A state court enjoined officers and members of a union of ice
peddlers from peacefully picketing appellee's place of business,
finding that the sole purpose of the picketing was to induce
appellee to agree not to sell ice to non-union peddlers. The State
Supreme Court affirmed, holding that picketing for this purpose
violated a state statute forbidding agreements in restraint of
The state law, as construed and applied in this
case, does not violate the Federal Constitution, and the judgment
is affirmed. Pp. 336 U. S.
1. States have constitutional power to prohibit dealers and
their aiders and abettors from combining to restrain freedom of
trade. P. 336 U. S.
2. The guaranties of freedom of speech and press stemming from
the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Federal Constitution do
not immunize members of labor unions from such a valid state law.
3. Nor do they prevent state courts from enjoining peaceful
picketing by members of a labor union in violation of such a valid
state law, even though the picketing involves dissemination of
truthful information about a labor dispute. Thornhill v.
Alabama, 310 U. S. 88
Carlson v. California, 310 U. S. 106
distinguished. Pp. 336 U. S.
(a) The constitutional freedom of speech and press does not
immunize speech or writing used as an integral part of conduct in
violation of a valid criminal statute. P. 336 U. S.
(b) The circumstances here justified restraint of the picketing,
since it was engaged in for the sole purpose of inducing a
violation of a valid state law. Pp. 336 U. S.
(c) The State, and not the labor union, has paramount
constitutional power to regulate and govern the manner in which
certain trade practices may be carried on. P. 336 U. S.
357 Mo. 671, 210 S.W.2d 55, affirmed.
A state trial court enjoined officers and members of a labor
union from picketing appellee's place of business
Page 336 U. S. 491
in order to force appellee to enter into an agreement in
restraint of trade in violation of Mo.Rev.Stat.Ann., § 8301. The
State Supreme Court affirmed. 57 Mo. 671, 210 S.W.2d 55. On appeal
to this Court, affirmed,
p. 336 U. S.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case here on appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1257 raises questions
concerning the constitutional power of a state to apply its
anti-trade-restraint law [Footnote
] to labor union activities, and to enjoin union members from
peaceful picketing carried on as an essential and inseparable part
of a course of conduct which is in violation of the state
Page 336 U. S. 492
law. The picketing occurred in Kansas City, Missouri. The
injunction was issued by a Missouri state court.
The appellants are members and officers of the Ice and Coal
Drivers and Handlers Local Union No. 953, affiliated with the
American Federation of Labor. Its membership includes about 160 of
200 retail ice peddlers who drive their own trucks in selling ice
from door to door in Kansas City. The union began efforts to induce
all the nonunion peddlers to join. One objective of the
organizational drive was to better wage and working conditions of
peddlers and their helpers. Most of the non-union peddlers refused
to join the union. To break down their resistance, the union
adopted a plan which was designed to make it impossible for
non-union peddlers to buy ice to supply their retail customers in
Kansas City. Pursuant to the plan, the union set about to obtain
from all Kansas City wholesale ice distributors agreements that
they would not sell ice to non-union peddlers. Agreements were
obtained from all distributors except the appellee, Empire Storage
and Ice Company. Empire refused to agree. The union thereupon
informed Empire that it would use other means at its disposal to
force Empire to come around to the union view. Empire still refused
to agree. Its place of business was promptly picketed by union
members, although the only complaint registered against Empire, as
indicated by placards carried by the pickets, was its continued
sale of ice to non-union peddlers.
Thus, the avowed immediate purpose of the picketing was to
compel Empire to agree to stop selling ice to non-union peddlers.
Missouri statutes, set out in note
make such an agreement a crime punishable by a fine of not
more than $5,000 and by imprisonment in the penitentiary for not
more than five years. Furthermore, under § 8308 of the Missouri
Revised Statutes Ann.
Page 336 U. S. 493
(1939), had Empire made the agreement, the ice peddlers could
have brought actions for triple damages for any injuries they
sustained as a result of the agreement.
About 85% of the truck drivers working for Empire's customers
were members of labor unions. These union truck drivers refused to
deliver goods to or from Empire's place of business. Had any one of
them crossed the picket line, he would have been subject to fine or
suspension by the union of which he was a member.
