Gray v. Building Trades Council, s. 13,652, 13,657 - (130).

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtBrown
Citation91 Minn. 171
Docket NumberNos. 13,652, 13,657 - (130).,s. 13,652, 13,657 - (130).
Decision Date24 December 1903

Action in the district court for Hennepin county to restrain defendants, Building Trades Council, and International Brotherhood Electrical Workers of America, Local Union No. 292, both unincorporated associations, and the members thereof, from interfering in any manner with the business of plaintiffs by means of threats directed against, or intimidation of, the customers of plaintiffs. After a hearing, pursuant to an order to show cause, a restraining order pendente lite was made, W. R. Cray, J., in form as set forth in the opinion. From this order defendants appealed. Modified.

Thomas Canty, Herman Johnson, and Hall & Kolliner, for appellants.


Harlan P. Roberts, W. W. Bardwell, Hale & Montgomery, and W. E. Hale, for respondents.


Action to restrain and enjoin defendants from boycotting plaintiffs in their business. Six separate actions of the same nature were brought at the same time by different plaintiffs against the same defendants, in each of which the trial court made an order that a temporary injunction issue, restraining and enjoining defendants in the respects hereinafter mentioned, from which order defendants appealed to this court. The cases were submitted here together and upon one set of briefs.

The facts are as follows: Plaintiffs are electrical contractors and engineers, and their business consists in installing wires and other electrical apparatus in buildings and structures, and such business and affairs as are incidental thereto. It is alleged in the complaint in this connection (substantially the same allegations being found in the complaint in each of four of the actions) that plaintiffs have built up a large and profitable business in their line; that the customers with whom they are doing it are necessary and essential to the successful conduct of the same; that such business is a source of profit, and from which they earn a livelihood; that defendant Building Trades Council is an unincorporated association consisting of a large number of delegates from numerous other associations, known as "labor unions," all of which are located in the city of Minneapolis; that each labor union or organization selects a certain number of delegates, who represent and act for it, who become members of and constitute the Building Trades Council, which, so composed, possesses and exercises control over all the unions so represented; that, by virtue of an arrangement between the unions, any action taken or order given by the Trades Council is binding and obligatory upon each of the several unions so represented, and forming part of the council; that each individual member assumes an obligation to abide by and obey all orders emanating from the Trades Council, in default of which he subjects himself to a fine of $5; that one of the unions so associated with the Trades Council is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Engineers of America, Local Union No. 292; that this brotherhood is composed of employees of firms engaged in a business similar to that of plaintiffs; that, in the language of the union, certain firms and corporations are known as "fair," and others as "unfair"; that those classified as "unfair" are such as employ nonunion labor, and those classified as "fair" limit their employees to union laborers; that defendant Building Trades Council has recently placed all of the plaintiffs upon the "unfair" list; that defendants have entered into a conspiracy and combination for the purpose of injuring the business of plaintiffs, and in pursuance of which defendants have appeared before prospective customers, and threatened such customers that, if they attempted to do business with plaintiffs, defendants would make it impossible to transact business with them; that on May 15, 1903, defendants, in pursuance of such conspiracy and combination, appeared before a committee in charge of the affairs of the Minneapolis Industrial & Amusement Association, and declared that if it should give contracts for certain electrical wiring, which the association desired to have done, to plaintiffs, or either of them, the Trades Council would see that the association would be unable to obtain men for the construction of the booths and other buildings contemplated and necessary for the carnival and fair to be given by the association. The complaint further alleges that at the time said threats were made by the Trades Council the association was intending to make contracts for the electrical work with plaintiffs; that, but for the intimidation and threats of the Trades Council, the contract for such work would have been let to them, in the performance of which plaintiffs would have made a profit.

The same facts are alleged in the complaints in the other two actions, except as to the carnival association; and on this subject, namely, the particular interference with plaintiffs' business complained of, it is alleged in the Gugler Manufacturing Company case that plaintiff in that action was engaged in carrying out a contract with one Smith, the proprietor of the Brunswick Hotel, in Minneapolis; that the contract required plaintiff to install wires and other electrical apparatus in the building; that other artisans, consisting of carpenters, plasterers, and painters, were engaged in and about the same building; that a representative of the Trades Council called upon Smith, and notified him that, if plaintiff was permitted to continue work on the building, the council would order all union men under its control, and employed in and about the building, to quit work, and that the council would see to it that Smith would be unable to complete the contract. Smith then notified plaintiff of these threats and representations, and urged upon it the necessity of cancelling its contract for the electrical work upon such building, which plaintiff thereafter, in view of the situation, consented to do. In the Hartig & Hellier case a state of affairs is presented very similar to the Gugler case. The complaints further allege that plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law, and that defendants are insolvent and unable to respond in damages, and conclude with a prayer that defendants be restrained and enjoined from carrying out the threats complained of.

The answer in each case admits all the allegations of the complaints respecting the organization of defendant Trades Council, its objects and purposes, its connection with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers of America, and in all other material respects denies generally the allegations of the complaints. It specifically denies that defendants, or any of them, have entered into any conspiracy or combination for the purpose of injuring or destroying the business of plaintiffs, or that pursuant to a conspiracy or combination defendants, or any of them, have appeared before prospective customers of plaintiffs, or any other person or persons, or made any of the threats set forth in the complaint or otherwise.

The actions came on before the court below on plaintiffs' application for a temporary injunction enjoining and restraining defendants, and each of them, from the threatened acts, and were heard upon the pleadings and affidavits in support and in denial of the allegations of the complaints. After due consideration, the court made an order that a temporary injunction issue in each action restraining and enjoining defendants, and each of them, from doing the certain acts hereinafter referred to.

It appears from the affidavits, in addition to the matter pleaded, that plaintiffs, with a number of other electrical contractors, formed an association among themselves, and entered into an agreement with each other, agreeing among other things upon uniform conditions of service, a scale of wages, and that there should be no discrimination in respect to the persons employed because they might or might not be members of some labor union or organization; in short, they proposed to employ nonunion labor if, in their judgment, their interests suggested it.

No controversy ever arose, so far as appears in the record, between plaintiffs and any of their employees, or defendants, as representatives of labor unions, as to the amount of wages paid or to be paid their employees. The whole controversy rests on the effort of defendants to compel plaintiffs to employ union labor only. It is urged that the efforts made in this direction were legitimate, and were resorted to for the purpose of furthering the interests of those represented by the Trades Council and the electrical union, and without malicious intent to injure the business of plaintiffs; that, if injury in fact resulted to plaintiffs, it was incidental to the exercise of a lawful right by defendants. The complaints allege facts showing a boycott, and the order of the trial court granting a temporary injunction must be deemed, for the purposes of this review, as a finding that the facts so alleged are true.

While the affidavits filed in support of the complaints do not make out a strong case against defendants, we are not required on this appeal to go further than would be necessary in reviewing the findings of the trial court in ordinary actions, and only to the extent of determining whether the affidavits fairly tend to support the allegations of the complaints. We therefore adopt the allegations of the complaints as the basis for further consideration of the appeal. As the particular questions presented have not been directly involved in any case heretofore before us, we shall briefly consider some of the legal principles applicable thereto.

Probably the first case to be found in the books presenting the question whether it is an unlawful conspiracy for a number of employees to quit their employment unless their demand...

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