moor Dairies, 312 U.S. 287, 61 S.Ct. 552, 85 L.Ed. 838, 132 A.L.R. 1200. But, upon this fact thus ascertained and decreed and the other facts not in dispute, was the final order justified?

[2, 3] As to the published article and the distributed handbills, it was clearly wrong. There is no proof whatever that the defendants, or any of them, had anything to do with, or were in any way responsible for, these matters. As to the picketing, it will also be seen that the injunction was at least too broad in that it inhibits all picketing of the stores or places of business of the plaintiff, and not merely improper picketing. Thus a substantial modification, at least, of the injunction order is clearly required.

But may the decree be sustained for any purpose? With these modifications, there would remain simply an injunction against the carrying of banners by pickets with the inscription "Blossom Dairy Unfair to Organized Labor", whereas, the proof showed no ground of complaint whatever against this employer, except that it was under a labor contract with a local independent employees' union, against which no charges are made, except merely the fact that it was independent. The trial chancellor based his decree largely, if not wholly, upon the fact, which he further found, that the picketing tended...

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  • City of Fairmont v. Retail, Wholesale, and Dept. Store Union, AFL-CIO, AFL-CIO
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    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 21 Octubre 1980
    ...1261, 1266 (4th Cir. 1971); cert. denied 404 U.S. 911, 92 S.Ct. 228, 30 L.Ed.2d 184 (1971); Blossom Dairy v. Teamsters, 125 W.Va. 165, 23 S.E.2d 645 (1942). W.Va.Const. art. 3, § The right of the people to assemble and to apply for a redress of grievances is also specifically protected. App......
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    ...union represents no employees of the complainant.' West Virginia: Blossom Dairy Co. v. International Brotherhood (1942), 125 W.Va. 165 (23 S.E.2d 645, 649), where no statute is involved, holds (Syllabus 1 by the Court, at page 646 of 23 S.E.2d) that 'Picketing of the place of business of an......
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    • 16 Marzo 1954 or otherwise is protected by any constitutional guaranty.' Blossom Dairy Co. v. International Brotherhood, etc., 125 W.Va. 165, 23 S.E.2d 645, 650. See 16 C.J.S., Constitutional Law, § 213-e. But since we express no opinion on the merits of plaintiff's cause of action, if any, we shou......
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    ...379 AFL, 138 W.Va. 355, 367, 76 S.E.2d 113, 120 (1953); Blossom Dairy Co. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 125 W.Va. 165, 172, 23 S.E.2d 645, 650 (1942). Finally, the litigants note that the petitioners' speech was not addressed solely to disputes between the hospital and the unio......
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