State v. Local No. 8-6, Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Intern. Union, AFL-CIO

Decision Date29 September 1958
Docket NumberAFL-CIO,No. 45869,45869
Citation317 S.W.2d 309
Parties42 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2780, 35 Lab.Cas. P 71,847 STATE of Missouri, Respondent, v. LOCAL NO. 8-6, OIL, CHEMICAL AND ATOMIC WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION,, et al., Appellants.
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

Morris J. Levin, Donald S. Siegel, St. Louis, for appellants.

John M. Dalton, Atty. Gen., Robert R. Welborn, Asst. Atty. Gen., Ely, Ely & Voorhees, Wayne Ely, St. Louis, for respondent.

Irvin Fane, Harry L. Browne, Stephen M. Reynolds, Kansas City, for Spencer, Fane, Britt & Browne, amici curiae.

Edmonstone F. Thompson, Courtney Shands, Jr., St. Louis, for Thompson, Mitchell, Thompson & Douglas, amici curiae.

STORCKMAN, Judge.

The defendants have appealed from a judgment of the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis enjoining them from continuing and participating in a work stoppage and strike against the Laclede Gas Company or the State of Missouri, the plaintiff in the action. The judgment also declared the Act upon which the action is based, Ch. 295, RSMo 1949, V.A.M.S., commonly known as the King-Thompson Act, to be valid and constitutional. The defendants are officers and members of Local Unions Nos. 8-6, 8-109 and 8-194 of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union, AFL-CIO. Laclede Gas Company, a Missouri corporation, is an operating gas utility engaged in the distribution and sale of gas in the metropolitan area comprising the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County.

On July 1, 1956, Laclede had approximately 2500 employees. Approximately 1700 production and distribution workers were represented by Local 8-6. About 100 foremen were represented by Local 8-109, and about 400 clerical workers by Local 8-194. At all times herein mentioned, these unions were duly certified by the National Labor Relations Board as representatives of such employees for the purpose of collective bargaining.

The expiration date of the labor agreements between Laclede and its employees was June 30, 1956, at midnight. More than sixty days before the expiration date, the employees, through their representatives, notified the company of their desire to modify the agreements. Notice of the labor dispute also was given to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and to the Missouri State Board of Mediation. The labor dispute involved wages, vacations, making of riser connections and other matters. Negotiations for new labor agreements were initiated between the three local unions and Laclede and were continued through June 30, 1956. When the old contract expired without a new one being consummated, approximately 1800 employees, represented by these three unions, went on strike pursuant to a strike vote previously taken. The strike began July 1, 1956, and picket lines were set up at all offices and locations of the company, about 10 in number. About 300 supervisory employees who were not members of these unions remained on duty and undertook to continue furnishing gas to the customers, but service could not be maintained for reasons hereinafter more fully discussed.

On the afternoon of July 5, 1956, the Honorable Phil M. Donnelly, governor of the State of Missouri, issued a Proclamation and two Executive Orders which were served upon the defendants and the managing officers of Laclede. This Proclamation and the Orders were designed to effect the seizure of the utility and continue its operation in the public interest by virtue of the authority vested in the governor by the Constitution and the laws of Missouri, particularly section 295.180 of the King-Thompson Act. The Proclamation declared, after investigation, it was the governor's opinion that 'the public interest, health and welfare are jeopardized' because of the interruption of the operation of the utility as a result of the labor dispute and strike and, further, that the exercise of the authority vested in the governor by section 295.180 was necessary to insure the continued operation in Missouri of the public utility.

Executive Order No. 1 stated that the governor took possession of 'the plants, equipment, and all facilities of the Laclede Gas Company, located in the State of Missouri, for the use and operation by the State of Missouri in the public interest,' effective as of 4 o'clock p. m. July 5, 1956.

The governor's Executive Order No. 2 provided:

'(1) That Daniel C. Rogers, Chairman of the Missouri State Board of Mediation, acting as my agent, is hereby authorized and directed to take possession of the plants, equipment and all facilities of the Laclede Gas Company in the State of Missouri or such parts of each of said plants, equipment and facilities as may be necessary for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Order, and to effect my Proclamation and Executive Order No. 1 declaring the public interest, health and welfare jeopardized, in order to insure that the said utility above mentioned is effectively operated in the interest of the people of this State to the end that they may have the benefit of necessary and essential public utility services.

