Sinclair Refining Company v. Atkinson, 434

Decision Date18 June 1962
Docket NumberNo. 434,434
PartiesSINCLAIR REFINING COMPANY, Petitioner, v. Semuel M. ATKINSON et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

George B. Christensen, Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

Gilbert A. Cornfield, Chicago, Ill., for respondents.

Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question this case presents is whether § 301 of the Taft-Hartley Act, in giving federal courts jurisdiction of suits between employers and unions for breach of collective bargaining agreements,1 impliedly repealed § 4 of the pre-existing Norris-LaGuardia Act, which, with certain exceptions not here material, barred federal courts from issuing injunctions 'in any case involving or growing out of any labor dispute.'2 The complaint here was filed by the petitioner Sinclair Refining Company against the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union and Local 7—210 of that union and alleged: that the International Union, acting by and with the authority of the Local Union and its members, signed a written collective bargaining contract with Sinclair which provided for compulsory, final and binding arbitration of 'any difference regarding wages, hours or working conditions between the parties hereto or between the Employer and an employee covered by this working agreement which might arise within any plant or within any region of operations'; that this contract also included express provisions by which the unions agreed that 'there shall be no slowdowns for any reason whatsoever' and 'no strikes or work stoppages * * * (f)or any cause which is or may be the subject of a grievance'; and that notwithstanding these promises in the collective bargaining contract the members of Local 7—210 had, over a period of some 19 months, engaged in work stoppages and strikes on nine separate occasions, each of which, the complaint charged, grew out of a grievance which could have been submitted to arbitration under the contract and therefore fell squarely within the unions' promises not to strike. This pattern of repeated, deliberate violations of the contract, Sinclair alleged, indicated a complete disregard on the part of the unions for their obligations under the contract and a probability that they would continue to 'subvert the provisions of the contract' forbidding strikes over grievances in the future unless they were enjoined from doing so. In this situation, Sinclair claimed, there was no adequate remedy at law which would protect its contractual rights and the court should therefore enter orders enjoining the unions and their agents 'preliminarily at first, and thereafter permanently, from aiding, abetting, fomenting, advising, participating in, ratifying, or condoning any strike, stoppage of work slowdown or any other disruption of, or interference with normal employment or normal operation or production by any employee within the bargaining unit at plaintiff's East Chicago, Indiana refinery covered by the contract between the parties dated August 8, 1957, in support of, or because of, any matter or thing which is, or could be, the subject of a grievance under the grievance procedure of the said contract, or any extension thereof, or any other contract between the parties which shall contain like or similar provisions.'3

The unions moved to dismiss this complaint on the ground that it sought injunctive relief which United States courts, by virtue of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, have no jurisdiction to give. The District Court first denied the motion, but subsequently, upon reconsideration after full oral argument, vacated its original order and granted the unions' motion to dismiss.4 In reaching this conclusion, the District Court reasoned that the controversy between Sinclair and the unions was unquestionably a 'labor dispute' within the meaning of the Norris-LaGuardia Act and that the complaint therefore came within the proscription of § 4 of that Act which 'withdraws jurisdiction from the federal courts to issue injunctions to prohibit the refusal 'to perform work or remain in any relation of employment' in cases involving any labor dispute.'5 The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the order of dismissal for the same reasons.6 Because this decision presented a conflict with the deci- sion on this same important question by the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit,7 we granted certiorari.8

We agree with the courts below that this case does involve a 'labor dispute' within the meaning of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. Section 13 of that Act expressly defines a labor dispute as including 'any controversy concerning terms or conditions of employment, or concerning the association or representation of persons in negotiating, fixing, maintaining, changing, or seeking to arrange terms or conditions of employment, regardless of whether or not the disputants stand in the proximate relation of employer and employee.' 9 Sinclair's own complaint shows quite plainly that each of the alleged nine work stoppages and strikes arose out of a controversy which was unquestionably well within this definition.10 Nor does the circumstance that the alleged work stoppages and strikes may have constituted a breach of a collective bargaining agreement alter the plain fact that a 'labor dispute' within the meaning of the Norris-LaGuardia Act is involved. Arguments to the contrary proceed from the premise that § 2 of that Act, which expresses the public policy upon which the specific anti-injunction provisions of the Act were based, contains language indicating that one primary concern of Congress was to insure workers the right 'to exercise actual liberty of contract' and to protect 'concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining.'11 From that premise, Sinclair argues that an interpretation of the term 'labor dispute' so as to include a dispute arising out of a union's refusal to abide by the terms of a collective agreement to which it freely acceded is to apply the Norris-LaGuardia Act in a way that defeats one of the purposes for which it was enacted. But this argument, though forcefully urged both here and in much current commentary on this question,12 rests more upon considerations of what many commentators think would be the more desirable industrial and labor policy in view of their understanding as to the prevailing circumstances of contemporary labormanagement relations than upon what is a correct judicial interpretation of the language of the Act as it was written by Congress.

In the first place, even the general policy declarations of § 2 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, which are the foundation of this whole argument, do not support the conclusion urged. That section does not purport to limit the Act to the protection of collective bargaining but, instead, expressly recognizes the need of the anti-injunction provisions to insure the right of workers to engage in 'concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.' Moreover, the language of the specific provisions of the Act is so broad and inclusive that it leaves not the slightest opening for reading in any exceptions beyond those clearly written into it by Congress itself.13 We cannot ignore the plain import of a congressional enactment, particularly one which, as we have repeatedly said, was deliberately drafted in the broadest of terms in order to avoid the danger that it would be narrowed by judicial construction.14

Since we hold that the present case does grow out of a 'labor dispute,' the injunction sought here runs squarely counter to the proscription of injunctions against strikes contained in § 4(a) of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, to the proscription of injunctions against peaceful picketing contained in § 4(e) and to the proscription of injunctions prohibiting the advising of such activities contained in § 4(i).15 For these reasons, the Norris-LaGuardia Act deprives the courts of the United States of jurisdiction to enter that injunction unless, as is contended here, the scope of that Act has been so narrowed by the subsequent enactment of § 301 of the Taft-Hartley Act that it no longer prohibits even the injunctions specifically described in § 4 where such injunctions are sought as a remedy for breach of a collective bargaining agreement. Upon consideration, we cannot agree with that view and agree instead with the view expressed by the courts below and supported by the Courts of Appeals for the First and Second Circuits that § 301 was not intended to have any such partially repealing effect upon such a long-standing, carefully thought out and highly significant part of this country's labor legislation as the Norris-LaGuardia Act.16 The language of § 301 itself seems to us almost if not entirely conclusive of this question. It is especially significant that the section contains no language that could by any stretch of the imagination be interpreted to constitute an explicit repeal of the anti-injunction provisions of the Norris-LaGuardia Act in view of the fact that the section does expressly repeal another provision of the Norris-LaGuardia Act dealing with union responsibility for the acts of agents.17 If Congress had intended that § 301 suits should also not be subject to the anti-injunction provisions of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, it certainly seems likely that it would have made its intent known in this same express manner. That is indeed precisely what Congress did do in § 101, amending § 10(h) of the National Labor Relations Act, and § 208(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, by permitting injunctions to be obtained, not by private litigants, but only at the instance of the National Labor Relations Board and the Attorney Gen- eral,18 and in § 302(e), by permitting private litigants to obtain injunctions in order to protect the integrity of employees' collective bargaining representatives in carrying out their responsibilities.19 Thus the failure of Congress to...

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