Plant v. Woods

Decision Date06 September 1900
Citation176 Mass. 492,57 N.E. 1011
PartiesPLANT et al. v. WOODS et al.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

J. B Carroll and W. H. McClintock, for appellants.

W. R Heady and J. W. Flannery, for appellees.



This case arises out of a contest for supremacy between two labor unions of the same craft, having substantially the same constitution and by-laws. The chief difference between them is that the plaintiff union is affiliated with a national organization having its headquarters in Lafayette, in the state of Indiana, while the defendant union is affiliated with a similar organization having its headquarters in Baltimore, in the state of Maryland. The plaintiff union was composed of workmen who, in 1897, withdrew from the defendant union. There does not appear to be anything illegal in the object of either union, as expressed in its constitution and by-laws. The defendant union is also represented by delegates in the Central Labor Union, which is an organization composed of five delegates from each trades union in the city of Springfield, and had in its constitution a provision for levying a boycott upon a complaint made by any union. The case is before us upon the appeal of the defendants from a final decree in favor of the plaintiffs, based upon the findings stated in the report of the master.

The contest became active early in the fall of 1898. In September of that year the members of the defendant union declared 'all painters not affiliated with the Baltimore headquarters to be nonunion men,' and voted 'to notify bosses' of that declaration. The manifest object of the defendants was to have all the members of the craft subjected to the rules and discipline of their particular union, in order that they might have better control over the whole business, and to that end they combined and conspired to get the plaintiffs, and each of them, to join the defendant association, peaceably, if possible, but by threat and intimidation if necessary. Accordingly, on October 7th, they voted that, 'If our demands are not complied with, all men working in shops where Lafayette people are employed refuse to go to work.' The plaintiffs resisting whatever persuasive measures, if any, were used by the defendants, the latter proceeded to carry out their plan in the manner fully set forth in the master's report. Without rehearsing the circumstances in detail, it is sufficient to say here that the general method of operations was substantially as follows: A duly authorized agent of the defendants would visit a shop where one or more of the plaintiffs were at work, and inform the employer of the action of the defendant union with reference to the plaintiffs, and ask him to induce such of the plaintiffs as were in his employ to sign applications for reinstatement in the defendant union. As to the general nature of these interviews the master finds that the defendants have been courteous in manner, have made no threats of personal violence, have referred to the plaintiffs as nonunion men but have not otherwise represented them as men lacking good standing in their craft; that they have not asked that the Lafayette men be discharged, and in some cases have expressly stated that they did not wish to have them discharged, but only that they sign the blanks for reinstatement in the defendant union. The master, however, further finds, from all the circumstances under which those requests were made, that the defendants intended that employers of Lafayette men should fear trouble in their business if they continued to employ such men, and that employers to whom these requests were made were justified in believing that a failure on the part of their employés who were Lafayette men to sign such reinstatement blanks, and a failure on the part of the employers to discharge them for not doing so, would lead to trouble in the business of the employers in the nature of strikes or a boycott; and the employers to whom these requests were made did believe that such results would follow, and did suggest their belief to the defendants, and the defendants did not deny that such results might occur; that the strikes which did occur appear to have been steps taken by the defendants to obtain the discharge of such employés as were Lafayette men who declined to sign application blanks for reinstatement; that these defendants did not in all cases threaten a boycott of the employers' business, but did threaten that the place of business of at least one such employer would be left off from a so-called 'fair list' to be published by the Baltimore union. The master also found that, from all the evidence presented, the object which the Baltimore men and the defendant association sought to accomplish in all the acts which were testified to was to compel the members of the Lafayette union to join the Baltimore union, and as a means to this end they caused strikes to be instituted in the shops where strikes would seriously interfere with the business of the shops, and in all other shops they made such representations as would lead the proprietors thereof to expect trouble in their business. We have, therefore, a case where the defendants have conspired to compel the members of the plaintiff union to join the defendant union, and, to carry out their purpose, have resolved upon such coercion and intimidation as naturally