Hill v. State of Florida Watson, No. 811

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBLACK
PartiesHILL et al. v. STATE OF FLORIDA ex rel. WATSON, Attorney General
Decision Date11 June 1945
Docket NumberNo. 811

325 U.S. 538
65 S.Ct. 1373
89 L.Ed. 1782
HILL et al.

v.

STATE OF FLORIDA ex rel. WATSON, Attorney General.

No. 811.
Argued April 4, 5, 1945.
Decided June 11, 1945.
Rehearing Denied Oct. 8, 1945.

See 66 S.Ct. 11.

Mrssrs. Joseph A. Padway and Herbert S. Thatcher, both of Washington, D.C., for petitioners.

Page 539

Messrs. J. Tom Watson and Howard S. Bailey, both of Tallahassee, Fla., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The only question we find it necessary to decide in this case is whether a Florida statute1 regulating labor union activities has been applied to these petitioners in a manner which brings it into irreconcilable conflict with the collective bargaining regulations of the National Labor Relations Act, 49 Stat. 449, 29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq. That Federal Act, we decided in Allen-Bradley Local No. 1111 v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Board, 315 U.S. 740, 62 S.Ct. 820, 826, 86 L.Ed. 1154, did not wholly foreclose state power to regulate labor union activities. Certain conduct, such as mass picketing, threats, violence, and related actions, we held were not governed by the Wagner Act, and hence, Wisconsin was free to regulate them. We carefully pointed out, however, that had the state order under consideration, 'affected the status of the employees, or * * * caused a forfeiture of collective bargaining rights, a distinctly different question would arise.' That question which we so distinctly reserved in the Wisconsin case has now arisen in this case.

The Attorney General of Florida filed a bill for injunction against the petitioner union and its business agent, Hill, in a state court. He sought to restrain both of them

Page 540

from functioning as such until they had complied with the Florida statute. The basis for the relief sought against Hill was that he had for a pecuniary reward acted as a business agent in violation of Section 4; the basis for the relief sought against the union was that it had operated without obtaining a state license as required by Section 6. Section 4, which was invoked against Hill, provides that no on shall be licensed as a 'business agent' of a labor union who has not been a citizen of the United States for more than 10 years, who has been convicted of a felony, or who is not a person of good moral character. Application for a license as a 'business agent' must be accompanied by a $1.00 fee and a statement signed by officers of the union setting forth the agent's authority. The statute then provides that the application be held for 30 days to permit the filing of objections to the issuance of a license. A Board composed of the Governor, the Secretary of State, and the Superintendent of Education, then passes on the application, and if it finds the applicant measures up to the standards of the act, as it sees them, it authorizes the license to be issued, to 'expire on December 31 of the year for which issued unless sooner surrendered, suspended, or revoked.' Section 2(2) defines 'business agent' as 'any person * * * who shall for a pecuniary or financial consideration, act or attempt to act' for a union 'in soliciting or receiving from any employer any right or privilege for employees * * *' or 'in the issuance of membership, or authorization cards, work permits, or any other evidence of rights granted or claimed in, or by, a labor organization * * *.' Section 6, which the Attorney-General invoked against the union, requires every labor union 'operating' in the state to file a written report with the Secretary of State, disclosing its name, the location of its offices, and the names and addresses of its officers. Section 14 makes it a misdeanor for 'any person or labor organization' to violate the statute.

Page 541

Motions by Hill and the union to dismiss the bill on the ground that the state statute violated the Fourteenth Amendment and conflicted with the Wagner Act were denied. Answers were then filed admitting violations of Sections 4 and 6. The court held the licensing and reporting provisions valid. Hill was enjoined from further acting as the union's business agent until he obtained a state license. The union was enjoined from further functioning and operating until it made the report and paid the fee to the Secretary of State. The State Supreme Court affirmed. 19 So.2d 857.

It is apparent that the Florida statute has been so construed and applied that the union and its selected representative are prohibited from functioning as collective bargaining agents, or in any other capacity, except upon conditions fixed by Florida. The declared purpose of the Wagner Act, as shown in its first section, is to encourage collective bargaining, and to protect the 'full freedom' of workers in the selection of bargaining representatives of their own choice. To this end Congress made it illegal for an employer to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in selecting their representatives. Congress attached no conditions whatsoever to their freedom of choice in this respect. Their own best judgment, not that of someone else, was to be their guide. 'Full freedom' to choose an agent means freedom to pass upon that agent's qualifications.

