Staub v. City of Baxley

RESPONDENT: City of Baxley
LOCATION: Hazlehurst Manufacturing Company

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 355 US 313 (1958)
ARGUED: Nov 18, 1957 / Nov 19, 1957
DECIDED: Jan 13, 1958
GRANTED: Jan 14, 1957

J. H. Highsmith - for the appellee
Morris P. Glushien - for the appellant

Facts of the case

Rose Staub was convicted and fined for attempting to organize a branch of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union at Hazlehurst Manufacturing Company. She violated an ordinance in the neighboring town of Baxley, where many of the Manufacturing Co. workers lived. That ordinance required anyone soliciting members for a union to apply for a permit from the mayor and city council. The mayor and city council had unlimited discretion to grant or deny the permits for any reason. Staub argued that the ordinance violated her constitutional right to free speech. The Court of Appeals of Georgia affirmed the conviction, but did not consider the constitutional question because Staub did not attempt to comply with the ordinance. The Supreme Court of Georgia denied certiorari.


Does an ordinance requiring union organizers to obtain a permit before recruiting violate free speech?

Media for Staub v. City of Baxley

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 19, 1957 in Staub v. City of Baxley

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 18, 1957 in Staub v. City of Baxley

Earl Warren:

Number 48, Rose Staub, Appellant, versus City of Baxley.

Morris P. Glushien:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please --

Earl Warren:

Mr. Glushien.

Morris P. Glushien:

May it please the Court.

This case presents a dramatic example of a Southern community, frustrating and delaying union organization for nearly four years under the guise of enforcing a patently unconstitutional ordinance.

Felix Frankfurter:

Couldn't be any different if a Northern community did it, would it?

Morris P. Glushien:


This is the -- I -- there was a -- accord to what I'm going to say though, Mr. Justice Frankfurter.

What I wanted to say next was that this ordinance is represented of the great and growing number of such ordinances found, so far as I researched presently discloses throughout the south and not the north which is why I made a point I did.

A union organizer was convicted from the City of Baxley, Georgia under a licensing ordinance and this is the ultimate appeal from the conviction which has been sustained through the Georgia Courts.

In February 1954, two organizers of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union appeared in the City of Baxley.

They had been sent there to organize or try to organize the plant of the Hazelhurst Manufacturing Company which is located in Hazelhurst, Georgia, a town which neighbors Baxley.

The Hazelhurst Manufacturing Company is a company engaged in interstate commerce.

It draws its workers both from the town of -- the City of Hazelhurst and also from the City of Baxley.

And these organizers were staying at a motel in Baxley and were trying to solicit among others, residents of the City of Baxley.

I might add parenthetically that the City of Hazelhurst has an ordinance which is almost verbatim, a copy of the Baxley ordinance.

On this day, on February 15th, 1954, when they first came there on a Monday, they approached two workers at the home of one of them on the porch of one them, the workers, told them that they were trying to get the workers of the Hazelhurst Manufacturing Company to join the union and discussed the union with them, arrange or survey to hold a -- another meeting on Friday, that written on the case.

And that meeting took place Friday at noon again in the home of one of the workers.

At that meeting there were four workers present together with the two organizers.

At the meeting, the organizers discussed with them the advantages of joining the union, urge them to join, told them about the membership cards that they had, told them among other things that the dues were 64 cents a week, and a discussion went on concerning the advantages and disadvantages of joining the union.

Nobody joined during that noon meeting.

But there were some further discussion about having a further meeting that evening at which additional workers would be present to be held at 7 o'clock that night.

But before that meeting could be held, the Police Chief of Baxley arrested these two organizers.And they were charged with the offense, I'm quoting.

“The offense of soliciting members for an organization without a permit or license.”

Now, the ordinance in question was passed in 1949 and as appears from the original question and answer transcript, Mr. Highsmith, the city solicitor, my learned adversary, stated there that he thinks he wrote that ordinance.

Now, the ordinance appears on pages 9 to 11 of the record and I would like briefly to summarize it.The ordinance is a 9-section ordinance, starts at the bottom of page 9.

And essentially, the first section provides that before any person -- it doesn't have to be, mind you, a person who was paid for his actions or who receives any remuneration of any kind.

Any person who solicits membership for any organization, union or society of any sort which requires from its members the payments of membership fees, dues or is entitled to make assessments, must apply to the Mayor and to the City Council for a permit to solicit members.

Section II then goes on, “To set forth the kind of information that must be provided in the application for the permit among other things that requires you to name the officers of the organization, and whether you are a salaried employee of the organization.”

Section III goes on to say that, “This application shall be submitted to a meeting of the Mayor and the City Council and provision was made for a hearing.