may be caused by threats of loss of property by strikes and boycotts, to induce the employers either to get the plaintiffs to ask for reinstatement in the defendant union, or, that failing, then to discharge them. It matters not that this request to discharge has not been expressly made. There can be no doubt, upon the findings of the master and the facts stated in his report, that the compulsory discharge of the plaintiffs in case of noncompliance with the demands of the defendant union is one of the prominent features of the plan agreed upon. It is well to see what is the meaning of this threat to strike, when taken in connection with the intimation that the employer may 'expect trouble in his business.' It means more than that the strikers will cease to work. That is only the preliminary skirmish. It means that those who have ceased to work will by strong, persistent, and organized persuasion and social presure of every description do all they can to prevent the employer from procuring workmen to take their places. It means much more. It means that, if these peaceful measures fail, the employer may reasonably expect that unlawful physical injury may be done to his property; that attempts in all the ways practiced by organized labor will be made to injure him in his business, even to his ruin, if possible; and that by the use of vile and opprobrious epithets and other annoying conduct, and actual and threatened personal violence, attempts will be made to intimidate those who enter or desire to enter his employ; and that whether or not all this be done by the strikers or only by their sympathizers, or with the open sanction and approval of the former, he will have no help from them in his efforts to protect himself. However mild the language or suave the manner in which the threat to strike is made under such circumstances as are disclosed in this case, the employer knows that he is in danger of passing through such an ordeal as that above described, and those who make the threat know that as well as he does. Even if the intent of the strikers, so far as respects their own conduct and influence, be to discountenance all actual or threatened injury to person or property or business except that which is the direct necessary result of the interruption of the work, and even if their connection with the injurious and violent conduct of the turbulent among them or of their sympathizers be not such as to make them liable criminally, or even answerable civilly in damages to those who suffer, still, with full knowledge of what is to be expected, they give the signal, and in so doing must be held to avail themselves of the degree of fear and dread which the knowledge of such consequences will cause in the mind of those--whether their employer or fellow workmen--against whom the strike is directed; and the measure of coercion and intimidation imposed upon those against whom the strike is threatened or directed is not fully realized until all those probable consequences are considered. Such is the nature of the threat, and such the degree of coercion and intimidation involved in it. If the defendants can lawfully perform the acts complained plained of in the city of Springfield, they can pursue the plaintiffs all over the state in the same manner, and compel them to abandon their trade, or bow to the behests of their pursuers. It is to be observed that this is not a case between the employer and employed, or, to use a hackneyed expression, between capital and labor, but between laborers all of the same craft, and each having the same right as any one of the others to pursue his calling. In this as in every other case of equal rights the right of each individual is to be exercised with due regard to the similar right of all others, and the right of one be said to end where that of another begins. The right involved is the right to dispose of one's labor with full freedom. This is a legal right, and it is entitled to legal protection. Sir William Erle, in his book on Trades Unions (page 12), has stated this in the following language, which has been several times quoted with approval by judges in England: 'Every person has a right, under the law, as between himself and his fellow subjects, to full freedom in disposing of his own labor or his own capital according to his own will. It follows that every other person is subject...

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1 cases
  • Plant v. Woods
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • September 6, 1900
    ...176 Mass. 49257 N.E. 1011PLANT et al.v.WOODS et al.Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Hampden.Sept. 6, Appeal from superior court, Hampden county. Action by one Plant and others against one Woods and others to restrain defendants from interfering with complainants' members in their em......
1 books & journal articles
  • Satellite digital radio searching for novel theories of action.
    • United States
    • The Journal of High Technology Law Vol. 1 No. 1, January 2002
    • January 1, 2002
    ...Facie Tort Principle, 54 NW. U. L. REV. 563 (1959). (150.) Porter v. Crawford & Co., 611 S.W. 265 (Mo. App. 1980); Plant v. Woods, 57 N.E. 1011, 1014 (1900) (describing lawful unlawful act (151.) ATI, Inc. v. Ruder & Finn, Inc., 368 N.E.2d 1230, 1232 (N.Y. App. 1977). See also Langa......

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