Plumbers, Steamfitters, Refrigeration, Petroleum Fitters, and Apprentices of Local 298, A. F. of L., v. County of Door

PETITIONER: Plumbers, Steamfitters, Refrigeration, Petroleum Fitters, and Apprentices of Local 298, A. F. of L.,
RESPONDENT: County of Door
LOCATION: United States Senate

DOCKET NO.: 396
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 359 US 354 (1959)
ARGUED: Mar 26, 1959
DECIDED: May 04, 1959

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Plumbers, Steamfitters, Refrigeration, Petroleum Fitters, and Apprentices of Local 298, A. F. of L., v. County of Door

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 26, 1959 in Plumbers, Steamfitters, Refrigeration, Petroleum Fitters, and Apprentices of Local 298, A. F. of L., v. County of Door

Earl Warren:

Number 396, Plumbers, Steamfitters, Refrigeration, Petroleum Fitters, and Apprentices of Local 298, A. F. of L., et al., Petitioners, versus County of Door, a Municipal Corporation, et al.

Mr. Previant.

David Previant:

If the Court please.

This case comes here on writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin.

It presents the question whether the state court had the jurisdiction to enjoin peaceful picketing at the site of a county building project during the course of a dispute between the union and the private contractors who were under contract with the County to build this project.

It involves the familiar question to this Court of preemption, question of federal v. state powers.

The facts are simple and substantially undisputed.

The petitioners are a local labor union and the Building Trades Council which is comprised of delegates from affiliated local unions.

The respondents are the County of Door, a political subdivision of the State of Wisconsin, the municipal corporation, Arnold Zahn, a plumbing contractor and Theodore Oudenhoven, a general contractor.

Early in 1957, the County determined to build an addition to its existing courthouse facility, and in accordance with Wisconsin's statute, let the job out for bid.

Number of individual craft bids were sought as well as a general contractor bid.

The respondent, Oudenhoven who was the general contractor on the job was an organized contractor.

He was working under contract with the various labor unions, whose members were in his employ.

The respondent, Zahn, the successful bidder for the plumbing contract was an unorganized contractor, neither he nor any of his employees worked under contract with the Plumbers' Union or were they members of that union.

The petitioners, that is the Plumbers' Union here, sought a contract with Zahn upon learning that he was bidding for or had received the bid, but they were unsuccessful.

When the job started, a single picket patrolled the premises of which the addition was being constructed.

They could carry the simple sign saying that the employees were not union and there was -- and there is no charge here that the picketing was other than peaceful and in complete compliance with all relevant laws.

As a result of the picket and as was anticipated, other union working men employed by other union contractors refuse to enter on the job site to perform the services, as a result of which the job came to a stop.

The -- the distinguishing feature here from the cases which have previously come to this Court was here, the County, joined with the two private contractors and filed a joint complaint against the local labor union and its affiliate, Building Trades Council.

Claiming that there was no labor dispute as that term was defined under Wisconsin law, and alleging a violation of Wisconsin statutes, the union defended both on the merits on what is relevant here on the theory of preemption.

There's no -- there's no question in this case, but that there were some $225,000 or almost a quarter of a million dollars of products used on this job which originated at points outside the State of Wisconsin.

The trial court found that the picketing was unlawful, found that it didn't comport with the Wisconsin definition of a labor dispute.

It also found that it was for the purpose of coercing the nonunion contractor to in turn force his employees to join the union against their will.

This is a violation of a statute of the State of Wisconsin.

According, and also, for the purpose of getting a contract for the union, trial court accordingly entered both temporary and finally, permanent injunction against all picketing.

The case was then taken to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Wisconsin Supreme Court on the merits found that there was unlawful picketing for an unlawful purpose.

The Court in -- for the basis of its opinion without discussing commerce, assume that there was commerce present, but found that there was no preemption.

And it reason that sense under the definition of “employer”, the political subdivisions of the State were expressly excluded, and since under the definition of “person”, there was no expressed inclusion of the sovereignty of the State.

Therefore, the Taft-Hartley Act in any of its aspect could not be applied to the particular dispute and therefore, there was no basis for it to invoke the theory or to apply the theory urged by the plaintiff -- by the unions that there was preemption.