Because of the foregoing facts, shown either by admissions, by
undisputed evidence, or by unchallenged findings, the picketing had
an instantaneous adverse effect on Empire's business. It was
reduced 85%. In this dilemma, Empire was faced with three
alternatives: it could continue to sell ice to non-union peddlers,
in which event it would be compelled to wage a fight for survival
against overwhelming odds; it could stop selling ice to non-union
peddlers, thereby relieving itself from further conflict with the
union, in which event it would be subject to prosecution for crime
and suits for triple damages; it could invoke the protection of the
law. The last alternative was adopted.
Empire's complaint charged that the concerted efforts of union
members to restrain Empire from selling to non-union members was a
violation of the anti-trade restraint statute, and that an
agreement by Empire to refuse to make such sales would violate the
same statute. It prayed for an injunction against the picketing. In
answering, appellants asserted a constitutional right to picket
Empire's premises in order to force it to discontinue sale of ice
to non-union peddlers. They contended that their right to do so was
"guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments" because there
was "a labor dispute existing" between appellants and appellee, and
because the picketers publicized only the truthful information
Page 336 U. S. 494
that appellee was "selling ice to peddlers who are not members
of the said defendants' union."
The trial court heard evidence, made findings, and issued an
injunction restraining the appellants from "placing pickets or
picketing around or about the buildings" of Empire.
The State Supreme Court affirmed. 357 Mo. 671, 210 S.W.2d 55. It
agreed with the findings of the trial court that the conduct of
appellants was pursuant to a local transportation combination used
to compel Empire to stop selling ice to non-union peddlers, and
that the purpose of the picketing was to force Empire to become a
party to such combination. It held that such activities were
unlawful because in violation of § 8301 of the Missouri statutes,
and further held that the injunction to prevent picketing for such
unlawful purpose did not contravene the appellants' right of free
In this Court, appellants do not raise problems similar to those
discussed in Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.
, relating to censorship prior to publication, as
distinguished from sanctions to be imposed after publication, nor
are their objections to the form, language, or scope of the
injunction. See Milk Wagon Drivers v. Meadowmoor Dairies,
312 U. S. 287
312 U. S.
-298, also dissenting opinion, 312 U. S.
-303. Attacking the Missouri statute as construed and
applied, appellants broadly challenge the power of the state to
issue any injunction against their conduct, since, they assert, the
primary objective of their combination and picketing was to improve
wage and working conditions. On this premise, they argue that their
right to combine, to picket, and to publish must be determined by
focusing attention exclusively upon their lawful purpose to improve
labor conditions, and that their violation of the state anti-trade
restraint laws must be dismissed as merely incidental to this
Page 336 U. S. 495
That states have constitutional power to
prohibit competing dealers and their aiders and abettors from
combining to restrain freedom of trade is beyond question.
Watson v. Buck, 313 U. S. 387
313 U. S.
-404. In speaking of the Missouri statutory
antecedent of the statute here challenged, this Court said:
"The purpose of such statutes is to secure competition and
preclude combinations which tend to defeat it. . . . There is
nothing in the Constitution of the United States which precludes a
State from adopting and enforcing such policy. To so decide would
be stepping backwards."
International Harvester Co. v. Missouri, 234 U.
, 234 U. S. 209
Agreements and combinations not to sell to or buy goods from
particular persons or to dictate the terms under which
transportation will be supplied are well recognized trade restraint
practices which both state and national legislation can and do
prohibit. Grenada Lbr. Co. v. Mississippi, 217 U.
, 217 U. S.
-441; Eastern States Lbr. Assn. v. United
States, 234 U. S. 600
234 U. S.
-614; Fashion Guild v. Trade Comm'n,
312 U. S. 457
312 U. S. 465
United States v. Freight Assn., 166 U.
, 166 U. S.
It is contended that, though the Missouri
statute can be applied validly to combinations of businessmen who
agree not to sell to certain persons, it cannot be applied
constitutionally to combinations of union workers who agree in
their self-interest to use their joint power to prevent sales to
non-union workers. This contention appears to be grounded on the
guaranties of freedom of speech and press stemming from the
Fourteenth and First Amendments. Aside from the element of
disseminating information through peaceful picketers, later
discussed, it is difficult to perceive how it could be thought that
these constitutional guaranties afford labor union members a
peculiar immunity from laws against trade restraint combinations,
unless, as appellants contend, labor unions are
Page 336 U. S. 496
given special constitutional protection denied all other people.
