United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO-CLC v. Sadlowski

PETITIONER: United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO-CLC
LOCATION: Minnesota State Capitol Building

DOCKET NO.: 81-395
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 457 US 102 (1982)
ARGUED: Mar 31, 1982
DECIDED: Jun 14, 1982

Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. - on behalf of the Respondents
Michael H. Gottesman - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO-CLC v. Sadlowski

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 31, 1982 in United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO-CLC v. Sadlowski

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments first in United Steelworkers of America against Sadlowski.

Mr. Gottesman, you may proceed whenever you are ready--

Michael H. Gottesman:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

At the 1978 convention of the Steelworkers Union... that is its highest governing body, including several thousand delegates selected by the members of each of its locals... the Constitution of the union was amended by adopting the rule that is at issue in this case.

That rule forbids candidates and their supporters... candidates for office within the union, for high office within the union... from soliciting or accepting campaign support from persons who are not members of the union.

The purpose of the rule was to assure that those who got elected to high office in the union would be beholden only to the members of the union, and not, by virtue of the financial benefits they had received from outsiders, be beholden to those outsiders.

The analogue in the federal statutes and with respect to federal elections to the rule that the steelworkers adopted is that provision which makes it unlawful for any candidate for federal office to solicit, accept or receive any contribution from a foreign national.

The court below has held that the steelworkers rule violates Section 101(a)(2) of the Landrum-Griffin Act, a part of Title I of that statute.

We sought review, and this Court granted a writ of certiorari to review two questions: first, whether that construction of the Landrum-Griffin Act is correct; and second, if it is, whether the Landrum-Griffin Act as thus construed to deprive the union and its members of the right to insulate their elections from outsider involvement, abridges the First Amendment freedom of association of the union's members, by taking from them the power to determine the appropriate standard of participation by others in its elections.

I will talk first about the statutory construction issue.

Whenever, as here, the question is the legitimacy of a union's election rule, statutory analysis properly begins... though, of course, it doesn't end... with Title IV of the statute.

That is the title, entitled elections, which lays down election rules with respect to union elections.

In that title, Congress prescribed a number of rules to govern union elections, frequency of elections, notice of elections and the like.

And one of the subjects that Congress specifically focused on in Title IV was the subject of campaign financing.

In Title IV, Congress expressly provided that union monies and employer monies could not be donated to any candidate in a union election.

And in Title IV, Congress expressly provided that every member of the union would have the right to provide campaign support to a candidate in a union election.

Now, of course, there is a middle ground between that which Congress expressly forbad and that which Congress expressly protected.

There are non-members of the union whose capacity to contribute is not addressed on the face of Title IV.

But that does not mean that Title IV has no relevance to that question, because Congress in Title IV, having laid down and mandated for unions certain rules that they had to comply with in their elections, closed the circle; it didn't stop with it.

It said, beyond the rules that we prescribe in this title, unions will be free to choose their own election rules.

We have laid down certain minimum requirements, and beyond this we expressly provide that the choice as to any other election rules, not inconsistent with those that we, the Congress, have laid down, rests with the members of the union through their democratic processes.

That decision is reflected in two difference places in Title IV.

First, in Section 403 which provides that no labor organization shall be required by law to conduct election of officers in any different former manner than is required by its own constitution and bylaws, except as otherwise provided by this title.

And it is provided again in Section 401(e) which is one of the provisions that lays down the rules unions must obey.

And one of those rules is that the election shall be conducted in accordance with the constitution and bylaws of such organization, insofar as they are not inconsistent with the provisions of this title.

What would be the situation, Mr. Gottesman, if, let us say, the wives of ten of the employees of the operation, either with or without signs, but including signs, vote for one of the candidates and they paraded up and down outside the plant or the operation, or merely stood there with their signs.

Would that be a violation?

Michael H. Gottesman:

No, it would not be a violation of the union's rule.

It would not, Your Honor.

The rule has an express exception for volunteered personal services, so that a non-member of the union is free to donate his or her personal time to supporting a candidate in a union election.