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Labor Law
SUNY Buffalo Law School
Steinfeld, Robert J.

I.                  THE LABOR INJUNCTION
A.     “Objectives” test – The legality of union activity depended upon how any particular court chose to construe union objectives. Most decisions were very restrictive of union conduct. 
1.       Vegelahn v. Gunter (1896) – the court enjoined picketing or other “interference” with persons on the employer’s premises, holding that “no one can lawfully prevent employers or persons wishing to be employed from the exercise of their rights.”
a.      Dissent – Holmes argued that the needs of the workers to organize could justify even intentional infliction of temporary damage to an employers business – that, short of force or threat of force, organized action such as picketing should be permitted.
2.      Plant v. Woods (1900) – court enjoined strikes and picketing to enforce a union demand that the employers hire only its members, rather than members of a rival union. The court held that the need for protection of the organization was not sufficient to justify interference with the employer’s right to be “free of molestation.
a.      Dissent – Holmes contended that the members’ purpose – strengthening union power bargaining over wages and working conditions – justified the strike: “Unity of organization is necessary to make the contest of labor effectual, and [unions] lawfully may employ in their preparation the means which they might use in the final contest.
3.      Bowen v. Matheson (1867) – Case involved a business not a union – one business combines with another business and does something bad to a third business. Court held there was an injury to the third business but there was no legal remedy.
4.      United Shoe Machinery Corp. v. Fitzgerald (1921) – plaintiff employer, which had individual contracts with its machinists binding them to work for a year at specified rates was struck and picketed in support of union demands for collective bargaining. Court held this was an unlawful objective, issued an injunction.
5.      Hopkins v. Oxley Stave Co. (1987) – Plaintiff is a barrel maker that used to contract out the hooping barrels purchases a machine which puts the hoops on the barrel. The company refused to comply with demands by the union to discontinue the use of these machines and to rehire the workers that used to do this. Customers (meat packers, flour makers, other big companies) were contacted by the union makers and were asked to not purchase barrels from the plaintiff. 
a.      Applying Means/Objective Test – No means problem here – everyone has a right to contract with whoever they want and you can put pressure on people not to contract. Ends is a problem – can’t illicit the force/pressure in order to get an employer not to automate. 
b.      Policy considerations – want to let the employers have some liberty to manage/conduct their business in the manner they want to do. Also benefits society to employ the modern and efficient modes of production.
 
II.               ANTITRUST LAWS & EFFECT ON LABOR
A.     Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 – Certain corporations came to achieve great economic power. Under strong public pressure to curtain business abuses, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890. The Act purported to outlaw certain types of conduct (chiefly monopolization and restraints of trade) that were considered harmful to the public interest.
1.       Act declared “every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce…” to be unlawful
2.      Sec 1- makes it a crime to violate the act (only relates to interstate commerce; Sec 4 – makes an injunction available if the action is brought by the attorney general; Sec 7- for private actions only damages are available, no injunction.
3.      But note – these antitrust provisions were first employed against organized laborrather than business entities. Most courts viewed corporations as single “persons” confronted by “groups of persons” (i.e. workers organized into unions), and found that the union posed a greater threat to society.
B.     Sherman Act Interpreted  
1.       Loewe v. Lawler (1980) (the “Danbury Hatters” case) – The Sherman Act, used at first as a strike-breaking weapon, was subsequently interpreted to cast doubt on the legality of unions. In this case, an employer complained of secondary boycotts by the union against his hats. Although the precise question before the Court was procedural (the employer merely sought to have his complaint sustained against a general demurrer), the opinion broadly declared that the Sherman Act prohibited “any combination whatever to secure action which essentially obstructs the free flow of commerce between the states.”
a.      Rationale – The Supreme Court noted that various legislative attempts to exempt farm and labor grounds from the Sherman Act had been unsuccessful. Hence, it concluded that all restraints were unlawful, and following Loewe, many lower courts employed the Sherman Act against any labor activity.
2.      Coronado Coal Co. v. United Mine Workers (1925) – Case involves a strike in AK, the coal mines had been blown up so they were not operating and no coal was produced as a result of the violent strike. Economic consequences – less coal in the market, price of coal will probably go up an affect the national economy.
a.      Held – this is case involves a local strike and is not affecting interstate commerce, therefore the Sherman Act is not implicated.
b.      Problem with holding – the local strike has potential interstate commerce consequences. Evidence was produced on remand that there was a desire to keep the price of coal up so that the AK mines will increase the labor cost and therefore the cost of coal in order to make the unionized coal mines more competitive.
3.      Apex Hosiery Co. v. Leader (1940) – Hosiery factory brought suit against labor organization to recover damages resulting from a strike at its factory. The strike was alleged to be a conspiracy under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Labor wanted company to run a closed shop. Labor union instigated a strike, the plant was seized and occupied for seven weeks – strikers wrecked machinery and did other substantial damage to company property and equipment. For months none of Apex’s hosiery could be shipped in interstate commerce.
a.      ISSUE is whether the restraint resulting from the strike mainta

isputes over working conditions and contract interpretation. Arbitration of such disputes is compulsory.
2.      The Act also imposed a duty on both sides to use “every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements.” Section 2 of the Act imposed a duty on both sides to make “every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements concerning rates of pay, rules and working condition.”
a.      Mediation board was established with the power to use mediation in order to assist the unions and the carriers in the event of a breakdown in their negotiations.
b.      Once the president became involved (no settlement possible) a board was commissioned and both the union and the employers were required to maintain the status quo while the investigation remained pending (up to 60 days)
3.      Burlington Northern RR v. Brotherhood of Maint. Of Way Empl.(1987) – By the passage of the Taft-Hartley act, secondary boycotts were prohibited. No provision in the Railway Labor act that prevented secondary boycotts. Court holds that under the Norris Laguardia Act, secondary boycotts can not be prohibited, no injunction for secondary boycotts.
4.      Texas & NOR Co. v. Brotherhood of Railway (1930) – upheld the power of Congress to prohibit interference with self-organization or with the selection of representatives for the amicable adjustment of disputes.
5.      1934 amendments – (1) declared it unlawful and subject to criminal penalties for carriers to use their funds to assist company unions or to induce their employees to join such unions. (2) Mediation board was given the added task of conducting elections or using other methods to determine which union was desired by the employees. (3) created the National Railroad Adjustment Board which resolved grievances over the meaning of collective bargaining agreements. 
 
III.           STATUTORY FOUNDATIONS OF PRESENT LABOR LAW
A.    Summary of Current Law  – Labor law is presently based on four (4) major pieces of legislation; (i) the Norris LaGuarida Act, which was passed in 1932; (ii) the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) (or Wagner Act) passed in 1935; (iii) the Labor Management Relations (Taft-Hartley) Act, passed in 1947 (amended the NLRA); and finally (iv) the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure (Landrum-Griffin) Act, passed in 1959 (further amendment of the NLRA).
B.    Norris-LaGuardia Act (1932) – The act basically removed the power of federal courts to enjoin coercive activity by unions that did not involve fraud or violence, except under very limited circumstances.