International Union, United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW-CIO) v. Russell

PETITIONER: International Union, United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW-CIO)
RESPONDENT: Paul S. Russell
LOCATION: Wolverine Tube, Inc.

DOCKET NO.: 21
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 356 US 634 (1958)
ARGUED: Dec 11, 1957 / Dec 12, 1957
DECIDED: May 26, 1958
GRANTED: Nov 19, 1956

ADVOCATES:
J. R. Goldthwaite, Jr. - for the petitioner
Norman W. Harris - for the respondent

Facts of the case

On July 18, 1951 the International Automobile Union called a strike against Wolverine Tube, Inc., a subsidiary of the Calumet and Hecla Consolidated Copper Company, located in Decatur, AL. As a result of this strike, Mr. Paul Russell, a non-union employee at the plant, was prevented from working when members of the picket line made violent threats against him and physically blocked the only entrance into the plant. The strike lasted until August 22, 1951.

Russell sued the union in Alabama state court, claiming that the union unlawfully invaded his right to engage in a lawful occupation free from unlawful interference. The Union argued that the Labor Management Act of 1947 removed jurisdiction from the state court to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). When the trial court decided for the union, Russell appealed. The Supreme Court of Alabama reversed the lower court’s decision and remanded the case for trial.

At trial, a jury returned a $10,000.00 verdict for Russell. The union appealed, arguing that the jury verdict was excessive and reiterating its argument that the state court had no jurisdiction to hear this case. The Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Question

(1) Does a state court have jurisdiction over an action by a non-union employee against a union and its agent, for malicious interference with the employee’s lawful occupation during a strike?

(2) Was the jury’s $10,000.00 verdict excessive?

Media for International Union, United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW-CIO) v. Russell

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 11, 1957 in International Union, United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW-CIO) v. Russell

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 12, 1957 in International Union, United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW-CIO) v. Russell

Earl Warren:

International Union, United Automobile -- Agricultural Implement Workers of America et al versus Paul S. Russell.

Mr. Goldthwaite, you may proceed.

J. R. Goldthwaite, Jr.:

Thank you Your Honor.

Mr. Chief Justice, Your Honors.

In as much as Congress regulated the concerted activities and guaranteed the rights of employees in Section 7 of the act and provided that interference with those rights was an unfair labor practice for which the unions were responsible and gave a remedy which remedy we believe is adequate to redress the employee and back pay.

In other words, it's our position and we think without question, that the National Labor Relations Board has the authority to grant to the employee, whose rights under the act are infringed, all of the remedial relief which was granted by the Supreme Court of Alabama.

The Board could have ordered the union to give him the $450 back pay in remedial relief --

Or it's held otherwise as --

J. R. Goldthwaite, Jr.:

Yes sir.

-- in the Court of Appeals it's held otherwise?

J. R. Goldthwaite, Jr.:

I don't know that a Court of Appeals has held otherwise.

Particularly in one case in circuits --

J. R. Goldthwaite, Jr.:

I didn't -- I am not familiar with a ruling by a Court of Appeals.

The Board has held to the contrary but we think their ruling is clearly error and we cover that subject completely in our brief at pages 45 through 56.

I know where this case -- 187 Fd. 2nd I think held that --

J. R. Goldthwaite, Jr.:

That's first time sir we've had that case brought to our attention at all and didn't find any so ruling.

The House Bill 3020 in 1947 in Section 10A specifically provided that an individual, an employee whose right to work during a strike was infringed would have a right to bring a suit in a, any court of competent jurisdiction, as I recall, the words, venerated, provided a court remedy for interference with the right to work.

The Conference Committee of the house and Senate specifically rejected the house proposed.

And in lieu of the house proposal to provide a court remedy for the same type conducts involved in this case provided the amendment to Section 7 which guaranteed the right to work and provided Section 8 (b) (1), given the National Labor Relation Board jurisdiction.

Therefore we think it's pretty, it's quite clear from the Congressional history that Congress specifically rejected the right to bring a legal action to enforce the rights involved in this case.

Therefore, if we are correct and we are quite sure under the rulings of the Court which held that the board has the authority to grant any relief it deems necessary -- any remedial relief it deems necessary to effectuate the policies of the act, the board does have that power.

Therefore, necessarily the remedy provided by the National Labor Relations Act is in direct conflict with the remedy provided by the state court in this case.

And therein as Mr. Justice Douglas asked about the Laburnum case yesterday, therein lies the distinction we believe between this case and the Laburnum case.

The Laburnum case was a case of an employer whose lawful right to conduct his business free from interference was interfered with by violent conduct.

The Court there held that there was no parallel remedy provided by the National Labor Relations Act to redress the injury which was the subject matter of that suit and that of course is true.

The National Labor Relations Act makes no attempt whatsoever to guarantee the right of an employee to conduct his business.

There is no guarantees which parallel to the employer, the guarantees afforded to the right of an employee to work and that I think is a primary distinction between Laburnum and the present case.

We do believe that the Laburnum case, if it were before the Court for decision again would probably be decided differently because the adjudication by the State Court in that case necessarily involves the adjudication of concerted -- of the right of employees to engage in concerted activity and the extent of the -- exercise of that right is a matter which has been given to the National Labor Relations Board.

At any rate we think that the Laburnum case carries the, to the fullest extent the line of demarcation within which the state can act upon the subject matter which has been covered by the National Labor Relations Act.

Mr. Justice Frankfurter in the Weber case I think very clearly pointed out that it was necessary that the National Labor Relations Act provide a damage suit remedy before the remedies would be in conflict but that -- he said that if there was an administrative remedy which is clearly provided in this case then the Weber case -- in the Weber case instead of the Laburnum case that the Court would have decided it different.