Machinists v. Gonzales

PETITIONER: Machinists
RESPONDENT: Gonzales
LOCATION: Wolverine Tube, Inc.

DOCKET NO.: 31
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 356 US 617 (1958)
ARGUED: Dec 12, 1957
DECIDED: May 26, 1958

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Machinists v. Gonzales

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 12, 1957 (Part 1) in Machinists v. Gonzales

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 12, 1957 (Part 2) in Machinists v. Gonzales

Lloyd E. McMurray:

I was saying that I would like (Inaudible) first and that -- in that regard, the first thing that I say demonstrates that there was no -- that's -- what's not within the area in which the Board can act as a fact that the activity regulated by the state-court judgment was not the same as that with which the Board would be concerned.

The second ground and serve a corollary of that is this, I do not believe that the Congress intended by the passage of the -- of the Wagner Act and the Taft-Hartley Act to take complete control of absolutely every aspect of the activities of man in which an unfair labor practice might be involved in some way.

And I have put to my learned opponents this hypothetical question which they have not answered.Let us suppose that an employer wants to get rid of a -- of a man because he's a good union member and so he fires him, but he says to the other employees in the plant that he fired him because he stole money or goods.

Now, the real purpose of the employer, the real intent, and I think this Court has held that content is very important, is to get rid of the strong union man.

But, in so doing, he commits an unfair labor practice but also he commits a -- an active defamation which is a tort under the law of most States, not all, would be employee who was fired, be unable to sue in the state court for damages, for defamation in that situation, I say that I -- I've seen no cases on this, at all, but I don't believe that the Labor Act should be so broadly construed as to exclude from the state courts such tort jurisdiction as that.

I don't believe that any of the evils of conflict between the federal control of labor matters, and state control would flow from allowing such an action.

And I would move on then to the third reason why I think this was within the State's jurisdiction.

An award of damages was made here and this is one of the -- this is the thing that -- that brought the case up here, not the fact that -- that Gonzales was ordered reinstated to the union but the fact that damages were awarded.

Does that indicate that the -- that this should be before the Board and not in the courts?

I say under the decisions of this Court, no, it should not.

The fact that damages were awarded does not mean that the Board had exclusive jurisdiction.

And I would point to your recent decision in -- in San Diego Building Trades Council against Garmon in which the Court there admittedly dealing with an unfair labor practice, one which the National Labor Relations Board refused to exercise its jurisdiction on and under the idea that it must follow the federal law, the California court awarded damages as well as injunction and this Court, while holding that the power to enjoin was exclusively federal, that is that the -- the Court, the state court had no power to issue the injunction, did not reverse as to the award of damages but merely vacated the judgment and said that it wasn't sure.

This Court wasn't sure what the California court meant.

Apparently, the California court might mean that under its law, an award of damages would be proper in such a situation.

And if that was so, this Court, it seems to me, intimated that the California court should make that clear and then could -- could properly award the damages.

And that's the final reason why I think this is within the power of the state court is because the state court was the only tribunal which could afford complete relief.

I don't think it's necessary to dwell on the policy reason for favoring a tribunal which can afford complete relief.

I think this Court has recognized the appropriateness of allowing power to remain in a court which can dispose of the entire controversy in two recent cases.

One of them is Syres against the Oil Workers Union and more recently in Conley against Gibson where this Court noted that only there was a -- some flavor of a labor dispute about the case that if I may quote from the words of Mr. Justice Black for the Court.

“This case involves no dispute between employee and employer but to the contrary is a suit by employees against the bargaining agent to enforce their statutory right not to be unfairly discriminated against by it in bargaining.

The Adjustment Board has no power to protect them from such discrimination.

Furthermore, the contract between the Brotherhood and the Railroad will be, at most, only incidentally involved in resolving this controversy between petitioners and their bargaining agent.

In those two cases, the Syres case and this case although some relief was available before the National Labor Relations Board, this Court said that a District Court, Federal District Court have jurisdiction to issue an injunction and to give relief without requiring the workers to go before the Board to obtain what relief the Board could give them.

If I may now, I should like to state why I say that the record in this case does not clearly show any unfair labor practice.

I think that it boils down to this that the statute requires whether to be unfair labor practice that the union must have caused the employer to discriminate against the employee.

And while it is true that this does not, under the decided cases, mean that you have to show that the union wrote a letter or went and talked to the employer and demanded that he not hire the employee, some evidence of that causal relationship must be given.

And, of course, it would be very simple, it would have been very simple for the -- for the petitioners in this case to do that if there had been such evidence available.

They could have called a union official or they could have called a -- an employer.

They could have established without any difficulty, whatever, that the union was the one who caused the discrimination, if there was discrimination.

But the -- was the theory of the union, the petitioner here, at the trial level that there was no causal relationship whatever, that the union was not in anyway responsible for Gonzales' failure to obtain work and Mr. Kennedy, my learned opponent in the trial court stated to the Court a probable theory why Gonzales was unable -- unable to obtain work.