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UNITED STATES v. UMW

December 5, 1946

UNITED STATES
v.
UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GOLDSBOROUGH

The Court delivered the following opinion orally in overruling the motion of the defendants to discharge and vacate the Rule to Show Cause why the defendants should not be held in contempt:

The Court. Gentlemen, the Court is ready to rule.

 It happens that the Court was a Member of Congress at the time the Norris-La-Guardia Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 101 et seq., became law and during the debates in the consideration of it. Mr. LaGuardia and I were legislatively always very close. I think I am correct in saying that I supported every measure that he was interested in -- I mean primarily interested in -- and that he supported every measure that I was primarily interested in. He directed his activities principally toward the labor movement, in what he considered the public interest; and mine were directed toward the currency.

 As I said before, I am sure he always supported me; and, as far as I remember, I always supported him. So I am sure I am thoroughly familiar with the Norris-LaGuardia Act and its purposes and the reasons for it.

 It is notorious that around, I guess, from 1890 on, the Federal courts were used by powerful interests for the purpose of defeating attempts on the part of labor to improve their welfare, increase their wages, improve their living conditions, and to help themselves in various ways.

 Now, it takes a long time to arouse the public, sometimes, but the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 12 et seq., was the first affirmative expression of their resentment of the action of the courts, and the Norris-La-Guardia Act was the culminating expression of their feeling that the courts were entirely in the wrong in the way they issued injunctions in labor disputes.

 The Court remembers very distinctly the amendments that were offered by Mr. Beck, I think, of Pennsylvania -- and I forget who offered the others -- which endeavored expressly to exclude the United States in practically all cases, under all circumstances, from the operation of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. But those in favor of the Act felt that in inclusion -- an express inclusion -- might defeat the purposes of the Act in a great many cases, and that the Government was amply protected by the general principle where the Government was not specifically mentioned or included by necessary implication in a given case -- that the language of the Act did not apply to the Government.

 The leading case on that subject in this country -- and it is still in force and effect -- is the case of the Dollar Savings Bank v. United States, found in 19 Wall. 227, 22 L. Ed. 80. In that case the Federal Government brought an action of debt in Pennsylvania to collect a tax. The statutes provided that an ordinary common-law action of debt was not applicable in cases for the collection of taxes. There is a special statute that would ordinarily cover a case of that kind, a special statute for the collection of taxes.

 The Federal Government brought an ordinary action for the collection of debt at common law, which the Savings Bank contended was not legal. Here is what the Court said. The Court did not take that view. The Court held that an ordinary action of debt if brought by the United States would lie. This is what the Court said:

 'It is a familiar principle that the King is not bound by any Act of Parliament unless he be named therein by special and particular words. The most general words that can be devised (for example, any person or persons, bodies politic or corporate) affect not him in the least, if they may tend to restrain or diminish any of his rights and interests.

 Certain cases are cited.

 'He may even take the benefit of any particular Act, though not named. The rule thus settled respecting the British Crown is equally applicable to this Government, and it has been applied frequently in the different States and practically in the Federal courts, It may be considered as settled that so much of the royal prerogative as belonged to the King in his capacity of parens patriae, or universal trustee, enters as much into our political state as it does into the principles of the British Constitution.'

 As I said before, that is the leading case.

 But the Court feels that the doctrine is stated with more and greater clearness than anywhere else that the Court has found it in Black on Interpretation of Laws, Second Edition. I am reading from pages 94 and 95:

 'General words in a statute do not include nor bind the Government by whose authority the statute was enacted, where its sovereignty, rights, prerogatives, or interests are involved. It is bound only by being expressly named or by necessary implication from the terms and purposes of the Act.

