San Diego Building Trades Council, Millmen Union, Local 2020 36 v. Garmon, No. 66

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtFRANKFURTER
Citation43 LRRM 2838,79 S.Ct. 773,3 L.Ed.2d 775,359 U.S. 236
PartiesSAN DIEGO BUILDING TRADES COUNCIL, MILLMEN'S UNION, LOCAL 2020, Building Material and Dump Drivers, Local 36, Petitioners, v. J. S. GARMON, J. M. Garmon, and W. A. Garmon
Docket NumberNo. 66
Decision Date20 April 1959

359 U.S. 236
79 S.Ct. 773
3 L.Ed.2d 775
SAN DIEGO BUILDING TRADES COUNCIL, MILLMEN'S UNION, LOCAL 2020, Building Material and Dump Drivers, Local 36, Petitioners,

v.

J. S. GARMON, J. M. Garmon, and W. A. Garmon.

No. 66.
Argued Jan. 20, 1959.
Decided April 20, 1959.

Mr. Charles P. Scully, San Francisco, Cal., for petitioners.

Mr. Marion B. Plant, San Francisco, Cal., for respondents.

Page 237

Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case is before us for the second time. The present litigation began with a dispute between the petitioning unions and respondents, co-partners in the business of selling lumber and other materials in California. Respondents began an action in the Superior Court for the County of San Diego, asking for an injunction and damages. Upon hearing, the trial court found the following facts. In March of 1953 the unions sought from respondents an agreement to retain in their employ only those workers who were already members of the unions, or who applied for membership within thirty days. Respondents refused, claiming that none of their employees had shown a desire to join a union, and that, in any event, they could not accept such an arrangement until one of the unions had been designated by the employees as a collective bargaining agent. The unions began at once peacefully to picket the respondents' place of business, and to exert pressure on customers and suppliers in order to persuade them to stop dealing with respondents. The sole purpose of these pressures was to compel execution of the proposed contract. The unions contested this finding, claiming that the only purpose of their activities was to educate the workers and persuade them to become members. On the basis of its findings, the court enjoined the unions from picketing and from the use of other pressures to force an agreement, until one of

Page 238

them had been properly designated as a collective bargaining agent. The court also awarded $1,000 damages for losses found to have been sustained.

At the time the suit in the state court was started, respondents had begun a representation proceeding before the National Labor Relations Board. The Regional Director declined jurisdiction, presumably because the amount of interstate commerce involved did not meet the Board's monetary standards in taking jurisdiction.

On appeal, the California Supreme Court sustained the judgmen of the Superior Court, 45 Cal.2d 657, 291 P.2d 1, holding that, since the National Labor Relations Board had declined to exercise its jurisdiction, the California courts had power over the dispute. They further decided that the conduct of the union constituted an unfair labor practice under § 8(b)(2) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 158(b)(2), and hence was not privileged under California law. As the California court itself later pointed out this decision did not specify what law, state or federal, was the basis of the relief granted. Both state and federal law played a part but, '(a)ny distinction as between those laws was not thoroughly explored.' Garmon v. San Diego Bldg. Trades Council, 49 Cal.2d 595, 602, 320 P.2d 473, 477.

We granted certiorari, 351 U.S. 923, 76 S.Ct. 782, 100 L.Ed. 1453, and decided the case together with Guss v. Utah Labor Relations Board, 353 U.S. 1, 77 S.Ct. 598, 609, 1 L.Ed.2d 601, and Amalgamated Meat Cutters, etc. v. Fairlawn Meats, Inc., 353 U.S. 20, 77 S.Ct. 604, 1 L.Ed.2d 613. In those cases, we held that the refusal of the National Labor Relations Board to assert jurisdiction did not leave with the States power over activities they otherwise would be pre-empted from regulating. Both Guss and Fairlawn involved relief of an equitable nature. In vacating and remanding the judgment of the California court in this case, we pointed out that those cases controlled this one, 'in its major aspects.' 353 U.S. 26, at page 28, 77 S.Ct. 607, at page 608, 1 L.Ed.2d 618. However, since it was not clear whether the

Page 239

judgment for damages would be sustained under California law, we remanded to the state court for consideration of that local law issue. The federal question, namely, whether the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq., precluded California from granting an award for damages arising out of the conduct in question, could not be appropriately decided until the antecedent state law question was decided by the state court.

On remand, the California court, in accordance with our decision in Guss, set aside the injunction, but sustained the award of damages. Garmon v. San Diego Bldg. Trades Council, 49 Cal.2d 595, 320 P.2d 473 (three judges dissenting). After deciding that California had jurisdiction to award damages for injuries caused by the union's activities, the California court held that those activities constituted a tort based on an unfair labor practice under state law. In so holding the court relied on general tort provisions of the West's Ann. California Civil Code, §§ 1667, 1708, as well as state enactments dealing specifically with labor relations, West's Ann.Calif. Labor Code, § 923 (1937); ibid., §§ 1115—1118 (1947).

