Boys Markets, Inc. v. Retail Clerks Union
398 U.S. 235 (1970)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Boys Markets, Inc. v. Retail Clerks Union, 398 U.S. 235 (1970)

Boys Markets, Inc. v. Retail Clerks Union, Local 770

No. 768

Argued April 21-22, 1970

Decided June 1, 1970

398 U.S. 235

Syllabus

Petitioner company and respondent union were parties to a collective bargaining agreement containing a provision that all controversies concerning its interpretation or application should be resolved by arbitration and that there should be no work stoppage, lockout, picketing, or boycotts during the life of the contract. A dispute arose and, when petitioner did not accede to respondent's demand, a strike was called and the union began to picket petitioner's establishment. Petitioner's effort to invoke the contract's arbitration procedures being unsuccessful, it sought injunctive relief in the state court, which issued a temporary restraining order. The union removed the case to the Federal District Court, which ordered arbitration and enjoined the strike and the picketing. The Court of Appeals reversed, considering itself bound by Sinclair Refining Co. v. Atkinson,370 U. S. 195 (1962), which held that § 4 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act bars a federal district court from enjoining a strike in breach of a no-strike clause in a collective bargaining agreement, even though that agreement contains binding arbitration provisions enforceable under § 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act.

Held: In the circumstances of this case -- where the grievance was subject to arbitration under the collective bargaining agreement, petitioner was ready for arbitration when the strike was enjoined, and the District Court concluded that respondent's violations of the no-strike clause were causing petitioner irreparable injury -- the Norris-LaGuardia Act does not bar the granting of injunctive relief. Sinclair Refining Co. v. Atkinson, supra, overruled. Pp. 398 U. S. 240-255.

(a) The doctrine of stare decisis, "a principle of policy, and not a mechanical formula," does not bar reexamination of Sinclair. Pp. 398 U. S. 240-241.

(b) The mere silence of Congress after Sinclair was decided does not foreclose reconsideration of that decision. Pp. 398 U. S. 241-242.

(c) Arbitration is an important instrument of federal policy for resolving labor disputes, and a refusal to arbitrate is not an

Page 398 U. S. 236

abuse against which the Norris-LaGuardia Act was aimed. Textile Workers Union v. Lincoln Mills,353 U. S. 448 (1957). Pp. 398 U. S. 242-243.

(d) This Court's holding in Avco Corp. v. Aero Lodge 75,390 U. S. 557 (1968), that § 301(a) suits initially brought in state courts are removable to federal courts (a decision which, in conjunction with Sinclair, had the effect of ousting state courts of jurisdiction in such cases where injunctive relief is sought for breach of a no-strike obligation), contravenes the congressional purpose embodied in § 301(a) to supplement, and not encroach upon, the preexisting jurisdiction of state courts. Avco has created an anomalous situation urgently necessitating reconsideration of Sinclair. Pp. 398 U. S. 244-245.

(e) Congress did not intend that the removal procedure be used to foreclose completely injunctive and other remedies otherwise available in the state courts. P. 398 U. S. 246.

(f) Extending Sinclair to the States would be an unacceptable resolution of the dilemma created by Sinclair and Avco because it would substantially lessen the employers' incentive to agree to submit grievances to arbitration in exchange for the unions' undertakings to refrain from striking and would totally eliminate, contrary to congressional intent, the injunction as the most effective device to enforce no-strike obligations. Pp. 398 U. S. 247-249.

(g) The literal terms of § 4 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act must he accommodated to the subsequently enacted provisions of § 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act and the purposes of arbitration, equitable remedies to enforce which are essential to further congressional policy for peacefully resolving labor disputes. Pp. 398 U. S. 249-253.

(h) The narrow holding in this case comports with the principles of the dissent in Sinclair, supra at 370 U. S. 228, which the Court adopts as guidelines for the district courts in determining whether to grant injunctive relief. Pp. 398 U. S. 253-254.

416 F.2d 368, reversed and remanded.

Page 398 U. S. 237

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