'(2) Said Daniel C. Rogers shall exercise the aforesaid authority as my agent forthwith, and he shall continue to exercise the aforesaid authority as my agent until and unless otherwise directed by me.

'(3) All rules and regulations of the aforesaid utility governing the internal management and organization of the company, and its duties and responsibilities, shall remain in force and effect throughout the term of operation by the State of Missouri.'

The employees on strike did not return to work when the governor's Proclamation and Executive Orders were issued and served upon their representatives. On July 9, 1956, the State of Missouri, in its sovereign right, filed suit seeking to restrain and enjoin the defendants from continuing the strike, basing its action upon Chapter 295 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, and particularly Sec. 295.180 and Sec. 295.200 and the governor's Proclamation and Executive Orders issued pursuant thereto. The defendants' pleadings, inter alia, attacked the constitutionality of the King-Thompson Act and the validity of the Proclamation and Executive Orders of the governor and of his agent acting thereunder and also sought a declaratory judgment that Chapter 295 was unconstitutional.

Trial of the case began on July 11, 1956, and concluded on July 13, 1956. The Court adjudged and decreed that the injunction be issued as prayed and held Chapter 295 was not unconstitutional and that the Proclamation and Executive Orders issued by the governor, pursuant to the authority conferred upon him by Section 295.180, were valid and enforcible. On July 14, 1956, the day after judgment was rendered, the striking employees returned to work.

Amici curiae urge us to dismiss the appeal on the ground the case is now moot. Going outside the record as permitted for this purpose, State ex rel. Donnell v. Searcy, 347 Mo. 1052, 152 S.W.2d 8, 10(2), they assert that Laclede and its employees signed a labor agreement on August 10, 1956, and that the governor terminated his seizure of the utility on October 31, 1956, which was, however, after this appeal was taken. They contend that the injunction having expired by its own terms the appeal should be dismissed in accordance with our practice of refusing to pass on moot questions. Neither the plaintiff nor the defendants join in this request.

Among other cases, the amici curiae cite Preisler v. Doherty, 364 Mo. 596, 265 S.W.2d 404, 407(4), which holds: 'A question is moot when the question presented for decision seeks a judgment upon some matter which if judgment were rendered could not have any practical effect upon any then existing controversy.' One factor to be considered is that seizures of utilities in similar situations are likely to occur again and it is in the public interest that the question of their validity be determined. Moreover, we know from our own records, No. 46,664, State of Missouri v. Local No. 8-6 et al., that another action, growing out of the same transaction, is pending in the trial court against these defendant unions to assess monetary penalties pursuant to Section 295.200, subd. 3.

Where the matters connected with or growing out of the original cause have not been fully and finally disposed of and the questions presented are of public importance and likely to recur in the courts of the state, an appeal need not be dismissed as being moot although the immediate controversy has ceased to exist. State ex rel. Atchison, T. & S. F. Ry. Co. v. Trimble, 254 Mo. 542, 163 S.W. 860, 862(1). See also Stegmann v. Weeke, 279 Mo. 131, 214 S.W. 134, 135(2); Morrison v. Hess, Mo., 231 S.W. 997, 999(1); Missouri Electric Power Co. v. Smith, 348 Mo. 738, 155 S.W.2d 113, 117(1); State ex rel. Chubb v. Sartorius, 351 Mo. 1227, 175 S.W.2d 783, 785(1); Morrison v. State, Mo.App., 252 S.W.2d 97, 100(2). This seems to be consistent with the practice in federal courts. Walling v. Helmerich & Payne, Inc., 323 U.S. 37, 43, 65 S.Ct. 11, 89 L.Ed. 29; Southern Pacific Terminal Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 219 U.S. 498, 514-516, 31 S.Ct. 279, 55 L.Ed. 310. We believe a justiciable controversy is presented in the circumstances of this case. We reject the suggestion that the appeal should be dismissed as moot.

Ninety-nine per cent of the product distributed by Laclede was natural gas, all of which came from Louisiana or Texas. Natural gas was taken from pipe lines and put directly into the distribution system or in storage. In addition to other methods, Laclede maintains an underground storage reservoir in St. Louis County capable of accommodating in excess of two billion feet of gas. Large quantities of pipe fittings, meters and other supplies and products were also purchased by Laclede from outside the State of Missouri. For the year ending December 31, 1955, Laclede's gross revenue was in excess of $41,000,000. ...

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