United States v. United Mine Workers of America Same v. Lewis, John United Mine Workers of America v. United States Lewis, John v. Same United Mine Workers of America v. Same

Citation67 S.Ct. 677,330 U.S. 258,91 L.Ed. 884
Decision Date06 March 1947
Docket Number782,760,781,Nos. 759,811,s. 759
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 258-261 intentionally omitted] Messrs. Tom C. Clark, Atty. Gen., and John F. Sonnett, Asst. Atty. Gen., for United States.

Messrs. Welly K. Hopkins and Joseph A. Padway, both of Washington, D.C., for United Mine Workers of America and John L. Lewis, individually, etc.

Mr. Chief Justice VINSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

In October, 1946, the United States was in possession of, and operating, the major portion of the country's bituminous coal mines.1

Terms and conditions of employment were controlled 'for the period of Government possession' by an agreement2 entered into on May 29, 1946, between Secretary of Interior Krug, as Coal Mines Administrator, and John L. Lewis, as President of the United Mine Workers of America.3 The Krug-Lewis agreement embodied far reaching changes favorable to the miners;4 and, except as amended and supplemented therein, the agreement carried forward the terms and conditions of the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of April 11, 1945.5 On October 21, 1946, the defendant Lewis directed a letter to Secretary Krug and presented issues which led directly to the present controversy. According to the defendant Lewis, the Krug-Lewis agreement carried forward § 15 of the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of April 11, 1945. Under that section either party to the contract was privileged to give ten days' notice in writing of a desire for a negotiating conference which the other party was required to attend; fifteen days after the beginning of the conference either party might give notice in writing of the termination of the agreement, effective five days after receipt of such notice. Asserting authority under this clause, the defendant Lewis in his letter of October 21 requested that a conference begin November 1 for the purpose of negotiating new arrangements concerning wages, hours, practices, and other pertinent matters appertaining to the bituminous coal industry.6

Captain N. H. Collisson, then Coal Mines Administrator, answered for Secretary Krug. Any contractual basis for requiring negotiations for revision of the Krug-Lewis agreement was denied.7 In the opinion of the Government, § 15 of the 1945 agreement had not been preserved by the Krug-Lewis agreement; indeed, § 15 had been expressly nullified by the clause of the latter contract providing that the terms contained therein were to cover the period of Government possession. Although suggesting that any negotiations looking toward a new agreement be carried on with the mine owners, the Government expressed willingness to discuss matters affecting the operation of the mines under the terms of the Krug-Lewis agreement.

Conferences were scheduled and began in Washington on November 1, both the union and the Government adhering to their opposing views regarding the right of either party to terminate the contract.8 At the fifth meeting, held on November 11, the union for the first time offered specific proposals for changes in wages and other conditions of employment. On November 13 Secretary Krug requested the union to negotiate with the mine owners. This suggestion was rejected.9 On November 15 the union, by John L. Lewis, notified Secretary Krug that 'Fifteen days having now elapsed since the beginning of said conference, the United Mine Workers of America, exercising its option hereby terminates said Krug-Lewis Agreement as of 12:00 o'clock P.M., Midnight, Wednesday, November 20, 1946.'

Secretary Krug again notified the defendant Lewis that he had no power under the Krug-Lewis agreement or under the law to terminate the contract by unilateral declaration.10 The President of the United States announced his strong support of the Government's position and requested reconsideration by the union in order to avoid a national crisis. However, the defendant Lewis, as union president, circulated to the mine workers copies of the November 15 letter to Secretary Krug. This communication was for the 'official information' of union members.

The United States on November 18 filed a complaint in the District Court for the District of Columbia against the United Mine Workers of America and John L. Lewis, individually and as president of the union. The suit was brought under the Declaratory Judgment Act11 and sought judgment to the effect that the defendants had no power unilaterally to terminate the Krug-Lewis agreement. And alleging that the November 15 notice was in reality a strike notice, the United States, pending the final determination of the cause, requested a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunctive relief.

