Giboney v. Empire Storage Ice Co

Decision Date04 April 1949
Docket NumberNo. 182,182
Citation69 S.Ct. 684,93 L.Ed. 834,336 U.S. 490
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Appeal from the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri.

Clif Langsdale, of Kansas City, Mo., for appellants.

Richard K. Phelps, of Kansas City, Mo., for appellee.

Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case here on appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1257, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1257, raises questions concerning the constitutional power of a state to apply its antitrade restraint law1 to labor union activities, and to enjoin union members from peaceful picketing carried on as an essential and inseparable part of a course of conduct which is in violation of the state law. The picketing occurred in Kansas City, Missouri. The injunction was issued by a Missouri state court.

The appellants are members and officers of the Ice and Coal Drivers and Handlers Local Union No. 953, affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. Its membership includes about 160 of 200 retail ice peddlers who drive their own trucks in selling ice from door to door in Kansas City. The union began efforts to induce all the nonunion peddlers to join. One objective of the organizational drive was to better wage and working conditions of peddlers and their helpers. Most of the nonunion peddlers refused to join the union. To break down their resistance the union adopted a plan which was designed to make it impossible for nonunion peddlers to buy ice to supply their retail customers in Kansas City. , pursuant to the plan the union set about to obtain from all Kansas City wholesale ice distributors agreements that they would not sell ice to nonunion peddlers. Agreements were obtained from all distributors except the appellee, Empire Storage and Ice Company. Empire refused to agree. The union thereupon informed Empire that it would use other means at its disposal to force Empire to come around to the union view. Empire still refused to agree. Its place of business was promptly picketed by union members although the only complaint registered against Empire, as indicated by placards carried by the pickets, was its continued sale of ice to nonunion peddlers.

Thus the avowed immediate purpose of the picketing was to compel Empire to agree to stop selling ice to nonunion peddlers. Missouri statutes, set out in note 1, make such an agreement a crime punishab e by a fine of not more than $5,000 and by imprisonment in the penitentiary for not more than five years. Furthermore had Empire made the agreement, the ice peddlers could have brought actions for triple damages for any injuries they sustained as a result of the agreement under § 8308 of the Missouri Revised Statutes 1939, Mo.R.S.A.

About 85% of the truck drivers working for Empire's customers were members of labor unions. These union truck drivers refused to deliver goods to or from Empire's place of business. Had any one of them crossed the picket line he would have been subject to fine or suspension by the union of which he was a member.

Because of the foregoing facts shown either by admissions, by undisputed evidence, or by unchallenged findings, the picketing had an instantaneous adverse effect on Empire's business. It was reduced 85%. In this dilemma, Empire was faced with three alternatives: It could continue to sell ice to nonunion peddlers, in which event it would be compelled to wage a fight for survival against overwhelming odds; it could stop selling ice to nonunion peddlers thereby relieving itself from further conflict with the union, in which event it would be subject to prosecution for crime and suits for triple damages; it could invoke the protection of the law. The last alternative was adopted.

Empire's complaint charged that the concerted efforts of union members to restrain Empire from selling to nonunion members was a violation of the antitrade restraint statute and that an agreement by Empire to refuse to make such sales would violate the same statute. It prayed for an injunction against the picketing. In answering, appellants asserted a constitutional right to picket Empire's premises in order to force it to discontinue sale of ice to nonunion peddlers. They contended that their right to do so was 'guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments' because there was 'a labor dispute existing' between appellants and appellee, and because the picketers publicized only the truthful infor- mation that appellee was 'selling ice to peddlers who are not members of the said defendant union.'

The trial court heard evidence, made findings and issued an injunction restraining the appellants from 'placing pickets or picketing around or about the buildings' of Empire.

The State Supreme Court affirmed. Mo.Sup., 210 S.W.2d 55. It agreed with the findings of the trial court that the conduct of appellants was pursuant to a local transportation combination used to compel Empire to stop selling ice to nonunion peddlers and that the purpose of the picketing was to force Empire to become a party to such combination. It held that such activities were unlawful because in violation of § 8301 of the Missouri statutes and further held that the injunction to prevent picketing for such unlawful purpose did not contravene the appellants' right of free speech.