 'This is a very ancient rule of the English law and is equally applicable to the national and state governments in this country. It is said that laws are supposed to be made for the subjects or citizens of the State, not for the sovereign power. Hence, if the Government is not expressly referred to in a given statute, it is presumed that it was not intended to be affected thereby, and this presumption, in any case where the rights or interests of the State would be involved, can be overcome only by clear and irresistible implications from the statute itself. Generally speaking, therefore, the State is not bound by the provisions of any statute, however generally it may be expressed, by which its sovereignty would be derogated from, or any of its prerogatives, rights, titles, or interests would be divested, save where the Act is specifically made to extend to the State or where the legislative intention in that regard is too plain to be mistaken.'

 In this case, what society, what the sovereign power, was endeavoring to do was to hold a matter involving the public interest, a matter involving a potential public calamity, by an entity which had been given power by the sovereignty itself, the labor union, from taking the contemplated action, which, as I said before, would amount to a public calamity, until there could be a judicial determination of whether it had the right to take such action.

 The Court thinks that undoubtedly under the general rules which the Court has spoken of, the Norris-LaBuardia Act did not and does not apply; and following that opinion on the part of the Court, the Court had the same rights that the Court would have had prior to the passage of the Norris-LaGuardia Act and the Clayton Act.

 So it is perfectly clear that prior to the Norris-LaGuardia Act and the Clayton Act, a court of equity had the right to enjoin a labor union which, in the opinion of the Court, was about to do something which was against the public interest, including the ultimate interest of the union itself.

 The court thinks that that opinion substantially disposes of this motion to discharge and vacate the rule to show cause, because under Section 385 of the United States Code Annotated, Vol. 28, the statement is made:

 'The * * * courts shall have power to impose and administer all necessary oaths, and to punish, by fine or imprisonment, at the discretion of the court, contempts of their authority. Such power to punish contempts shall not be construed to extend to any cases except the misbehavior of any person in their presence, or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice, the misbehavior of any of the officers of said courts in their official transactions, and the disobedience or resistance by any such officer, or by any party, juror, witness, or other person to any lawful writ, process, order, rule, decree, or command of the said courts.'

 The Court thinks the defendants were notified by the rule to show cause, in detail, as to what they were charged with having done; and if what they were charged with having done amounted to a criminal contempt, they had notice of the fact that it was a criminal contempt.

 Of course, I myself noticed some time ago, several days ago, that part of the rule which requires criminal contempt to be alleged, to be alleged as such; but in view of the fact that the specific charges were stated in the rule to show cause, and those charges were of a character of which the defendant had notice, if they were criminal, the defendant had notice of the fact that they were criminal; and if it is a mistake not to have charged that the contempt was criminal specifically, it is not sufficient at all to vitiate the proceeding.

 In this particular case, under the circumstances it is an omission that could do no one any harm. The Court does not think that the contention that freedom of speech has been violated is a matter for serious consideration. The Court repeats again what the Court said several times on Wednesday: that this proceeding was for the sole purpose of holding the status quo until there could be a judicial determination of the contract between the United States and the United Mineworkers of America. The Court thinks that that must have been thoroughly understood, certainly, by every other thinking person in the United States who was interested in the matter.

 Furthermore, I think the Court should say that it was perfectly evident from the Court's order that what the Court was commanding was that this statement that the contract between the Union and the Government had expired should be rescinded, and that other matter in the order was simply ancillary to that, in order to prevent that particular requirement of the order being evaded.

 The motion, gentlemen, to discharge and vacate the rule to show case is overruled.

 In holding the defendants guilty of contempt the Court made the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law:

 Findings of Fact.

 Upon consideration of the entire record, the briefs, and arguments of counsel, the Court finds that it has been established beyond a reasonable doubt that:

 1. On May 21, 1946, after investigation, the President of the United States found and proclaimed that there were interruptions or threatened interruptions in the operation of the mines producing bituminous coal as the result of existing and threatened strikes or other labor disturbances; that the coal produced by such mines was required for the war effort and was indispensable for the operation of the national economy during the transition of war to peace; that the war effort would be unduly impeded or delayed by such interruptions; and that that the exercise, by the President, of the powers vested in him by the Constitution and Laws of the United States was necessary to insure the operation of such mines in the interest of the war effort and to preserve the national economic structure in the then existing emergency.