We again granted certiorari, 357 U.S. 925, 78 S.Ct. 1371, 2 L.Ed.2d 1369, to determine whether the California court had jurisdiction to award damages arising out of peaceful union activity which it could not enjoin.

The issue is a variant of a familiar theme. It began with Allen-Bradley Local No. 1111, etc. v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Board, 315 U.S. 740, 62 S.Ct. 820, 86 L.Ed. 1154, was greatly intensified by litigation flowing from the Taft-Hartley Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 141 et seq., and has recurred here in almost a score of cases during the last decade. The comprehensive regulation of industrial relations by Congress, novel federal legislation twenty-five years ago but now an integral part of our economic life, inevitably gave rise to difficult problems of federal-state relations. To be sure, in the abstract these problems came to us as ordinary questions of statutory construction. But they involved a more complicated

Page 240

and perceptive process than is conveyed by the delusive phrase, 'ascertaining the intent of the legislature.' Many of these problems probably could not have been, at all events were not, foreseen by the Congress. Others were only dimly perceived and their precise scope only vaguely defined. This Court was called upon to apply a new an co mplicated legislative scheme, the aims and social policy of which were drawn with broad strokes while the details had to be filled in, to no small extent, by the judicial process. Recently we indicated the task that was thus cast upon this Court in carrying out with fidelity the purposes of Congress, but doing so by giving application to congressional incompletion. What we said in Weber v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 348 U.S. 468, 75 S.Ct. 480, 99 L.Ed. 546, deserves repetition, because the considerations there outlined guide this day's decision:

'By the Taft-Hartley Act, Congress did not exhaust the full sweep of legislative power over industrial relations given by the Commerce Clause. Congress formulated a code whereby it outlawed some aspects of labor activities and left others free for the operation of economic forces. As to both categories, the areas that have been pre-empted by federal authority and thereby withdrawn from state power are not susceptible of delimitation by fixed metes and bounds. Obvious conflict, actual or potential, leads to easy judicial exclusion of state action. Such was the situation in Garner v. Teamsters Union, supra (346 U.S. 485, 74 S.Ct. 161, 98 L.Ed. 228). But as the opinion in that case recalled, the Labor Management Relations Act 'leaves much to the states, though Congress has refrained from telling us how much.' 346 U.S. at page 488, 74 S.Ct. at page 164. This penumbral area can be rendered progressively clear only by the course of litigation.' 348 U.S. at pages 480—481, 75 S.Ct. at page 488.

Page 241

The case before us concerns one of the most teasing and frequently litigated areas of industrial relations, the multitude of activities regulated by §§ 7 and 8 of the National Labor Relations Act. 61 Stat. 140, 29 U.S.C. §§ 157, 158, 29 U.S.C.A §§ 157, 158. These broad provisions govern both protected 'concerted activities' and unfair labor practices. They regulate the vital, economic instruments of the strike and the picket line, and impinge on the clash of the still unsettled claims between employers and labor unions. The extent to which the variegated laws of the several States are displaced by a single, uniform, national rule has been a matter of frequent and recurring concern. As we pointed out the other day, 'the statutory implications concerning what has been taken from the States and what has been left to them are of a Delphic nature, to be translated into concreteness by the process of litigating elucidation.' International Ass'n of Machinists v. Gonzales, 356 U.S. 617, 619, 78 S.Ct. 923, 924, 2 L.Ed.2d 1018.

In the area of regulation with which we are here concerned, the process thus described has contracted initial ambiguity and doubt and established guides for judgment by interested parties and certainly guides for decision. We state these principles in full realization that, in the course of a process of tentative, fragmentary illumination carried on over more than a decade during which the writers of opinions almost inevitably, because unconsciously, focus their primary attention on the facts of particular situations, language may have been used or views implied which do not completely harmonize with the clear pattern which the decisions have evolved. But it may safely be claimed that the basis and purport of a long series of adjudications have 'translated into concreteness' the consistently applied principles which decide this case.

In determining the extent to which state regulation must yield...

