Samuel Gompers v. Buck Stove Range Company

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation31 S.Ct. 492,221 U.S. 418,55 L.Ed. 797
Docket NumberNo. 372,372
PartiesSAMUEL GOMPERS, John Mitchell, and Frank Morrison, Petitioners, v. BUCK'S STOVE & RANGE COMPANY
Decision Date15 May 1911

This is a proceeding to reverse a judgment finding that Samuel Gompers, John Mitchell, and Frank Morrison were guilty of contempt in violating the terms of an injunction restraining them from continuing a boycott, or from publishing any statement that there was or had been a boycott against the Buck's Stove & Range Company. The contempt case grew out of litigation reported in 33 App. D. C. 80,—L.R.A. (N.S.)—, 516. It will only be necessary to briefly refer to the facts set out in that record.

The American Federation of Labor is composed of voluntary associations of labor unions with a large membership. It publishes the American Federationist, which has a wide circulation among the public and the Federa- tion. Samuel Gompers is president and editor of the paper. John Mitchell is vice president of the Federation and president of the United Mine Workers, one of the affiliated unions. Frank Morrison has charge of the circulation of the paper. The Federation had a difference as to the hours of labor with the Buck's Stove & Range Company, of which J. W. Van Cleave was president, who was also president of the American Manufacturers' Association. This controversy over the hours of work resulted in a boycott being declared against the Buck's Stove & Range Company, and it was thereupon declared 'unfair' and was published in the American Federationist on the 'Unfair' and 'We Don't Patronize' lists. The company filed in the supreme court of the District of Columbia its bill against the Federation, the defendants above named and other officers, alleging that the defendants had entered into a conspiracy to restrain the company's state and interstate business, in pursuance of which they had boycotted it, published it on the unfair lists, and had by threats also coerced merchants and others to refrain from buying Buck's products for fear that they themselves would be boycotted if they continued to deal with that company. The result of the boycott had been to prevent persons from dealing with it, and had greatly lessened its business and caused irreparable damage.

After a lengthy hearing, the court, on December 18, 1907, signed a temporary injunction, which became effective when the bond required was given on December the 23d. The order is published in the margin.1

1 Ordered that the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers, Frank Morrison, . . . John Mitchell, . . . their and each of their agents, servants, attorneys, confederates, and any and all persons acting in aid of or in conjunction with them or any of them, be, and they are hereby, restrained and enjoined until the final decree in said cause from conspiring, agreeing, or combining in any manner to restrain, obstruct, or destroy the business of the complainant, or to prevent the complainant from carrying on the same without interference from them or any of them, and from interfering in any manner with the sale of the product of the complainant's factory or business by defendants, or by any other person, firm, or corporation, and from declaring or threatening any boycott against the complainant or its business, or the product of its factory, or against any person, firm, or corporation engaged in handling or selling the said product, and from abetting, aiding, or assisting in any such boycott, and from printing, issuing, publishing, or distributing through the mails, or in any other manner, any copy or copies of the American Federationist, or any other printed or written newspapers, magazine, circular, letter, or other document or instrument whatsoever, which shall contain or in any manner refer to the name of the complainant, its business or its product in the 'We Don't Patronize,' or the 'Unfair' list of the defendants, or any of them, their agents, servants, attorneys, confederates, or other person or persons acting in aid of or in conjunction with them, or which contains any reference to the complainant, its business or product, in connection with the term 'Unfair' or with the 'We Don't Patronize list, or with any other phrase, word, or words of similar import, and from publishing or otherwise circulating, whether in writing or orally, any statement or notice term 'Unfair' or with the 'We Don't Patronize' attention of the complainant's customers, or of dealers or tradesmen, or the public, to any boycott against the complainant, its business or its product, or that the same are, or were, or have been declared to be 'unfair,' or that it should not be purchased or dealt in or handled by any dealer tradesman, or other person whomsoever, or by the public, or any representation or statement of like effect or import, for Thereafter testimony was regularly taken, and on March

23d, 1908, the injunction was made permanent, with provisions almost identical with the temporary order of December 17, 1907.