The court, immediately and without notice to the defendants, issued a temporary order12 restraining the defendants from continuing in effect the notice of November 15, from encouraging the mine workers to interfere with the operation of the mines by strike or cessation of work, and from taking any action which would interfere with the court's jurisdiction and its determination of the case. The order by its terms was to expire at 3:00 p.m. on November 27 unless extended for good cause shown. A hearing on the preliminary injunction was set for 10:00 a.m. on the same date. The order and complaint were served on the defendants on November 18.

A gradual walkout by the miners commenced on November 18, and, by midnight of November 20, consistent with the miners' 'no contract, no work' policy, a full-blown strike was in progress. Mines furnishing the major part of the nation's bituminous coal production were idle.

On November 21 the United States filed a petition for a rule to show cause why the defendants should not be punished as and for contempt, alleging a willful violation of the restraining order. The rule issued, setting November 25 as the return day and, if at that time the contempt was not sufficiently purged, setting November 27 as the day for trial on the contempt charge.

On the return day, defendants, by counsel, informed the court that no action had been taken concerning the November 15 notice, and denied the jurisdiction of the court to issue the restraining order and rule to show cause. Trial on the contempt charge was thereupon ordered to begin as scheduled on November 27. On November 26 the defendants filed a motion to dischrge and vacate the rule to show cause. Their motion challenged the jurisdiction of the court, and raised the grave question of whether the Norris-LaGuardia Act13 prohibited the granting of the temporary restraining order at the instance of the United States.14

After extending the temporary restraining order on November 27, and after full argument on November 27 and November 29, the court, on the latter date, overruled the motion and held that its power to issue the restraining order in this case was not affected by either the Norris-LaGuardia Act or the Clayton Act.15

The defendants thereupon pleaded not guilty and waived an advisory jury. Trial on the contempt charge proceeded. The Government presented eight witnesses, the defendants none. At the conclusion of the trial on December 3, the court found that the defendants had permitted the November 15 notice to remain outstanding, had encouraged the miners to interfere by a strike with the operation of the mines and with the performance of governmental functions, and had interfered with the jurisdiction of the court. Both defendants were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of both criminal and civil contempt dating from November 18. The court entered judgment on December 4, fining the defendant Lewis $10,000, and the defendant union $3,500,000. On the same day a preliminary injunction, effective until a final determination of the case, was issued in terms similar to those of the restraining order.

On December 5 the defendants filed notices of appeal from the judgments of contempt. The judgments were stayed pending the appeals. The United States on December 6 filed a petition for certiorari in both cases. Section 240(a) of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C.A. § 347(a), authorizes a petition for certiorari by any party and the granting of certiorari prior to judgment in the Circuit Court of Appeals. Prompt settlement of this case being in the public interest, we granted certiorari on December 9, 329 U.S. 708, 67 S.Ct. 359, and subsequently, for similar reasons, granted petitions for certiorari filed by the defendants, 329 U.S. 709, 67 S.Ct. 373; 329 U.S. 710, 67 S.Ct. 485. The cases were consolidated for argument.


Defendants' first and principal contention is that the restraining order and preliminary injunction were issued in violation of the Clayton and Norris-LaGuardia Acts. We have come to a contrary decision.

It is true that Congress decreed in § 20 of the Clayton Act that 'no such restraining order or injunction shall prohibit any person or persons * * * from recommending, advising, or persuading others * * *' to strike. But by the Act itself this provision was made applicable only to cases 'between an employer and employees, or between employers and employees, or between employees, or between persons employed and persons seeking employment * * *.'16 For reasons which will be explained at greater length in discussing the applicability of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, we cannot construe the general term 'employer' to include the United States, where there is no express reference to the United States and no evident affirmative grounds for believing that Congress intended to withhold an otherwise available remedy from the Government as well as from a specified class of private persons.

Moreover, it...

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