United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America Uaw Cio v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Board

Decision Date04 June 1956
Docket NumberNo. 530,530
Citation100 L.Ed. 1162,76 S.Ct. 794,351 U.S. 266
PartiesUNITED AUTOMOBILE, AIRCRAFT AND AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA, affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations, UAW CIO, Appellant, v. WISCONSIN EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS BOARD and Kohler Co., a Wisconsin Corporation
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr.Kurt L. Hanslowe, Detroit, Mich., for appellant.

Mrs. Beatrice Lampert, Madison, Wis., for appellee Wisconsin Employment Relations Board.

Mr. Jerome Powell, Washington, D.C., for appellee Kohler Co.

Mr. Justice REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case, as stated in the brief for the United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, presents the question whether or not a State may enjoin through its labor statute, the Wisconsin Employment Peace Act, St.1953, § 111.01 et seq., union conduct of a kind which may be an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act, as amended, 29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq.1

Appellant concedes that a State may punish violence arising in labor relation controversies under its generall applicable criminal statutes. It does not admit or deny the charged violence. The union considers the coercion immaterial in this case. Its position is that a State may not exercise this police power through an agency that is concerned only with labor relations. The argument is that a State Board will use this power to stop force and violence in order to further state labor policy, thus creating a conflict with the federal policy as developed by the National Labor Relations Board. The union argues that Wisconsin has no jurisdiction to enjoin the alleged conduct under its labor act because such conduct would be an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act.

This controversy arose out of the failure of appellant and the Kohler Company to reach an accord concerning a new collective-bargaining agreement. As the parties were unable to agree, Kohler's production workers struck and picketed the premises of the company. Ten days later Kohler filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Board charging appellant and others with committing unfair labor practices within the meaning of the Wisconsin Employment Peace Act.2 It was alleged that appellant's members had engaged in mass picketing, thereby obstructing ingress to and egress from the Kohler plant; interfered with the free and uninter- rupted use of public ways; prevented persons desiring to be employed by Kohler from entering the plant; and coerced employees who desired to work, and threatened them and their families with physical injury. The State Board found the allegations to be true and issued an order that directed the union and certain of its members to cease all such activities. The order appears below.3

Without change of substance it was enforced by a Wisconsin Circuit Court, and the State Supreme Court affirmed that judgment. 269 Wis. 578, 70 N.W.2d 191. As the appeal raised an important question of federalism, we noted probable jurisdiction. 350 U.S. 957, 76 S.Ct. 347.4

The Kohler Company is subject to the National Labor Relations Act. It seems agreed, and we think correctly in view of the findings of fact, that the alleged conduct of the union in coercing employees in the exercise of their rights is a violation of § 8(b)(1) of that Act.5 Since there is power under the Act to protect employees against violence from labor organizations by assuring their right to refrain from concerted labor activities, the National Labor Board might have issued an order similar to that of the State Board.6 The provisions of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended, cover the labor relations of the Kohler Company. National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, 31, 57 S.Ct. 615, 621, 81 L.Ed. 893. These provisions may be assumed to include the coercion not only of strikers but also of other persons seeking employment with the plant.7

By virtue of the Commerce Clause, art. 1, § 8, cl. 3, Congress has power to regulate all labor controversies in or affecting interstate commerce, such as are here involved. If the congressional enactment occupies the field, its control by the Supremacy Clause, art. 6, cl. 2, supersedes or, in the current phrase, preempts state power. Kelly v. State of Washington, 302 U.S. 1, 9, 58 S.Ct. 87, 91, 82 L.Ed. 3. In the 1935 Act, § 10(a), the Board was empowered to prevent unfair labor practices. By § 10(a) this power was made 'exclusive.' 49 Stat. 449, 453, 29 U.S.C.A. § 160. In the Taft-Hartley amendments of 1947, the word 'exclusive' was omitted but the phrase, 'shall not be affected by any other means of adjustment or prevention that has been or may be established by agreement, code, law, or otherwise', was re-enacted without significant change. The omission was explained in the Conference Report.8