From this final decree the defendants appealed, but be- fore a decision was had, the Buck's Stove & Range Company began contempt proceedings by filing in the supreme court of the District a petition entitled 'Buck's Stove & Range Company, plaintiff, v. The American Federation of Labor et al., defendants, No. 27,305, Equity,' alleging that petitioner had 'filed in this cause its original bill of complaint, naming as defendants, among others, Samuel Gompers, Frank Morrison, and John Mitchell.' All of the record and testimony in the original cause was made a part of the petition, as follows:

'Reference is hereby made to the original bill and exhibits filed, the answer and amended answer of the defendants, the testimony taken on both sides, the original order restraining and enjoining the defendants pendente lite, and the final decree in the cause, and each and every other paper and proceeding in this cause from the institution of the suit to the filing of this petition, and it is prayed that the same may be taken and read as a part thereof at any and all hearings on this petition, whether in this court or on appeal from its decision herein rendered.'

Some of the publications were charged to be in violation of the terms of the temporary injunction, dated December 23, 1907, and others were alleged to be in violation of the final decree dated March 23, 1908.

The petition set out in nine distinct paragraphs the speeches, editorials, and publications made at different times by the several defendants, charging that in each instance they continued and were intended to continue the boycott, and to republish the fact that the complainant was or had been on the 'unfair list.' It concluded by alleging that by the devices, means, speeches, and publications set forth, and in contempt of court, the defendants had disobeyed its orders and violated the injunction. The prayer was (1) that the defendants be required to show cause why they should not be attached for contempt, and adjudged by the court to be in contempt of its order and its decree in this cause, and be punished for the same. (2) And that petitioner may have such other and further relief as the nature of its case may require. Signed: Buck's Stove & Range Company, by J. W. Van Cleve, president. It was also sworn to by the president of the company and signed by its solicitors.

A rule to show cause issued, requiring each of the defendants to show cause why they should not be adjudged to be in contempt and be punished for the same. Each of the defendants answered under oath, and, as treating the contempt proceeding as a part of the original cause, admitted the allegations as to the history of the litigation in paragraphs 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the petition, but 'for greater accuracy refer to the record in this cause.' Publications were admitted, but explained. Each of the defendants denied under oath that he had been in disregard or contempt of the court's order, and denied that any of the acts and charges complained of constituted a violation of the order. There were several issues of fact on which much evidence was taken. This related to the question of intent, and whether there had been a purpose and plan to evade any injunction which might be granted. There was also an issue as to whether John Mitchell had put a resolution to the convention of the United Mine Workers; whether Samuel Gompers and Frank Morrison had rushed the mailing of the January issue of the American Federationist, on December 22, so as to avoid the injunction dated December 17, which became operative on giving bond by complainant on December 23; and also whether they had thereafter sold and circulated copies of this issue containing the Buck's Stove Company on the 'Unfair' and 'We Don't Patronize' lists. Evidence was taken partly by deposition, partly before an examiner in chancery.

Each of the defendants was called as a witness by the complainant, and each testified as to facts on which the allegation of intent or evasion was based, and as to the publications, speeches, and resolutions which he was accused of having made, and which the petition alleged constituted an act of disobedience and contempt of court.

'The court made a special finding as to two of the nine charges, and then found that all three of the defendants were guilty of the several acts charged in paragraphs 17 and 26; that respondents Gompers and Morrison were guilty of the several acts charged in the 16th and 20th paragraphs; that respondent Morrison was guilty of the acts charged in the 25th paragraph; and that respondent Gompers was guilty of the several acts charged in the paragraphs 19, 21, 22, and 23. The finding concluded:

'The court, being fully advised in the premises, it is by it, this 23d day of December, A.D. 1908, considered that the said respondents, Samuel Gompers, Frank Morrison, and John Mitchell, are guilty of contempt in their said disobedience of the plain mandates of...

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