Section 4 of the Florida act circumscribes the 'full freedom' of choice which Congress said employees should possess. It does this by requiring a 'business agent' to prove to the satisfaction of a Florida Board that he measures up to standards set by the State of Florida as one who, among other things, performs the exact function of a collective bargaining representative. To the extent that Section 4 limits a union's choice of such an 'agent' or bargaining representative, it substitutes Florida's judgment for the workers' judgment.

Page 542

Thus, the 'full freedom' of employees in collective bargaining which Congress envisioned as essential to protect the free flow of commerce among the states would be, by the Florida statute, shrunk to a greatly limited freedom. No elaboration seems required to demonstrate that Section 4 as applied here 'stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objec ives of Congress.' Hines v. Davidowitz, 312 U.S. 52, 67, 61 S.Ct. 399, 404, 85 L.Ed. 581; Cloverleaf Butter Co. v. Patterson, 315 U.S. 148, 62 S.Ct. 491, 86 L.Ed. 754; Napier v. Atlantic, Coast Line R. Co., 272 U.S. 605, 47 S.Ct. 207, 71 L.Ed. 432. It is not amiss, however, to call attention to the fact that operation of this very section has already interfered with the collective bargaining process. An employer before the Labor Board defended its refusal to bargain with a duly selected representative of workers on the ground that the representative had not secured a Florida license as a business agent. In the Matter of Eppinger & Russell Co., et al., 56 N.L.R.B. 1259. The Board properly rejected the employer's contention, holding that Congress did not intend to subject the 'full freedom' of employees to the eroding process of 'varied and perhaps conflicting provisions of state enactments.' Cf. N.L.R.B. v. Hearst Publications, Inc., 322 U.S. 111, 64 S.Ct. 851, 88 L.Ed. 1170.

Since the Labor Board has held that an employer must bargain with a properly selected union agent despite his failure to secure a Florida license, it is argued that the state law does not interfere with the collective bargaining process. But here, this agent has been enjoined, and if the Florida law is valid he could be found guilty of a contempt for doing that which the act of Congress permits him to do. Furthermore, he could, under Section 14 of the state law, be convicted of a misdemeanor and subjected to fine and imprisonment. The collective bargaining which Congress has authorized contemplates two parties free to bargain, and cannot thus be frustrated by state legislation. We hold that Section 4 of the Florida Act is repugnant to the National Labor Relations Act.

Page 543

Section 68 as here applied, stands no better. The requirement as to the filing of information and the payment of a $1.00 annual fee does not, in and of itself, conflict with the Federal Act. But for failure to comply, this union has been enjoined from functioning as a labor union. It could not without violating the injunction and also subjecting itself to the possibility of criminal punishment even attempt to bargain to settle a controversy or a strike. It is the sanction here imposed, and not the duty to report, which brings about a situation inconsistent with the federally protected process of collective bargaining. Cf. Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 125 U.S. 530, 553, 554, 8 S.Ct. 961, 965, 966, 31 L.Ed. 790; Kansas City Southern R. Co. v. Kaw Valley Drainage District, 233 U.S. 75, 78, 34 S.Ct. 564, 565, 58 L.Ed. 857; St. Louis Southwestern Ry. v. State of Arkansas, 235 U.S. 350, 368, 35 S.Ct. 99, 104, 59 L.Ed. 265. This is true because if the union or its representatives acted as bargaining agents without making the required reports, presumably they would be liable both to punishment for contempt of court and to conviction under the misdemeanor section of the act. Such an obstacle to collective bargaining cannot be created consistently with the Federal Act.

Nor can it be argued that our decision in Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.S. 516, 65 S.Ct. 315, forecloses such result. In that case we did not have, as here, to deal with such a direct impediment to the free exercise of the federally established right to collective bargaining.