In this Court appellants do not raise problems similar to those discussed in Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697, 51 S.Ct. 625, 75 L.Ed. 1357, relating to censorship prior to publication as distinguished from sanctions to be imposed after publication, nor are their objections to the form, language, or scope of the injunction. See Milk Wagon Drivers Union of Chicago, Local 753 v. Meadowmoor Dairies, 312 U.S. 287, 297—298, also dissenting opinion, 299—303, 61 S.Ct. 552, 556—557, 558—559, 85 L.Ed. 836, 132 A.L.R. 1200. Attacking the Missouri statute as construed and applied, appellants broadly challenge the power of the state to issue any injunction against their conduct since, they assert, the primary objective of their combination and picketing was to improve wage and working conditions. On this premise they argue that their right to combine, to picket, and to publish must be determined by focusing attention exclusively upon their lawful purpose to improve labor conditions, and that their violation of the state antitrade restraint laws must be dismissed as merely incidental to this lawful p rpose.

First. That states have constitutional power to prohibit competing dealers and their aiders and abettors from combining to restrain freedom of trade is beyond question. Watson v. Buck, 313 U.S. 387, 403—404, 61 S.Ct. 962, 967—968, 85 L.Ed. 1416. In speaking of the Missouri statutory antecedent of the statute here challenged, this Court said: 'The purpose of such statutes is to secure competition and preclude combinations which tend to defeat it. * * * There is nothing in the Constitution of the United States which precludes a state from adopting and enforcing such policy. To so decide would be stepping backwards.' International Harvester Co. v. Missouri, 234 U.S. 199, 209, 34 S.Ct. 859, 862, 58 L.Ed. 1276, 52 L.R.A,N.S., 525. Agreements and combinations not to sell to or buy goods from particular persons, or to dictate the terms under which transportation will be supplied, are well recognized trade restraint practices which both state and national legislation can and do prohibit. Grenada Lumber Co. v. Mississippi, 217 U.S. 433, 440—441, 30 S.Ct. 535, 538, 54 L.Ed. 826; Eastern States Retail Lumber Dealers' Ass'n v. United States, 234 U.S. 600, 612—614, 34 S.Ct. 951, 954—955, 58 L.Ed. 1490, L.R.A.1915A, 788; Fashion Originators' Guild v. Trade Comm., 312 U.S. 457, 465, 61 S.Ct. 703, 706, 85 L.Ed. 949; United States v. Trans-Missouri Freight Ass'n, 166 U.S. 290, 324—325, 17 S.Ct. 540, 552, 41 L.Ed. 1007.

Second. It is contended that though the Missouri statute can be applied validly to combinations of businessmen who agree not to sell to certain persons, it cannot be applied constitutionally to combinations of union workers who agree in their self-interest to use their joint power to prevent sales to nonunion workers. This contention appears to be grounded on the guaranties of freedom of speech and press stemming from the Fourteenth and First Amendments. Aside from the element of disseminating information through peaceful picketers, later dicussed, it is difficult to perceive how it could be thought that these constitutional guaranties afford labor union members a peculiar immunity from laws against trade restraint combinations, unless, as appellants contend, labor unions are given special constitutional protection denied all other people. 2

The objective of unions to improve wages and working conditions has sometimes commended itself to Congress and to state legislatures. To the extent that the states or Congress, for this or other reasons, have seen fit to exempt unions from antitrust laws, this Court has sustained legislative power to grant the exemptions. International Harvester Co. v. Missouri, 234 U.S. 199, 34 S.Ct. 859, 58 L.Ed. 1276, 52 L.R.A.,N.S., 525; Allen-Bradley Co. v. Union, 325 U.S. 797, 810—811, 65 S.Ct. 1533, 1540, 89 L.Ed. 1939; United States v. Hutcheson, 312 U.S. 219, 232—234, 61 S.Ct. 463, 466—467, 85 L.Ed. 788, and see Tigner v. Texas, 310 U.S. 141, 60 S.Ct. 879, 84 L.Ed. 1124, 130 A.L.R. 1321. On the other hand where statutes have not granted exemptions, we have declared that violations of antitrust laws could not be defended on the ground that a particular accused combination would not injure but would actually help manufacturers, laborers, retailers, consumers, or the public in general. Fashion Originators' Guild v. Trade Comm., 312 U.S. 457, 467—468, 61 S.Ct. 703, 707—708, 85 L.Ed. 949. More than thirty years ago thi Court said, International Harvester Co. v. Missouri, supra, 234 U.S. at page 209, 34 S.Ct. at page 862, 58 L.Ed. 1276...

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