The objective of unions to improve wages and working conditions
has sometimes commended itself to Congress and to state
legislatures. To the extent that the states or Congress, for this
or other reasons, have seen fit to exempt unions from antitrust
laws, this Court has sustained legislative power to grant the
exemptions. International Harvester Co. v. Missouri,
234 U. S. 199
Allen Bradley Co. v. Union, 325 U.
, 325 U. S.
-811; United States v. Hutcheson,
312 U. S. 219
312 U. S.
-234, and see Tigner v. Texas, 310 U.
. On the other hand, where statutes have not
granted exemptions, we have declared that violations of antitrust
laws could not be defended on the ground that a particular accused
combination would not injure, but would actually help,
manufacturers, laborers, retailers, consumers, or the public in
general. Fashion Guild v. Trade Comm'n, 312 U.
, 312 U. S.
-468. More than thirty years ago, this Court said
(International Harvester Co. v. Missouri, supra,
234 U. S.
"It is too late in the day to assert against statutes which
forbid combinations of competing companies that a particular
combination was induced by good intentions. . . ."
See also United States v. Socony-Vacuum Oil Co.,
310 U. S. 150
310 U. S.
-221; Mandeville Farms v. Sugar Co.,
334 U. S. 219
334 U. S.
Page 336 U. S. 497
The foregoing holdings rest on the premise that legislative
power to regulate trade and commerce includes the power to
determine what groups, if any, shall be regulated, and whether
certain regulations will help or injure businessmen, workers, and
the public in general. [Footnote
] In making this determination, Missouri has decided to apply
its law without exception to all persons who combine to restrain
freedom of trade. We are without constitutional authority to modify
or upset Missouri's determination that it is in the public interest
to make combinations of workers subject to laws designed to keep
the channels of trade wholly free and open. To exalt all labor
union conduct in restraint of trade above all state control would
greatly reduce the traditional powers of states over their domestic
economy, and might conceivably make it impossible for them to
enforce their anti-trade restraint laws. See Allen Bradley Co.
v. Union, 325 U. S. 797
325 U. S. 810
More than that, if, for the reasons here contended, states cannot
subject union members to such anti-trade restraint laws as
Missouri's, neither can Congress. The Constitution has not so
greatly impaired the states' or nation's power to govern.
It is contended that the injunction against
picketing adjacent to Empire's place of business is an
unconstitutional abridgment of free speech because the
Page 336 U. S. 498
picketers were attempting peacefully to publicize truthful facts
about a labor dispute. See Thornhill v. Alabama,
310 U. S. 88
310 U. S. 102
and Allen Bradley Co. v. Union, 325 U.
, 325 U. S. 807
note 12. But the record here does not permit this publicizing to be
treated in isolation. For, according to the pleadings, the
evidence, the findings, and the argument of the appellants, the
sole immediate object of the publicizing adjacent to the premises
of Empire, as well as the other activities of the appellants and
their allies, was to compel Empire to agree to stop selling ice to
non-union peddlers. Thus, all of appellants' activities -- their
powerful transportation combination, their patrolling, their
formation of a picket line warning union men not to cross at peril
of their union membership, their publicizing -- constituted a
single and integrated course of conduct which was in violation of
Missouri's valid law. In this situation, the injunction did no more
than enjoin an offense against Missouri law, a felony.
It rarely has been suggested that the constitutional freedom for
speech and press extends its immunity to speech or writing used as
an integral part of conduct in violation of a valid criminal
statute. We reject the contention now. Nothing that was said or
decided in any of the cases relied on by appellants calls for a
Neither Thornhill v. Alabama, supra,
nor Carlson v.
California, 310 U. S. 106
both decided the same day, supports the contention that conduct
otherwise unlawful is always immune from state regulation because
an integral part of that conduct is carried on by display of
placards by peaceful picketers. In both these cases, this Court
struck down statutes which banned all dissemination of information
by people adjacent to certain premises, pointing out that the
statutes were so broad that they could not only be utilized to
punish conduct plainly
Page 336 U. S. 499
illegal, but could also be applied to ban all truthful
publications of the facts of a labor controversy. But, in the
opinion, at pp. 110 U. S.
-104, the Court was careful to point out that it was
within the province of states "to set the limits of permissible
contest open to industrial combatants." See Lincoln Labor Union
v. Northwestern Iron & Metal Co., 335 U.