 2. On May 21, 1946, the President of the United States, by virtue of the authority vested in him by the Constitution and Laws of the United States, issued Executive Order 9728, whereby he authorized and directed the Secretary of the Interior to take possession of any and all bituminous coal mines the operations of which were then interrupted or threatened with interruption because of work stoppages and to the extent that he might deem necessary, of any real or personal property, franchises, rights, facilities, funds, and other assets used in connection with the operation of such mines; to operate or arrange for the operation of such mines in such manner as he might deem necessary in the interest of the war effort; and to do all things necessary for, or incidental to, the production, sale, and distribution of the coal produced, prepared, or handled by the said mines.

 3. Pursuant to the provisions of said Executive Order 9728, the United States, through J. A. Krug, the Secretary of the Interior, on and after May 22, 1946, duly took possession of most of the bituminous coal mines of the nation. Since that time, the United States, through the Secretary of the Interior, has been and now remains in possession of such coal mines.

 4. As a consequence of negotiations authorized by the said Executive Order 9728, the Secretary of the Interior, as Coal Mines Administrator, on May 29, 1946, executed an agreement at Washington, D.C., with the defendant John L. Lewis, as President of the defendant Union (which agreement is hereinafter sometimes referred to as the Krug-Lewis Agreement.)

 5. On May 29, 1946, the Secretary of the Interior, acting pursuant to the authority of the aforesaid Executive Order 9728 and Section 5 of the War Labor Disputes Act, 50 U.S.C.A.Appendix, § 1505, and in accordance with the provisions of the Krug-Lewis agreement, filed an application with the National Wage Stabilization Board for changes in wages and other terms and conditions of employment at the bituminous coal mines in Government possession. The National Wage Stabilization Board thereupon, on May 31, 1946, issued its order, pursuant to Section 5 of the War Labor Disputes Act, approving changes in wages and other terms and conditions of employment agreed upon in the Krug-Lewis agreement and directed that they be put into effect at the said mines. Said order was approved by the President of the United States on May 31, 1946.

 6. The Krug-Lewis agreement, by its terms, 'covers for the period of Government possession the terms and conditions of employment in respect to all mines in Government possession which were as of March 31, 1946, subject to the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement, dated April 11, 1945.'

 7. The defendant Lewis, on October 21, 1946, sent a letter to the Secretary of the Interior in which he stated that Section 15 of the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement, dated April 11, 1945, had been specifically carried forward into the Krug-Lewis agreement and that under that section, either party to the Krug-Lewis agreement might give ten days' notice in writing of a desire for a negotiating conference upon the matters outlined in said notice; that the other party to the Krug-Lewis agreement was thereupon required to attend said negotiating conference; and that at the end of fifteen days after the beginning of said negotiating conference, either party might give to the other, a notice in writing of the termination of the Krug-Lewis agreement, to be effective five days after the receipt of such notice. Acting pursuant to this interpretation of the Krug-Lewis agreement, the defendant Lewis notified the Secretary of the Interior that the defendant Union requested 'a joint conference of the accredited representatives of the joint contracting parties to the Krug-Lewis agreement of May 29, 1946, for the purpose of negotiating new arrangements affecting wages, hours, rules, practices, differentials, inequalities and all other pertinent matters affecting or pertaining to the National Bituminous coal industry.

 9. On the same day, the defendant Lewis sent a further letter to the Secretary of the Interior in which he reiterated his position and asserted that failure of the Secretary of the Interior to accede to his request would void the Krug-Lewis agreement.

 10. On October 27, 1946, the Secretary of the Interior sent a telegram to the defendant Lewis requesting the defendant Lewis and (or) his representatives to meet with the Coal Mines Administrator and his associates on November 1 or any other date agreeable to the defendant Lewis.

 12. In reply to the said telegram of October 27, 1946, the defendant Lewis, by a telegram of October 28, 1946, to the Secretary of the Interior, advised ...


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