A union of milk-wagon drivers, employed by local dairies in
delivering milk, mainly from door to door to retail customers,
picketed a large number of retail stores which sold at cut prices
on the cash-and-carry plan, milk bought at wholesale from
individuals, called "vendors," who delivered it by their own trucks
from supplies bought from other dairies under an arrangement
whereby the milk that they did not sell was taken back at full
purchase price by the dairies that supplied it. This "vendor
system" had made inroads on the business of union dairies, and
affected unfavorably the wages and employment of members of the
drivers' union. The union claimed that it constituted unfair
competition -- a device to escape union wages and union working
conditions -- and, through the picketing, it sought to compel the
"vendors" to join it for the purpose of improving their wages and
working conditions. Two of the "cut-price" dairies joined with an
industrial union (organized by their employees, including
"vendors") and a cooperative association of another State from
which they obtained their supplies of milk, in a suit charging the
drivers' union and its officers with a conspiracy to restrain
interstate commerce in milk in violation of the Sherman Act, and
seeking an injunction against the picketing and attendant
1. That there existed a "labor dispute" within the meaning of
the Norris-LaGuardia Act. P. 311 U. S.
Page 311 U. S. 92
2. It was not material in this regard that the attempt of the
drivers' union to unionize the "vendors" was upon condition that,
if admitted to that union, they would cease to handle milk as
"vendors." P. 311 U. S.
3. The controversy did not cease to be a "labor dispute" when
the plaintiff dairies' employees became organized. P. 311 U. S.
4. The requirements of the Norris-LaGuardia Act not having been
met, the District Court had no jurisdiction to grant an injunction,
notwithstanding that the suit was based upon alleged violation of
the Sherman Act. P. 311 U. S.
108 F.2d 436 reversed; District Court affirmed.
Certiorari, 309 U.S. 649, to review a decree which reversed a
decree dismissing, for want of jurisdiction, a bill praying for an
MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.
This proceeding presents two questions: first, does there here
exist a "labor dispute" within the meaning of the Norris-LaGuardia
Act? [Footnote 1
] Second, if
there is a "labor dispute," must the jurisdictional prerequisites
of the Norris-LaGuardia Act [Footnote 2
] be complied with before injunctive
Page 311 U. S. 93
process can be used against labor union accused of violating the
Sherman Anti-Trust Act? [Footnote
The District Court found that this was a case "involving or
growing out of a labor dispute;" that plaintiffs (respondents here)
had failed to satisfy the prerequisites of the Norris-LaGuardia
Act, and that, accordingly, the court was without jurisdiction to
grant either a temporary or a permanent injunction. The Circuit
Court of Appeals reversed, one judge dissenting; [Footnote 4
] it was the opinion of that court
that the case did not grow out of a labor dispute and that, even if
it had, a federal court would have jurisdiction to enjoin if the
Sherman Act had been violated. [Footnote 5
] Because of the importance of these questions,
we granted certiorari. [Footnote
The Norris-LaGuardia Act applies to labor disputes between
"persons who are engaged in the same industry, trade, craft or
occupation, or have direct or indirect interests therein."
] Here, all of the
parties have "direct or indirect interests" in the production,
processing, sale, and distribution of milk. Plaintiffs, who sought
the injunction, were four: one was the Chicago local of a CIO
union, the Amalgamated Dairy Workers; two were Chicago dairies
whose milk was processed and distributed by members of the CIO
union; [Footnote 8
] the fourth
Page 311 U. S. 94
Wisconsin cooperative association which supplied milk to the
plaintiff dairies. Defendants were the Chicago local of the A.F. of
L. Milk Wagon Drivers' Union and its officials. The defendant union
is a craft organization, limiting its membership to milk wagon
drivers; the plaintiff union is organized along industrial lines,
and its membership consists of all kinds of dairy workers,
including inside help, office workers, wagon drivers, helpers,
sweepers, and janitors.
A brief statement as to the background of the controversy is
necessary for a better understanding of the issues. The Chicago
local of the A.F. of L. Milk Wagon Drivers' Union was organized in
1902. Since the organization, working conditions of the members
have been materially improved; hours have been shortened, wages
have been raised, and vacation periods with full pay have been
secured. These better terms and conditions of employment have moved
concurrently with a more or less steady increase in union
membership and influence. At the time this litigation was begun,
the union had more than five thousand members.
