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Labor Law
SUNY Buffalo Law School
Steinfeld, Robert J.

Labor Law
Professor Steinfeld
Spring 2007
The Evolution of Labor Relations Law
The Labor Problem and the Law
The Labor Injunction
Hostility to union activities
Unions regarded as criminal conspiracies – illegal deprivation of employer’s property or interference with contracts.
Narrowed use when courts required employer show union was guilty of either an illegal purpose or the use of an illegal means (violence).
Courts accepted that employees would be permitted to strike for their wages. Needed another justification.
Permanent Injunction – Vegelahn v. Guntner
RULE: Peaceful picketing may be permanently enjoined.
a.      Famous common law case – Mass. (1896)
b.      TRO (injunction pendente lite) issued restraining union members from interfering with P’s business by patrolling sidewalk or street in front or around business premises to prevent scabs from entering.
c.       D’s used persuasion and threats of violence to prevent other workers from crossing the picket line.
d.      Ds conspired to prevent Ps from getting workmen, from carrying on business until adopted schedule of business agreeable to the union.
e.      Issue – May peaceful picketing be permanently enjoined? YES.
f.        Opinion:
                                                        i.            Allen: patrol was unlawful interference with the rights of employer and employed;
·         Employer has right to engage all persons who are willing to work for him at such prices as may be mutually agreed upon.
·         Employed or seeking employment have corresponding right to enter into or remain in the employment of any person willing to employ them.
·         Intimidation not limited to threats of violence or physical injury to persons or property; includes persuasion.
                                                      ii.            Holmes’s Dissent: Picket line isn’t automatically threatening; workers publicizing their dispute with management. Shouldn’t be unlawful to do in a group what’s lawful for one man to do alone. 
Free Competition Doctrine: Court allows free competition between businesses even when it resulted in an economic loss for one of the businesses, the court should also extend an analogous right to engage in free competition through peaceful picketing to employees as well. 
g.      Analysis: look at the OBJECTIVE then MEANS. Even when the “ends” are lawful, if the “means” employed are unlawful the activity will be enjoined.
Ends or purposes test – Plant v. Woods
RULE:  Urging employers to persuade their employees to join a particular union constitutes an enjoinable conspiracy, where there are not direct threats of force or strikes.
a.      Mass. (1900)
b.      Union A (P) broke away from union B (D). D union told employer to persuade P’s members to rejoin D, communicating the idea to employer that there would be trouble unless P’s members rejoined.
c.       P sued to enjoin D on theory that D’s conduct constituted an unlawful conspiracy.
d.      Issue – Does urging employers to persuade their employees to join a particular union constitute an enjoinable conspiracy, where there are no direct threats of force or strikes? YES.
e.      Opinion:
                                                        i.            Majority: Although workers may combine for some purposes, the facts here indicate a highly coercive situation in which employers were intimidated into persuading their employees to join a particular union.
·         Such conduct limits the freedom of both employer and employee. It is not justified as “trade competition” and should therefore be enjoined.
                                                     ii.            Dissent (Holmes): While the immediate purpose was not to raise wages, the ultimate purpose was to achieve enough strength to impose a higher wage scale. Thus the activities employed by D in this context were necessary and proper.
·         The majority has recognized that the organization of workers to obtain power in order to better their economic position is permissible as long as the end or purpose is good and the means used are lawful.
f.        Comment: Other situations where the objectives were deemed unlawful:
                                                        i.            Striking and picketing for the purposes of bargaining while the company’s employees were under one-year employment contracts;
                                                     ii.            A customer boycott to induce the employer not to use labor-saving machinery; and
                                                   iii.            A strike to force a contractor to allow members of a striking union to perform work already assigned to member of another union.
Antitrust Laws
Sherman Act (1890): Congress declared unlawful “every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several states or wit

t but included two provisions favoring labor. Goal was to fix problems arising out of cases resulting from Sherman Act and to reverse Lowe. Provisions of Clayton Act were rendered impotent by a series of Supreme Court decisions.
a.      Labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce – this presents problems in applying Antitrust Acts to unions (Section 6).
b.      Objectives – Normal objects of labor organizations are legitimate: “nothing in the antitrust acts shall be construed to forbid members from lawfully carrying out their legitimate objective” Mere existence of labor union does not constitute a conspiracy, rather questions arise as to what actions may be taken by union (Section 6).
c.       Injunctive Relief – Individuals or corporations may seek injunctive relief – this expands parties who may seek injunctions (under Sherman only the Attorney General of the United States could seek injunction – individuals could only seek damages) (Section 16).
d.      Jurisdiction – Jurisdiction was withdrawn from federal courts to issue injunctions in labor disputes (Section 20). 
Secondary boycotts may be enjoined – Duplex Printing Press Co. v. Deering (1921)
a.      P manufactured printing presses for interstate commerce, running an open shop so that they were able to undersell their closed shop competitors. A machinists union wanted to impose a closed shop on P. D attempted to dissuade P’s customers from dealing with P by threatening to interfere with the transportation, installation or maintenance of P’s presses.
b.      P argued D should be enjoined from these activities as D was hindering P’s interstate commerce as prohibited under the Sherman Act and that the limitation imposed on the issuance of injunctions by Section 6 of the Clayton Act is inapplicable because Section 20 of the Clayton Act imposes this limitation only in situations between “employers and employees”. 
c.       Issue: Are injunctions against secondary boycotts proscribed by the Clayton Act?
d.      Opinion: