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decided: January 25, 1960.



Warren, Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Whittaker, Stewart

Author: Stewart

[ 361 U.S. Page 364]

 MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Supreme Court of Missouri affirming a decree which enjoined the appellants from continuing a strike against a St. Louis public utility. The judgment upheld the constitutionality of certain provisions of a Missouri law, commonly known as the King-Thompson Act, which authorizes the Governor on behalf of the State to take possession of and operate a public utility affected by a work stoppage when in his opinion "the public interest, health and welfare are jeopardized," and "the exercise of such authority is necessary to insure the operation of such public utility."*fn1

[ 361 U.S. Page 365]

     In the state courts and in this Court the appellants have contended that the Missouri law conflicts with federal legislation enacted under the Commerce Clause of the Federal Constitution, and that it violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Because of doubt as to whether the controversy was moot, we postponed further consideration of the question of jurisdiction to the hearing of the case on the merits. 359 U.S. 982.

The appellants are labor unions which represent employees of the Laclede Gas Company, a corporation engaged in the business of selling natural gas in the St. Louis area. In the spring of 1956 the appellants notified Laclede of their desire to negotiate changes in the terms of the collective bargaining agreement which was to expire in that year. Extended negotiations were conducted, but no new agreement was reached, and upon expiration of the existing contract on June 30, 1956, the employees went out on strike.*fn2

Five days later the Governor of Missouri issued a proclamation stating that after investigation he believed that the public interest, health, and welfare were in jeopardy, and that seizure under authority of the state law was necessary to insure the company's continued operation. In an executive order issued the same day the Governor took "possession" of Laclede "for the use and operation by the State of Missouri in the public interest." A second executive order provided that all the "rules and regulations . . . governing the internal management and organization of the company, and its duties and responsibilities, shall remain in force and effect throughout the term of operation by the State of Missouri."

[ 361 U.S. Page 366]

     After the seizure the appellants continued the strike in violation of the statute,*fn3 and the State of Missouri filed suit for an injunction against them in the Circuit Court of St. Louis.*fn4 At the end of a three-day hearing the trial court entered an order enjoining the appellants from continuing the strike, and in an amendment to the decree declared the entire King-Thompson Act constitutional and valid. On July 14, 1956, the day after the injunction issued, the strike was terminated. On August 10, 1956, the appellants and Laclede signed a new labor agreement, and on October 31, 1956, the Governor ended the seizure.

On appeal the Supreme Court of Missouri, although noting that the injunction had "expired by its own terms," nevertheless proceeded to consider the merits of certain of the appellants' contentions. The court restricted its consideration, however, to those sections of the King-Thompson Act "directly involved" -- "Section 295.180, relating to the power of seizure, and subparagraphs (1) and (6) of Section 295.200 RSMo, V.A.M.S., making unlawful a strike or concerted refusal to work after seizure and giving the state courts power to enforce the provisions of the Act by injunction or other means."*fn5 317 S. W. 2d, at 316. In upholding the constitutionality of these sections of the Act, the court explicitly declined to pass on other provisions which the appellants sought to attack, stating: "The

[ 361 U.S. Page 367]

     sections which we have considered are severable from and may stand independently of the remainder of the Act. Although the defendants argue strenuously to the contrary, no case is made in this record for determination of the constitutionality of section 295.090, pertaining to a written labor agreement of a minimum duration and section 295.200, subparagraphs 2, 3, 4 and 5, relating to monetary penalties and loss of seniority. We, therefore, refrain from expressing any opinion with reference thereto." 317 S. W. 2d, at 323. Accordingly, the court "limited and modified" the judgment of the trial court so as to remove all ...

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