With the approach and continuance of the depression of the early
Thirties, the milk business, like other industries, was in acute
distress. Loss of profits from decreased demand stimulated dairies
to devise new and cheaper methods to obtain and serve customers.
Under the long-existing practice in Chicago, dairies had owned milk
trucks and wagons, and had operated them with employee drivers --
chiefly members of the A.F. of L. local. A major part of the
business consisted of door-to-door deliveries to retail customers.
Some of the A.F. of L. drivers also delivered milk to retail
stores, those stores in turn selling to their customers. What
appears to have been an insignificant part of the milk supply of
pre-depression Chicago was delivered by retail milk "peddlers" who
bought from the dairy at wholesale and sold at retail from their
own trucks or wagons.
Page 311 U. S. 95
But, with the depression, this practice of sale by "peddlers"
expanded, branched out into sales to retail stores, and developed
into what is called the "vendor system" -- around which revolves
the present controversy. Retail peddling started the controversy;
at the root of the conflict, however, is this later emerging
"vendor system," under which "vendors" delivered milk at wholesale
to retail stores. Under this system, plaintiff dairies make daily
sales of milk to individuals owning their own trucks. These
individuals, called "vendors," resell the milk to retail stores.
Unsold milk is no loss to the "vendor," because the dairy takes it
back at the full purchase price.
With the spread of this new competitive system, the business of
the dairies employing union milk wagon drivers decreased. Many of
the union drivers lost their jobs, and were dependent upon their
union's relief funds and upon public relief agencies for their
support. How many of those who lost their jobs became unemployed as
the result of the depression, and how many were displaced by the
growth of the "vendor system," cannot be determined; both causes
The stores buying milk from plaintiff dairies through these
vendors made a practice of selling it below the standard prices
charged for milk supplied by dairies employing A.F. of L. drivers.
Defendant union and its members claimed that the reason the price
could be cut was that the vendors worked long hours, under
unfavorable working conditions, without vacations, and with very
low earnings. On the other hand, the vendors and the dairies
utilizing their services asserted that the reason for the lower
prices was that the vendor system was more economical, that, under
it more milk could be delivered by wholesale to the cash and carry
cut-rate stores, and that such distribution cost less even on the
same wage level than did door-to-door distribution. As the vendor
system made increasing inroads on the business of the union
dairies, the opposition of the defendant union became
Page 311 U. S. 96
more active. Its members insisted that the vendor system
constituted unfair competition, depressing labor standards. To
combat it, they attempted -- as the District Court found from the
facts -- to unionize the employees and vendors of the dairies
utilizing this plan. Not succeeding in this attempt, in 1934, they
began picketing the so-called cut-rate stores. The picketing was
carried on almost continuously until this suit was filed. Pickets
usually carried placards denouncing cut-rate stores as unfair to
the A.F. of L. local. During the years in which this strife
continued, store windows were broken, personal altercations
occurred, charges and countercharges were frequent, arrests were
made, and court proceedings instituted. Finally, in March, 1938 --
about two months before the complaint was filed in this case -- the
vendors and the other employees of the plaintiff dairies organized
the plaintiff union under a CIO charter. Thereupon, signs were
placed inside the cut-rate store windows announcing that the milk
handled by the stores was processed and delivered by members of the
plaintiff union. But this did not settle the longstanding
controversy; the picketing continued, and this suit followed.
The petition for an injunction rests primarily upon the charge
that the defendant union and its officials had entered into a
conspiracy to interfere with and restrain interstate commerce in
violation of the Sherman and Clayton Acts. It is contended by
plaintiffs that the controversy is not a labor dispute within the
meaning of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, but is an unlawful secondary
boycott of which the purpose is not to unionize the vendors, but to
obtain for the defendants' employers a Chicago milk monopoly at a
sustained high price level, contrary to the Sherman Act.
The complaint, on its face, is probably
sufficient to show that a labor dispute existed. [Footnote 9
] We need not decide
Page 311 U. S. 97
that point, however, for the case proceeded to final judgment.
