United Steelworkers of America v. United States

PETITIONER: United Steelworkers of America
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Bonneville Dam

DOCKET NO.: 504
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 361 US 39 (1959)
ARGUED: Nov 03, 1959
DECIDED: Nov 07, 1959

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United Steelworkers of America v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 03, 1959 (Part 1) in United Steelworkers of America v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 03, 1959 (Part 2) in United Steelworkers of America v. United States

J. Lee Rankin:

-- to answer a question for Mr. Justice Frankfurter and I was trying to describe a little bit of the problem in regard to trying to furnish to you on whether or not plans that are not struck could furnish it.

I think one of the difficulties in regard to the affidavits in this case is that the union's affidavits very largely treat steel as though it was a fungible commodity.

It is of course when you deal with the ingots but when you get beyond that, you have so many and very great problems.

There are so many shapes and forms and sizes, thousands of them.

And then you've also get into qualities of various kinds of stainless cobalt and alloys, some 35 different alloys that to try to assume that just because a supplier either a plant -- steel plant as they call it or a warehouse had any such material that you needed for defense contract just because they had a thousand tons of items that were steel is an impossible assumption.

When the contractors are seeking a particular commodity, they need something that will fit the design but they're given by the defense department and it isn't the right shape or form, if that's the problem of course, it's of no value.

One of the problems we have now, with a large inventory which is not bound completely it's around seven million tons from about almost 25 that it was at the beginning of the strike and it's going down at some five million a month, it's the figure that is given.

Even with that, there are many items that contractors are unable to find that will fit with the things that they have in supply.

And it's of course useless to try to have just a half a car or a railroad wheel when you need axle to go with it or other parts of the steel product that you're trying to develop.

So that has to be kept in mind in examining this question.

Now, there are also are steel suppliers who are qualified by the defense department.

And anybody that wants to come forward and qualify for these various -- the supply steel is very welcome.

And they have had all kinds of procedure in regards to that.

And they so certify it when they are qualified.

Now, many of these cases, some steel plant will come forward and say, “We'd like to qualify.”

And it maybe as much as six -- as six or eight months before they demonstrate their ability to produce the quality of steel that the defense department contract requires.

So that -- that is one of the problems.

It was some of the mills that are not struck at the present time.

Another problem is that many of those mills have got all the business and that they can handle in the form of defense contracts they're now supplying their ability to take care of defense contracts.

The -- and then there -- the special items that I referred to in regard to missile and the other top priority programs that none of the mills that are struck can supply.

So, in dealing with that problem, I just wanted to demonstrate the fact that there was in effect, in accordance with public regulations, a system that was taking out of the unstruck mills everything that would contribute to the defense effort without any further order on October 16th.

Now, on October 16th at least say in our brief a counsel referred to.

We did, the Government did through the allocation administration put out this order to take care of the mills if a settlement was reached or if the injunction or when the injunction became effective to terminate the strike.

At that time, there would be a considerable problem in the whole industry of the plants that had been struck.

The problem would be whether hardly it would deal with this top priority items that had accumulated during the time of the strike.

And the order expressly provides that they shall have a little leeway to try to meet these requirements for defense.

Instead of having to -- prepare a batch for a particular defense item and if they have another item that's top priority too, then they close down the whole works instead of finishing that batch out and make the next one which would become so economic -- uneconomic, that the Government would have to pay tremendous prices for steel that -- within a very limited time in the ordinary course of doing business could be produced at reasonable prices.

Potter Stewart:

Mr. Solicitor General, apart from this argument you're now making the --

J. Lee Rankin:

Yes.

Potter Stewart:

-- steel is fungible --