Yet under the 1935 Wagner Act this Court ruled that Wisconsin, under its same Labor Peace Act, could enjoin union conduct of the kind here involved. Allen-Bradley Local No. 1111, United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Board, 315 U.S. 740, 62 S.Ct. 820, 86 L.Ed. 1154. At that time, however, the federal Act made no provision for enjoining union activities. With the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, the Congress recognized that labor unions also might commit unfair labor practices to the detriment of employees, and prohibited among other practices, coercion of employees who wish to refrain from striking. See note 5, supra. Appellant urges that this amendment eliminated the State's power to control the activities now under consideration through state labor statutes.

It seems obvious that § 8[b][1] was not to be the exclusive method of controlling violence even against employees, much less violence interfering with others approaching an area where a strike was in progress.9 No one suggests that such violence is beyond state criminal power. The Act does not have such regulatory pervasiveness. The state interest in law and order precludes such interpretation. Senator Taft explained that the federal prohibition against union violence would allow state action.10

Appellant is of the view that such references were 'to the general state criminal law against violence and coercion, not to state labor relations statutes.' But this cannot be correct since Allen-Bradley Local No. 1111, United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Board, the leading case dealing with violence under this same Wisconsin statute, was well known to Congress.11 The fact that the Labor Management Act covered union unfair practices for the first time does not make the Allen-Bradley case obsolete. Orders which originate in state boards and become effective through the state judiciary should give more careful protection to the rights of labor than the purely judicial orders of a court.

There is no reason to re-examine the opinions in which this Court has dealt with problems involving federal-state justisdiction over industrial controversies. They have been adequately summarized in Weber v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 348 U.S. 468, 474—477, 75 S.Ct. 480, 484—486, 99 L.Ed. 546. As a general matter we have held that a State may not, in the furtherance of its public policy, enjoin conduct 'which has been made an 'unfair labor practice' under the federal statutes.' Id., 348 U.S. at page 475, 75 S.Ct. at page 485, and cases cited. But our post-Taft-Hartley opinions have made it clear that this general rule does not take from the States power to prevent mass picketing, violance, and overt threats of violence.12 The dominant interest of the State in preventing violence and property damage cannot be questioned. It is a matter of genuine local concern. Nor should the fact that a union commits a federal unfair labor practice while engaging in violent conduct prevent States from taking steps to stop the violence. This conclusion has been explicit in the opinions cited in note 12.

The States are the natural guardians of the public against violence. It is the local communities that suffer most from the fear and loss occasioned by coercion and destruction. We would not interpret an act of Congress to leave them powerless to avert such emergencies without compelling directions to that effect.

We hold that Wisconsin may enjoin the violent union conduct here involved. The fact that Wisconsin has chosen to entrust its power to a labor board is of no concern to this Court.13


Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, with whom the CHIEF JUSTICE andMr. Justice BLACK concur, dissenting.

There are instances where we have sustained identical regulations of the same act by both a State and the Federal Government. People of State of California v. Zook, 336 U.S. 725, 69 S.Ct. 841, 93 L.Ed. 1005, is an example. But the instances are few and far between.

Of course, where the States and the Federal Government regulate the same act, but each with a different sanction, both often survive. United Construction Workers, affiliated with United Mine Workers of America v. Laburnum Const. Corp., 347 U.S. 656, 74 S.Ct. 833, 93 L.Ed. 1025, is a recent example. We there allowed a common-law tort action for damages to be enforced in a state court for the same acts that could have been the basis for administrative relief under the federal Act. But the present case is not that case. Here the State has prescribed an administrative remedy that duplicates the administrative remedy prescribed by Congress. Each reaches the same identical conduct. We disallowed that duplication of remedy in Garner v. Teamsters, etc., Union, 346 U.S. 485, 74 S.Ct. 161, 98 L.Ed. 228. In that case we held that a state court could not enjoin action which was subject to an unfair labor proceeding under the federal Act. And see Weber v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 348 U.S. 468, 75 S.Ct. 480, 99 L.Ed. 546. Today we depart...

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