Defendants filed an answer, and the court referred plaintiffs'
motion for a temporary injunction to a special master. The master
conducted extensive hearings, and heard evidence offered by both
sides. In his report, the master found, in the language of the
Norris-LaGuardia Act, that the case arose out of and involved a
labor "dispute between one or more employers or associations of
employers and one or more employees or associations of employees,"
all of whom were engaged in the same industry, trade, craft, or
occupation, namely, the milk industry; that defendants had
attempted for some time to unionize the employees of the plaintiff
dairies and of other cut-rate dairies, and that the picketing was
an effort on the part of the defendant to compel the vendors and
wagon drivers of the dairies to join the defendant union for the
purpose of improving working conditions and wages of vendors; that
the working hours of the plaintiff dairies' employees were longer
and the wage scales lower than the union standards. [Footnote 10
] The District Court adopted the
findings of the master, and made further findings of its own.
Page 311 U. S. 98
It is not material, as the Circuit Court of Appeals thought,
that defendants' attempt to unionize the vendors was upon the
condition that they would cease to handle milk as "vendors" if
admitted to membership in the union. There are few instances of
attempted unionization in which a change to union membership would
not require some alteration in the conditions or terms of
employment. Union membership contemplates change -- change which it
is believed will bring about better working conditions for the
employees. Moreover, the evidence offered by the plaintiffs
themselves shows that membership in defendant union would have
involved no substantial change in the vendors' relationship to the
dairies. Truck drivers employed by dairies were eligible for
membership in the defendant union, and plaintiffs' evidence showed
that the "vendors" were actually regarded as employees of the
plaintiff dairies. The plaintiffs offered as a part of their
evidence the articles of agreement between the plaintiff union and
the plaintiff dairies; each of those contracts contains the
"The term 'employee,' as used in this Agreement shall mean all
wholesale and retail route salesmen or drivers and their helpers
and assistants, and milk distributors commonly referred to as
'Vendors;' all persons employed in the sale and distribution of the
Company's products. . . ."
And each agreement provided for a closed shop and gave to
plaintiff union the exclusive right to represent all the dairy's
employees, including the vendors, for purposes of negotiating on
"all questions of wages, hours, and conditions of employment that
shall prevail in the Company's business." [Footnote 11
Whether rightly or wrongly, the defendant union believed that
the "vendor system" was a scheme or device
Page 311 U. S. 99
utilized for the purpose of escaping the payment of union wages
and the assumption of working conditions commensurate with those
imposed under union standards. To say, as the Circuit Court of
Appeals did, that the conflict here is not a good faith labor
issue, and that, therefore, there is no "labor dispute" is to
ignore the statutory definition of the term; to say, further, that
the conditioned abandonment of the vendor system, under the
circumstances, was an issue unrelated to labor's efforts to improve
working conditions is to shut one's eyes to the every-day elements
of industrial strife.
Nor does the controversy cease to be a labor dispute, as the
Circuit Court of Appeals thought, because the plaintiff dairies'
employees became organized. [Footnote 12
] This merely transformed the defendants'
activities from an effort to organize nonunion men to a conflict
which included a controversy between two unions. A controversy
"concerning the association or representation of persons in
negotiating, fixing, maintaining, changing, or
Page 311 U. S. 100
seeking to arrange terms or conditions of employment"
is expressly included within the definition of a labor dispute
in the Norris-LaGuardia Act.
The District Court not only found that a labor dispute existed,
but also found that it was without jurisdiction to grant an
injunction because the requirements of the Norris-LaGuardia Act had
not been met. We do not understand that the Circuit Court of
Appeals overturned this finding. That court said (108 F.2d
"Again, if jurisdiction were conceded and there was a labor
dispute involved, then it is quite doubtful if appellants could
recover, because they have not in every respect complied with the
requirements of the Norris-LaGuardia Act."
We agree with the District Court that this case grows out of a
labor dispute. Since the requirements of the Norris-LaGuardia Act
have not been met, the court did not have jurisdiction to grant an
injunction unless by virtue of that phase of the bill which charged
a violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
The Court of Appeals concluded that the
defendants' picketing activities constituted a secondary boycott in
violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and that, for this reason,
regardless of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, the District Court had
jurisdiction to grant an injunction even though the case arose out
of or involved a labor dispute. [Footnote 13
] In this, the Court was in error.
No specific language of the Norris-LaGuardia Act is pointed to
in support of the theory that the act was to be inapplicable where
injunctions are sought against labor unions charged with violating
the Sherman Act in
Page 311 U. S. 101
the course of labor disputes. On the contrary, section 1 of the
Norris-LaGuardia Act provides that
"No court of the United States . . . shall have jurisdiction or
issue any restraining order or temporary or permanent injunction in
a case involving or growing out of a labor dispute, except in a
strict conformity with the provisions of this Act."