, 335 U. S. 536
Allen-Bradley Local v. Board, 315 U.
, 315 U. S.
-751. Further emphasizing the power of a state "to
set the limits of permissible contest open to industrial
combatants," the Court cited with approval the opinion of Mr.
Justice Brandeis in Duplex Printing Co. v. Deering,
254 U. S. 443
254 U. S. 488
On that page the opinion stated:
"The conditions developed in industry may be such that those
engaged in it cannot continue their struggle without danger to the
community. But it is not for judges to determine whether such
conditions exist, nor is it their function to set the limits of
permissible contest and to declare the duties which the new
situation demands. This is the function of the legislature which,
while limiting individual and group rights of aggression and
defense, may substitute processes of justice for the more primitive
method of trial by combat."
After emphasizing state power over industrial conflicts, the
Court in the Thornhill
opinion went on to say, at p.
310 U. S. 104
that states may not,
"in dealing with the evils arising from industrial disputes . .
. , impair the effective exercise of the right to discuss freely
industrial relations. . . ."
This statement must be considered in its context. It was
directed toward a sweeping state prohibition which this Court found
"nearly every practicable, effective means whereby those
interested -- including the employees directly affected -- may
enlighten the public on the nature and causes of a labor
Page 336 U. S. 500
That the general statement of the limitation of a state's power
to impair free speech was not intended to apply to the fact
situation presented here is further indicated by the cases cited
with approval in note 21 of the Thornhill
Appellants also rely on Carpenters Union v. Ritter's
Cafe, 315 U. S. 722
Bakery Drivers Local v. Wohl, 315 U.
, decided the same day. Neither lends support to
the contention that peaceful picketing is beyond legislative
control. The Court's opinion in the Ritter
approvingly quoted a part of the Thornhill
recognized broad state powers over industrial conflicts. In the
case, the Court's opinion, at p. 315 U. S. 775
found no "violence, force or coercion, or conduct otherwise
unlawful or oppressive," and said that
Page 336 U. S. 501
"A state is not required to tolerate in all places . . . even
peaceful picketing by an individual." A concurring opinion in the
case, at pp.
315 U. S. 776
-777, pointed out that picketing may
include conduct other than speech, conduct which can be made the
subject of restrictive legislation. No opinions relied on by
petitioners assert a constitutional right in picketers to take
advantage of speech or press to violate valid laws designed to
protect important interests of society. [Footnote 5
We think the circumstances here and the reasons advanced by the
Missouri courts justify restraint of the picketing which was done
in violation of Missouri's valid law for the sole immediate purpose
of continuing a violation of law. In holding this, we are mindful
of the essential importance to our society of a vigilant protection
of freedom of speech and press. Bridges v. California,
314 U. S. 252
314 U. S. 263
States cannot, consistently
Page 336 U. S. 502
with our Constitution, abridge those freedoms to obviate slight
inconveniences or annoyances. Schneider v. State,
308 U. S. 147
308 U. S. 162
But placards used as an essential and inseparable part of a grave
offense against an important public law cannot immunize that
unlawful conduct from state control. Virginia Electric Co. v.
Board, 319 U. S. 533
319 U. S. 539
Thomas v. Collins, 323 U. S. 516
323 U. S. 536
323 U. S. 537
323 U. S. 538
323 U. S.
-540. Nor can we say that the publication here should
not have been restrained because of the possibility of separating
the picketing conduct into illegal and legal parts. Thomas v.
at 323 U. S. 547
For the placards were to effectuate the purposes of an unlawful
combination, and their sole, unlawful immediate objective was to
induce Empire to violate the Missouri law by acquiescing in
unlawful demands to agree not to sell ice to non-union peddlers. It
is true that the agreements and course of conduct here were, as in
most instances, brought about through speaking or writing. But it
has never been deemed an abridgment of freedom of speech or press
to make a course of conduct illegal merely because the conduct was
in part initiated, evidenced, or carried out by means of language,
either spoken, written, or printed. See e.g., Fox v.
Washington, 236 U. S. 273
236 U. S. 277
Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.
. Such an expansive interpretation of the
constitutional guaranties of speech and press would make it
practically impossible ever to enforce laws against agreements in
restraint of trade, as well as many other agreements and
conspiracies deemed injurious to society.