Our holding is that the National Labor Relations Act and Sections 4 and 6 of the Florida Act as here applied cannot 'move freedly within the orbit of their respective purposes without infringing upon one another.' Union Brokerage Co. v. Jensen, 322 U.S. 203, 207, 64 S.Ct. 967, 971, 88 L.Ed. 1227, 152 A.L.R. 1072.2 Accordingly the case

Page 544

is reversed and remanded for proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

Reversed and...

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212 practice notes
  • Kesler v. Department of Public Safety, Financial Responsibility Division, State of Utah, No. 14
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 26, 1962
    ...18. Sola Electric Co. v. Jefferson Electric Co., 317 U.S. 173, 176, 63 S.Ct. 172, 87 L.Ed. 165; Hill v. State of Florida ex rel. Watson, 325 U.S. 538, 65 S.Ct. 1373, 89 L.Ed. 1782. 19. See, e.g., Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U.S. 218, 230—231, 67 S.Ct. 1146, 91 L.Ed. 1447; Case v. B......
  • Golden State Transit Corp v. City of Los Angeles, No. 88-840
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • December 5, 1989
    ...its terms, the Act confers certain rights "generally on employees and not merely as against the employer." Hill v. Florida ex rel. Watson, 325 U.S. 538, 545, 65 S.Ct. 1373, 1376, 89 L.Ed. 1782 (1945) (Stone, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part); see also Motor Coach Employees v. M......
  • PEOPLE OF STATE OF CAL., ETC. v. Dept. of Navy, No. C-76-0045 WHO.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • April 12, 1977
    ...Line R. Co., supra. Or the state policy may produce a result inconsistent with the objective of the federal statute. Hill v. Florida, 325 U.S. 538 65 S.Ct. 1373, 89 L.Ed. 1782. It is often a perplexing question whether Congress has precluded state action or by the choice of selective regula......
  • Partee v. San Diego Chargers Football Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 29, 1983
    ...S.Ct. 477, 100 L.Ed. 640; Garner v. Teamsters Union (1955) 346 U.S. 485, 74 S.Ct. 161, 98 L.Ed. 228; Hill v. Florida ex rel. Watson (1945) 325 U.S. 538, 65 S.Ct. 1373, 89 L.Ed. 20 Chief Justice Stone's statement in Parker v. Brown, supra, 317 U.S. at page 351, 63 S.Ct. at 313, is particular......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
212 cases
  • Kesler v. Department of Public Safety, Financial Responsibility Division, State of Utah, No. 14
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 26, 1962
    ...18. Sola Electric Co. v. Jefferson Electric Co., 317 U.S. 173, 176, 63 S.Ct. 172, 87 L.Ed. 165; Hill v. State of Florida ex rel. Watson, 325 U.S. 538, 65 S.Ct. 1373, 89 L.Ed. 1782. 19. See, e.g., Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U.S. 218, 230—231, 67 S.Ct. 1146, 91 L.Ed. 1447; Case v. B......
  • Golden State Transit Corp v. City of Los Angeles, No. 88-840
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • December 5, 1989
    ...its terms, the Act confers certain rights "generally on employees and not merely as against the employer." Hill v. Florida ex rel. Watson, 325 U.S. 538, 545, 65 S.Ct. 1373, 1376, 89 L.Ed. 1782 (1945) (Stone, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part); see also Motor Coach Employees v. M......
  • PEOPLE OF STATE OF CAL., ETC. v. Dept. of Navy, No. C-76-0045 WHO.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • April 12, 1977
    ...Line R. Co., supra. Or the state policy may produce a result inconsistent with the objective of the federal statute. Hill v. Florida, 325 U.S. 538 65 S.Ct. 1373, 89 L.Ed. 1782. It is often a perplexing question whether Congress has precluded state action or by the choice of selective regula......
  • Partee v. San Diego Chargers Football Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 29, 1983
    ...S.Ct. 477, 100 L.Ed. 640; Garner v. Teamsters Union (1955) 346 U.S. 485, 74 S.Ct. 161, 98 L.Ed. 228; Hill v. Florida ex rel. Watson (1945) 325 U.S. 538, 65 S.Ct. 1373, 89 L.Ed. 20 Chief Justice Stone's statement in Parker v. Brown, supra, 317 U.S. at page 351, 63 S.Ct. at 313, is particular......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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