This unequivocal jurisdictional limitation is reiterated in
other sections of the act. The Norris-LaGuardia Act -- considered
as a whole and in its various parts -- was intended drastically to
curtail the equity jurisdiction of federal courts in the field of
labor disputes. And this court has said that
"the legislative history of the act demonstrates that it was the
purpose of the Congress further to extend the prohibitions of the
Clayton Act respecting the exercise of jurisdiction by federal
courts and to obviate the results of the judicial construction of
that act. [Footnote 14
The committee reports on the Norris-LaGuardia Act reveal that
many of the injunctions which were considered most objectionable by
the Congress were based upon complaints charging conspiracies to
violate the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. To end the granting of
injunctions of this type, section 5 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act
deprived federal courts of jurisdiction to issue restraining orders
"upon the ground that any of the persons participating or
interested in a labor dispute constitute or are engaged in an
unlawful combination or conspiracy because of the doing in concert
of the acts enumerated. . . ."
In reporting the bill, the House Judiciary Committee said:
"This section is included principally because many of the
objectionable injunctions have been issued under the provisions of
the antitrust laws, a necessary prerequisite for invoking the
jurisdiction of which is a finding of the existence of a conspiracy
or combination, and without which no injunction could have been
issued. [Footnote 15
Page 311 U. S. 102
The Norris-LaGuardia Act, passed in 1932, is the culmination of
a bitter political, social, and economic controversy extending over
half a century. Hostility to "government by injunction" had become
the rallying slogan of many and varied groups. Indeed, as early as
1914, Congress had responded to a widespread public demand that the
Sherman Act be amended, and had passed the Clayton Act, 38 Stat.
730, itself designed to limit the jurisdiction of federal courts to
issue injunctions in cases involving labor disputes. But the
proponents of the Norris-LaGuardia Act felt that the jurisdictional
limitations of the Clayton Act had been largely nullified by
judicial decision. Thus, the Senate Judiciary Committee, reporting
the Norris-LaGuardia Act, said:
"That there have been abuses of judicial power in granting
injunctions in labor disputes is hardly open to discussion. The use
of the injunction in such disputes has been growing by leaps and
bounds. . . . For example, approximately 300 were issued in
connection with the railway shopmen's strike of 1922. . . .
And, on the same subject, the House Judiciary Committee
"These are the same character of acts which Congress, in section
20 of the Clayton Act of October 15, 1914, sought to restrict from
the operation of injunctions, but, because of the interpretations
placed by the courts on this section of the Clayton Act, the
restrictions as contained therein have become more or less
valueless to labor, and this section is intended, by more specific
language, to overcome the qualifying effects of the decisions of
the courts in this respect. [Footnote 17
As an example of the judicial interpretation of the Clayton Act
which the Committee said was "responsible in part for this
agitation for further legislation," the Committee referred to the
cases of Duplex Printing Press Co. v. Deering,
254 U. S. 443
American Steel Foundries v.
Tri-City Central Trades Council,
Page 311 U. S. 103
U.S. 184, and Bedford Cut Stone Co. v. Journeyman Stone
Cutters' Association, 274 U. S. 37
these cases, the jurisdiction of the courts to grant injunctions
had been upheld upon allegations and findings that the Sherman
Anti-Trust Act had been violated.
Whether or not one agrees with the committees that the cited
cases constituted an unduly restricted interpretation of the
Clayton Act, one must agree that the committees and the Congress
made abundantly clear their intention that what they regarded as
the misinterpretation of the Clayton Act should not be repeated in
the construction of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. For us to hold, in
the face of this legislation, that the federal courts have
jurisdiction to grant injunctions in cases growing out of labor
disputes, merely because alleged violations of the Sherman Act are
involved, would run counter to the plain mandate of the act, and
would reverse the declared purpose of Congress. [Footnote 18
] The Circuit Court of Appeals
was in error; its judgment is reversed, and the judgment of the
District Court dismissing the bill for injunction is affirmed.
29 U.S.C. §§ 101-115, 47 Stat. 70. The act defines a labor
dispute as follows:
"The term 'labor dispute' 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,
regardless of whether or not the disputants stand in the proximate
relation of employer and employee."
29 U.S.C. § 113(c), 47 Stat. 73.
"No court of the United States, as herein defined, shall have
jurisdiction to issue any restraining order or temporary or
permanent injunction in a case involving or growing out of a labor
dispute, except in a strict conformity with the provisions of this
Act. . . ."
