Los Angeles Meat and Provision Drivers Union, Local 626 v. United States/Dissent Douglas

Court Documents
Case Syllabus
Opinion of the Court
Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

371 U.S. 94

Los Angeles Meat and Provision Drivers Union, Local 626  v.  United States

 Argued: Oct. 10, 1962. --- Decided: Nov 19, 1962

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, dissenting.

If we took here the approach we took in National Labor Relations Board v. Hearst Publications, 322 U.S. 111, 64 S.Ct. 851, 88 L.Ed. 1170, we would reverse this judgment. The question there was whether 'newsboys,' (who were indeed mature men, id., 116, 64 S.Ct. 851) whose compensation consisted of the difference between the price at which they bought their papers from the publisher and the price at which they sold them, were 'employees' for purposes of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq. Though by common-law standards they were 'independent contractors,' we held that they were 'employees' under the Federal Act. We noted that numerous types of 'independent contractors' had formed or joined unions for collective bargaining-musicians, actors, writers, artists, architects, engineers, and insurance agents. Id., 127, n. 26, 64 S.Ct. 851. We pointed out that there were marginal groups who, though entrepreneurial in form, lacked the bargaining power necessary to obtain decent compensation, decent hours, and decent working conditions. Id., 126-128, 64 S.Ct. 851. We emphasized that 'the economic facts of the relation' (id., 128, 64 S.Ct. 859) may make it 'more nearly one of employment than of independent business enterprise with respect to the ends sought to be accomplished by the legislation.' Ibid.

We know from our own cases (which are much closer on their facts to the present controversy than is Columbia River Packers Assn., Inc. v. Hinton, 315 U.S. 143, 62 S.Ct. 520, 86 L.Ed. 750) that the owner-driver-peddler system in the transportation and service trades has led to wage and job competition and to strife of one kind or another. Senn v. Tile Layers Union, 301 U.S. 468, 57 S.Ct. 857, 81 L.Ed. 1229, sustained picketing of a tile contractor who did much of the manual labor himself but also hired a few non-union helpers. In Bakery and Pastry Drivers, etc. Local v. Wohl, 315 U.S. 769, 62 S.Ct. 818, 86 L.Ed. 1178, a conflict arose between a union and small peddlers of baked goods who had increased ranks as a result of social security and unemployment compensation laws. Id., 770, 62 S.Ct. 818. We sustained under the First Amendment the union's picketing of the peddlers. See also Local 24 of Intern., etc. v. Oliver, 358 U.S. 283, 79 S.Ct. 297, 3 L.Ed.2d 312.

Milk Wagon Drivers' Union, etc. v. Lake Valley Co., 311 U.S. 91, 61 S.Ct. 122, 85 L.Ed. 63, is even more in point for it presented, as does the present case, a question under the Norris-LaGuardia Act. Small milk peddlers who bought from wholesalers and sold to retailers grew so fast that union dairy employees lost their jobs and retailers started cutting prices. The result was a weakening of the union position. Picketing started and an injunction against it issued. We held that there was a 'labor dispute' within the meaning of the Norris-LaGuardia Act and therefore that the federal courts had no power to issue an injunction. Cf. United States v. American Federation of Musicians, 318 U.S. 741, 63 S.Ct. 665, 87 L.Ed. 1120.

It was stipulated in the present case that 'Grease peddlers are independent businessmen who are engaged in the business of buying, transporting, and selling restaurant grease for their own account. They are not employees of the grease processors.'

This is the beginning not the end of the problem. And it is no answer to say, as did the District Court, that union members and these grease peddlers do not compete. That is, indeed, denied by the record which shows that union members drive trucks for grease producers and pick up and transport grease.

The record in American Trucking Assns. v. United States, 344 U.S. 298, 304-306, 73 S.Ct. 307, 312, 97 L.Ed. 337, makes clear that marginal owner-drivers can demoralize large segments of the transportation industry. Moreover, the stark fact is that here, as in the 'newsboys' case, the union's effort was to improve the economic status of the grease peddlers. This is made clear by the stipulated facts:

'These self-employed peddlers have no established places of business; no employees, except an occasional loader; no capital investment except a small equity in a truck; no skill or special qualifications except the ability to load, unload and drive a truck. * * * Their earnings represent the difference between the buy and sell price of the waste grease * * *.'

When the level of prices paid of peddlers by processors dropped in 1952-1954 to less than half of the previous price, the income of peddlers was substantially reduced. This led to intensive competition between peddlers. As a result, the unionization program was designed to increase the profits of the grease peddlers by allocating routes and customers between them and by increasing the margin between the price paid by the peddlers and the price they would receive.

The Court said many years before this age of enlightenment that unions were rightfully concerned with 'the standard of wages of their trade in the neighborhood.' American Steel Foundries v. Tri-City Council, 257 U.S. 184, 209, 42 S.Ct. 72, 78, 66 L.Ed. 189. This fact underlies the present controversy. All who haul grease, whether 'employees' or 'peddlers,' are in the same boat. Protection of one protects all. The union plainly has a legitimate interest in the conditions in the industry which increase or reduce employment opportunities or increase or reduce labor's rewards. The fact that illegal acts were committed does not alter the fact that at heart we have here a 'labor dispute' within the meaning of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. That definition is broad and includes 'any controversy concerning terms or conditions of employment, or concerning the association or representation of persons in negotiating, fixing, maintaining, changing, or seeking to arrange terms or conditions of employment.' 29 U.S.C. § 113(c), 29 U.S.C.A. § 113(c). To the extent that the stipulations in this case tend to preclude the conclusion that there was a 'labor dispute' those stipulations should not control. For other stipulations of fact compel the contrary conclusion, which is essentially a legal question. Estate of Sanford v. Commissioner, 308 U.S. 39, 60 S.Ct. 51, 84 L.Ed. 20. 'We are not bound to accept, as controlling, stipulations as to questions of law.' Id., 51, 60 S.Ct. 59.

The fact that acts were committed which overstepped the bounds set by the interlacing Sherman, Clayton and Norris-LaGuardia Acts means that the full array of antitrust remedies can be brought against the grease peddlers, insofar as they combined with processors a non-labor group. See Allen Bradley Co. v. Local Union, 325 U.S. 797, 812, 65 S.Ct. 1533, 1541, 89 L.Ed. 1939. Yet that does not mean that they can be expelled from the union. Since there was a 'labor dispute' within the meaning of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, federal courts have no power to compel the grease peddlers to resign as members of the union. For that Act expressly bars a federal court from enjoining anyone from 'Becoming or remaining a member of any labor organization.' 29 U.S.C. § 104(b), 29 U.S.C.A. § 104(b).

The fact that the grease peddlers may have committed federal offenses or otherwise shown themselves to be lawless, not law-abiding, in no way qualifies the absolute command of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. Indeed, we held in Allen Bradley Co. v. Local Union, supra, 812, 65 S.Ct. 1533, that a union that combines with business interests to violate the antitrust laws could be enjoined only as respects 'those prohibited activities.' Otherwise we said the injunction would run 'directly counter' to the Norris-LaGuardia Act. Id., 812, 65 S.Ct. 1533. When we sanction the addition of the penalty of expulsion from union membership, we qualify the Allen Bradley decision.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).