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UNITED STATES v. BROTHERHOOD OF RAILROAD TRAINMEN

February 9, 1951

UNITED STATES
v.
BROTHERHOOD OF RAILROAD TRAINMEN ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Igoe, District Judge.

I don't suppose I will ever know any more about this case than I do right now. I might as well say some of the things that I am thinking about.

I think we can start off by referring to the fact that an injunction was issued in this case on the 13th day of December, 1950, and it had three general provisions in its order. One was directed at the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen and its lodges and subunits and its officers restraining them from in any manner encouraging, ordering, engaging in or taking any part in the strike.

The second had to do with the members of the Railroad Trainmen, restraining them along the same lines and the third paragraph has to do with what Mr. Lulinski calls an exhortation feature where it was suggested to them in appropriate language that they take whatever action was necessary to have the members of this Union resume their former place of employment.

Now, that was the injunction that was issued. Thereafter rule to show cause was entered calling upon the respondents to that rule to show cause why they should not be punished for failure to comply with the provisions of the injunctive order.

An answer was filed to that rule to show cause and that is the issue which has been on trial in this court for several days.

Much evidence has been heard and many witnesses have been listened to. Out of all of it we are supposed to arrive at some sort of a conclusion which is determinative of this issue.

It is not an easy case to decide. No case where human rights are involved is ever easy to decide. Always the case involving the man who works is most difficult to decide. There are certain things, however, that are not involved in this law suit and, I think, we ought to talk about them first:

First of all, there is no involuntary servitude connected with this law suit because the injunctive order provides nothing shall be construed to require an individual employee to render labor or services without his consent or to make the quitting of his labor or services by an individual employee an illegal act. In other words, anybody in America can quit any job he wants to and there is no power under our Government that can tell a person to work if such a person does not desire to work. So, we will eliminate that feature from this case.

Now, the wages that the men have received and the hours that they work and the conditions under which they work are not in issue here. They are not in this law suit. And a right-minded person may sympathize with everything for which the men are contending, more wages, better working conditions, happier lives, on all of those things we may sympathize with them; we may sympathize but they are not at issue in this law suit. And so, we will eliminate that.

There is another item that should be eliminated. That is patriotism. There isn't any question about the patriotism of the men involved in this law suit. There is no question about the patriotism of the men involved on either side of the law suit. Among the members of the Brotherhood are, I think it has appeared from the evidence, many of them who have served under the flag of this country in different areas of warfare, and their descendants are perhaps serving at the present time. They exhibit at the present time, as I am sure they always have in the past and no doubt will in the future, they exhibit and they display just as much patriotism as any other group of individuals anywhere within our land. Let us eliminate patriotism.

We then get down to this question: what is this law suit about? This law suit is about a difficulty your Government has experienced in trying to function as a Government. That is what is involved here. We are all part of the Government. That flag over there is just as much your flag as it is mine. You are just as much interested in the protecting of it as I am and, perhaps, at times you have done more than I have to protect it. But your Government is involved in this situation, and your Government says its right to function as a Government has been interfered with. That is what is involved here.

It is not wages, it is not hours, it is not working conditions. It is not patriotism. The question involved here is shall this Government function as by its founders it was intended to function. That means shall it be permitted to function by discharging all of its Constitutional duties.

One of its duties has to do with interstate commerce. Under our Constitution the commerce between our states must not be interfered with. It must not be obstructed. That is an obligation of our Government. He who interferes with the exercise of that duty of our Government interferes with the Government.

Another obligation cast upon the United States Government has to do with the mails. It has to do with the establishment of rural roads for the transportation of mail. It has to do with the operation and function of the Post Office. That is something your Government is charged with. Your Government says that obligation on its part has been interfered with because the commerce between the states carrying that mail has been impeded.

We, of course, live at a time when another right of our Government it is claimed has been interfered with. I do not want to dwell much upon that because it always creates a lot of situations that, perhaps, had better not be created, and that is this sickening question of impending war. Of course, everybody realizes our Government has the right to conduct a war, and everybody realizes that in the conduct of a war no one shall interfere with the Government.

Now, I mention those as some of the great rights that this Government has which underlie this law suit, and it is about those rights that your Government is complaining at the present time. They say they are interfered with, and the Union men, perhaps with the best intentions say, "We believe in all those things but we also have the right to live. We also have the right to rear our families. We also have the right to a decent wage and proper working conditions." All of that is granted. All of that should be yours but in seeking those rights you are permitted to go so far and no further. You are permitted to approach so far and beyond that point you are not permitted to go further. And when it comes to a question of the rights of an individual as compared with the rights of the Government, of course, the rights of the individual are secondary to the rights of the Government. The Government represents all of us.

Now, this is not a new situation. As Mr. Lulinski said a moment ago, this came up in this very City more than half a century ago in the case which involved one of the greatest labor leaders America ever produced, Mr. Eugene Debs. In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564, 15 S.Ct. 900, 912, 39 L.Ed. 1092. That law suit arose in this City. It arose out of a dispute between labor men and railroads. The son of one of the lawyers who represented Mr. Debs appears in this court room at times. The partner of one of the lawyers for Mr. Debs is a retired Judge of this Court. That is how close it is to the present situation.

Now, here is what the Court said in that case, among other things: "We have given to this case the most careful and anxious attention, for we realize that it touches closely questions of supreme importance to the people of this country. * * * while it may be competent for the government (through the executive branch and in the use of the entire executive power of the nation) to forcibly remove all such obstructions, it is" — that is obstructions to interstate commerce — "it is equally within its competency to appeal to the civil court for an inquiry and determination as to the existence and character of any alleged obstructions, and if such are found to exist, or threaten to occur, to invoke the powers of those courts to remove or restrain such obstructions; that the jurisdiction of courts to interfere in such matters by injunction is one recognized from ancient times and by indubitable authority * * * that the complaint filed in this case clearly showed an existing obstruction of artificial highways for the passage of interstate commerce and the transmission of the mail, — an obstruction not only temporarily existing, but threatening to continue; * * *" and under such circumstances the Court had the power to issue an injunction.

An unjunction was issued in that case and Mr. Debs and his associate violated the injunction and they were brought to court in this City and they were ruled to show cause, and after a full and complete trial punishment was imposed upon Mr. Debs.

The case from which I have just read is the case which the Supreme Court decided at the time that issue was passed upon. So this question of dispute in a matter of this nature wherein the Government is asserting its sovereignty is not something that is new at all. It is as old as the Government itself. In labor litigation it goes back, in this City, for more than a half a century.

Now, having disposed of the proposition that the Government does have the right to come in here and seek an injunction and having also disposed of the different matters which are not in issue here, let us now come down to an inquiry as to what has been produced in evidence here and what is before this Court:

First of all, I think it should be said — as it has been said in two or three of these cases — that as long as a Union is functioning as a Union it must be held responsible for the mass actions of its members. That means this, that when the members go out and act in a concerted fashion and do an illegal act the Union is responsible. They just can't say, "Oh well, we didn't do that as Union members."

If they are members of the Union, then they do act in concerted fashion under the decision of the courts of this country; if it is a mass action the Union is responsible for that sort of an action.

Now, what do we have here? We have here a charge that a strike occurred as a result of a mass action on the part of the members of the Union. What is the defense to that? There isn't any defense. Your officers, all of the way from Mr. Kennedy down, have admitted that an illegal strike occurred. That is a fact. An ...


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