29 U.S.C. § 101, 47 Stat. 70.
15 U.S.C. §§ 1-7, 26 Stat. 209, as amended. Section 1
"Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise,
or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several
States, or with foreign nations, is hereby declared to be
108 F.2d 436.
There is no diversity of citizenship, and federal jurisdiction,
if present at all, exists because of violation of the Sherman Act.
The contention that interstate commerce is involved stems from the
fact that defendants, in Chicago, picketed retail stores selling
milk produced in Wisconsin. In the view we take of the case, we
find it unnecessary to pass on this question.
309 U.S. 649.
29 U.S.C. § 113(a), 47 Stat. 73.
As to one of these plaintiff dairies, the complaint was
Among other things, the complaint revealed that the vendors were
members of the CIO union which had made a contract touching on the
terms and conditions of employment with the plaintiff dairies, that
the vendors' right of organization and collective representation
for the purpose of avoiding industrial strife with the defendant
union should be protected, and that the plaintiff union and the
defendant union were in actual competition in obtaining employment
in connection with the sale and distribution of milk in the City of
Plaintiffs complain of the form in which this last finding was
made. Undoubtedly, the master failed to use apt language in
expressing his conclusions. But the language used, read in its
context and in conjunction with the entire record, reveals that the
objections to the finding are without foundation. What the master
said in his report was:
"The Master is of the opinion that the dispute involved in the
instant case brings it within the provisions of the
Norris-LaGuardia Act. . . . The testimony of defendants' witnesses
is to the effect that they have attempted for some time to unionize
the employees of the Plaintiff Dairies and other cut-rate Dairies;
that the picketing complained of herein is an effort to compel the
vendors, and wagon drivers employed by the Plaintiff Dairies to
join the defendant union for the purpose of improving working
conditions and wages of said vendors and employees of the Plaintiff
Dairies, and that the working hours and wage scale of Plaintiff
Dairy's employees is lower than the union scale."
On the subject of the actual status of the vendors, the
president of one of the plaintiff dairies testified as follows:
"The Witness [Sigfried Weiss, president of the Lake Valley
dairy]: He wants to know if they are employed by the dairy?"
"Mr. Riskind [attorney for defendants:] Yes, that is all I want
"A. Now that is not so easy to say, if they are employed or not.
We have contracts, and they are bound to our dairy. They are
actually employed by our dairy, but we have the vendor system,
where they own their own trucks and they pay their own expenses and
they buy milk at a certain price at our dairy. In one way, they are
employees, and in another way, we don't pay wages. We have to pay
whatever they can make over a certain price. We charge them a
"Under these conditions, we think it cannot be fairly said that
there is a good faith labor issue involved between the defendant
union and either the dairies' employees or the 'vendors' or the
stores. Especially is this true when we consider the fact that the
'vendors' are organized as members of a well recognized union,
which, with their consent, is acting as their representative in
matters dealing with their employers."
108 F.2d at 442.
The Court said:
"Moreover, we think it is clear from the findings and from the
undisputed evidence in this case that the appellees' picketing
activities constitute a secondary boycott, which is an unlawful
activity, of which appellees could not avail themselves even though
a labor dispute were involved. See Duplex Printing Press
Company v. Deering, 254 U. S. 443
Dairies, Inc. v. Milk Wagon Drivers' Union of Chicago No. 753,
371 Ill. 377, 21 N.E.2d 308."
108 F.2d at 442.
New Negro Alliance v. Sanitary Grocery Co.,
303 U. S. 552
303 U. S.
H.Rep. No. 669, 72nd Cong., 1st Sess., p. 8.
S.Rep. No. 163, 72nd Cong., 1st Sess., p. 8.
H.Rep. No. 669, supra,
pp. 7, 8.
For example, one of the prerequisites to any injunction under
the act is "that the public officers charged with the duty to
protect complainant's property are unable or unwilling to furnish
adequate protection." Concerning this, the House Judiciary
"The last provision is considered desirable, because it often
happens that complainants rush into a federal court and obtain an
injunction the enforcement of which requires the court to consider
and punish acts which are and ought to be, under our system of
government, cognizable in the local tribunals. Our federal courts
already are congested with cases ordinarily cognizable in the local
police courts. . . ."
H.Rep. No. 669, supra,