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2567 practice notes
  • Notification of Employee Rights Under Federal Labor Laws
    • United States
    • Federal Register May 20, 2010
    • May 20, 2010
    ...both theories of NLRA preemption fashioned by the Supreme Court, so-called Garmon preemption (San Diego Bldg. Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 244 (1959)), which prohibits regulation of activities that are protected by Section 7 or prohibited by Section 8 of the NRLA, and so-called M......
  • Associated General Contractors v. Otter Tail Power, Civ. No. A78-1009.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. District of South Dakota
    • November 6, 1978
    ...one, and neither state courts nor federal courts may entertain actions brought under § 8. San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 244, 245, 79 S.Ct. 773, 3 L.Ed.2d 775 (1959). The standard for determining whether an activity is within the jurisdiction of the Board, and th......
  • Sandoval v. New Mexico Technology Group LLC., No. 00-578-LCS.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • May 1, 2001
    ...scope and effect of sections 7 and 8 "be left in the first instance to the National Labor Relations Board." Garmon, 359 U.S. at 244-45, 79 S.Ct. 773.7 There is no initial cause of action provided for in federal In this case, the Plaintiff does not rely on any contract within the scope of se......
  • Mitchell v. U.S. Airways, Inc., Civil Action Nos. 08–10629–WGY, 08–10689–WGY.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • May 1, 2012
    ...can be, indeed is designed to be, a potent method of governing conduct and controlling policy.” San Diego Bldg. Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 247, 79 S.Ct. 773, 3 L.Ed.2d 775 (1959). 16. Importantly, the Skycaps do not attempt to argue that the facts at issue in their tortious int......
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2549 cases
  • Retail Prop. Trust v. United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of Am., No. 12–56427.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 23, 2014
    ...in this case. In Garmon, a union picketed an employer to force the employer to sign a union-shop contract. Garmon, 359 U.S. at 237, 79 S.Ct. 773. The employer first sought to bring the matter before the NLRB, but the Board declined jurisdiction. Id. at 238, 79 S.Ct. 773. The employer then f......
  • Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company v. Hall, No. 78-1789
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • July 2, 1981
    ...the challenged conduct will almost always leave the state-law violation unredressed. Thus in San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 79 S.Ct. 773, 3 L.Ed.2d 775 (1959), the mere fact that a group of unions violated state law through their peaceful picketing did not permit......
  • Associated General Contractors v. Otter Tail Power, Civ. No. A78-1009.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. District of South Dakota
    • November 6, 1978
    ...one, and neither state courts nor federal courts may entertain actions brought under § 8. San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 244, 245, 79 S.Ct. 773, 3 L.Ed.2d 775 (1959). The standard for determining whether an activity is within the jurisdiction of the Board, and th......
  • National Labor Relations Board v. Insurance Agents International Union, AFL-CIO
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 23, 1960
    ...protected by § 7 or prohibited by § 8. This approach is 'no longer of general application,' San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 245, note 4, 79 S.Ct. 773, 780, 3 L.Ed.2d 775, as this Court has since developed the doctrine in pre-emption cases that questions of interpr......
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6 firm's commentaries
  • CALIFORNIA’S TECTONIC PLATES SHIFT — Part III
    • United States
    • LexBlog United States
    • November 30, 2022
    ...Int’l Assoc. of Machinists v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Comm’n, 427 U.S. 132 (1976) and San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236 (1959). Whether based on preemption or some other legal argument, it doesn’t stretch credulity to predict the filing of many lawsuits challe......
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    • United States
    • LexBlog United States
    • April 26, 2022
    ...are two theories for NLRA preemption, both rejected by the court. Under a Garmon preemption (San Diego Bldg. Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236 (1959)), a state statute that regulates activity the NLRA protects, prohibits, or arguably protects or prohibits may be preempted. The court he......
  • Supreme Court Set to Decide Whether NLRA Preempts State Law Claims for Property Damage Caused During Strikes
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    • LexBlog United States
    • October 4, 2022
    ...of property. The Union argued that the suit was preempted by the Supreme Court’s decision in San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236 (1959) (“Garmon”). In Garmon, the Supreme Court held that, although the Act does not expressly preempt state law, it impliedly preempts clai......
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    • September 22, 2021
    ...preemption has an extensive judicial history, including the seminal decision Building & Construction Trades Council (San Diego) v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236 (1959). Garmon stands for the principle that potential (not provably actual) conflict with the NLRA is sufficient to require preemption of ......
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3 books & journal articles
  • RACKETEER INFLUENCED AND CORRUPT ORGANIZATIONS
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Nbr. 58-3, July 2021
    • July 1, 2021
    ...RICO claims subject to primary jurisdiction of NLRB); see also San Diego Bldg. Trades Council, Millmen’s Union, Local 2020 v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 245 (1959) (“When an activity is arguably subject to [NLRA sanction], the States as well as the federal courts must defer to the exclusive comp......
  • The Political Question Doctrine's Role in Climate Change Nuisance Litigation: Are Power Utilities the First of Many Casualties?
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Reporter Nbr. 40-12, December 2010
    • December 1, 2010
    ...112. Comer v. Murphy Oil USA, 585 F.3d 855, 878, 39 ELR 20237 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 243 (1959)). 113. See generally Hari M. Osofsky, he Geography of Climate Change Litigation: Implications for Transnational Regulatory Governance ......
  • THE PERILS OF LAND USE DEREGULATION.
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 170 Nbr. 1, December 2021
    • December 1, 2021
    ...132 (1976) (establishing that federal law preempts state policy in regulating the labor force); San Diego Bldg. Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 246 (1959) (indicating that the Supreme Court has long held that the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over labor (320) See sup......

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