Government & Civic Employees Organizing Committee v. Windsor

PETITIONER: Government & Civic Employees Organizing Committee
LOCATION: Congress

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)

CITATION: 353 US 364 (1957)
ARGUED: Apr 29, 1957 / Apr 30, 1957
DECIDED: May 13, 1957

Facts of the case


Media for Government & Civic Employees Organizing Committee v. Windsor

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 30, 1957 in Government & Civic Employees Organizing Committee v. Windsor

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 29, 1957 in Government & Civic Employees Organizing Committee v. Windsor

Earl Warren:

Number 423, Government and Civic Employees Organizing Committee, CIO, an Unincorporated Association, et al., Appellants, versus S. F. Windsor et al.

Mr. Shadur.

Milton I. Shadur:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case is an appeal from a judgment of the three-judge District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division.

That Court refused to enjoin the enforcement of the Alabama Solomon Act against the attack of the appellants here, claiming that that Act violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

Now, that Act is set out at pages 2 and 3 of our brief.

And with the Court's indulgence, I would like to call attention to its most relevant provisions which began with the first section.

The first section defines a labor union --

Earl Warren:

Where is that to be found, please?

Milton I. Shadur:


Earl Warren:

Where is it --

Milton I. Shadur:

At pages 2 and 3 of our brief --

Earl Warren:

Of you brief?

Milton I. Shadur:

-- for convenience.

A labor organization is defined as any organization of any kind in which employees participate for the purpose of dealing with one or more employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment or conditions of work.

Then, Section 1, goes on to define public employee briefly as any person who is compensated in whole or in part by the State or by any state agency.

Now, Section 2, which is the key Section of this statute, provides very simply that any public employee who becomes or remains a member of a labor union or labor organization or who participates in that union automatically forfeits all employment rights, benefits, and privileges which he has as a public employee.

Section 3, to which I'll refer a little later, specifically excludes from the operation of the Act, all teachers, all employees of the State Docks Board, those are people who work for the railroad which is owned and operated by the State, and that further excludes all city and county employees.

Now, the issues in this case, as we have stated them, are whether consistently with the Fourteenth Amendment, a State can constitutionally bar a state employee.

In this case, a man who is a retail liquor sales man in a state-owned and operated liquor store, from his job and any other public employment solely because he belongs to a labor union, whether the State can compel that employee in order to retain his employment to resign his membership in that organization because one of it's ultimate purposes is the attainment of collective bargaining relationships with Government, with the people with whom it deals when and only when the State permits such collective bargaining to be carried on.

Whether the Fourteenth Amendment permits the exercise and protects the exercise by that state employee of his rights of voluntary association, his rights of free speech, when those rights are exercised through his membership in a labor union.

And finally, if and only if all these questions are determined against us, whether the State can limit that prohibition so that it excludes that prohibition from city employees, county employees, employees who are already organized in the labor unions.

Now, the defendants don't join issue with us on these issues.

They contend that the very nature of this union is such that collective bargaining is an inherent purpose which it says, cannot be abandoned voluntarily except through certain technical procedures which it says have not been followed that a person who belongs to this union can't give the State of Alabama his undivided allegiance and that the State can prohibit membership in point of union in order to ensure that undivided allegiance.

Felix Frankfurter:

Mr. Shadur.

Milton I. Shadur:

Yes, sir?

Felix Frankfurter:

Sorry to interrupt you very early, but I would be able to follow your argument and meet the argument of this case much more understandingly if you'd be good enough to answer one or two questions as they're not clear in the –-

Milton I. Shadur:

Yes, Your Honor.

Felix Frankfurter:

As I understand the decree from which we are appealing in the light of the opinion of the District Court of Judge Reed's amended rules.

It didn't go to the merits.