The interest of Missouri in enforcement of its antitrust laws
cannot be classified as an effort to outlaw only a slight public
inconvenience or annoyance. The Missouri policy against restraints
of trade is of long standing, and is, in most respects, the same as
that which the Federal Government has followed for more than half a
century. It is clearly drawn in an attempt to afford all persons an
Page 336 U. S. 503
to buy goods. There was clear danger, imminent and immediate,
that, unless restrained, appellants would succeed in making that
policy a dead letter insofar as purchases by non-union men were
concerned. Appellants' power with that of their allies was
irresistible. And it is clear that appellants were doing more than
exercising a right of free speech or press. Bakery Drivers
Local v. Wohl, 315 U. S. 769
315 U. S.
-777. They were exercising their economic power,
together with that of their allies, to compel Empire to abide by
union, rather than by state, regulation of trade. [Footnote 6
What we have said emphasizes that this is not a case in which it
can be assumed that injury from appellants' conduct would be
limited to this single appellee. Thornhill v. Alabama,
310 U. S. 88
310 U. S.
-105. Missouri, acting within its power, has decided
that such restraints of trade as petitioners sought are against the
Page 336 U. S. 504
of the whole public. This decision is in accord with the general
ideas underlying all anti-trade restraint laws. It is not for us to
overrule this clearly adopted state policy.
While the State of Missouri is not a party in this case, it is
plain that the basic issue is whether Missouri or a labor union has
paramount constitutional power to regulate and govern the manner in
which certain trade practices shall be carried on in Kansas City,
Missouri. Missouri has, by statute, regulated trade one way. The
appellant union members have adopted a program to regulate it
another way. The state has provided for enforcement of its
statutory rule by imposing civil and criminal sanctions. The union
has provided for enforcement of its rule by sanctions against union
members who cross picket lines. See Associated Press v. United
States, 326 U. S. 1
326 U. S. 19
Fashion Guild v. Trade Comm'n, supra,
at 312 U. S. 465
Addyston Pipe & Steel Co. v. United States,
175 U. S. 211
175 U. S. 242
We hold that the state's power to govern in this field is
paramount, and that nothing in the constitutional guaranties of
speech or press compels a state to apply or not to apply its
anti-trade restraint law to groups of workers, businessmen or
others. Of course, this Court does not pass on the wisdom of the
Missouri statute. We hold only that, as here construed and applied,
it does not violate the Federal Constitution
"Combinations in restraint of trade declared a
"Any person who shall create, enter into, become a member of or
participate in any pool, trust, agreement, combination,
confederation or understanding with any person or persons in
restraint of trade or competition in the importation,
transportation, manufacture, purchase or sale of any product or
commodity in this state, or any article or thing bought or sold
whatsoever, shall be deemed and adjudged guilty of a conspiracy in
restraint of trade, and shall be punished as provided in this
Mo.Rev.Stat.Ann. § 8301 (1939).
And § 8305 provides that anyone violating § 8301
"shall be adjudged guilty of a felony, and upon conviction
thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary not
exceeding five years, or by imprisonment in the county jail not
exceeding one year, or by a fine of not less than five hundred
dollars nor more than five thousand dollars, or by both such fine
Mo.Rev.Stat.Ann. § 8305 (1939).
Appellants say, after quoting from a concurring opinion in
United States v. Hutcheson, 312 U.
, 312 U. S.
"We believe, therefore, that it is perfectly clear that a state
may not apply either statutory or common law policies concerning
restraint of trade to illegalize combinations among workingmen for
the purpose of eliminating wage competition throughout a trade or
And petitioners further argue that a state may not "make it
unlawful for an employer to acquiesce in union demands that he
refrain from supplying goods to non-union peddlers. . . ."
In the International Harvester Co.
case, 234 U.
, the then Missouri statute was construed as
inapplicable to combinations of purchasers and laborers. For this
reason, the statute was challenged as denying equal protection of
the laws. Replying to the challenge, this Court said, at p.
234 U. S.
"Whether it would have been better policy to have made such
comprehensive classification it is not our province to decide. In
other words, whether a combination of wage earners or purchasers of
commodities called for repression by law under the conditions in
the State was for the legislature of the State to determine."
Eastern States Lumber Dealers v. United States,
234 U. S. 600
cited in note 21. In that case, the lumber association was a
combination of retail lumber dealers found by the court to have
conspired to prevent wholesale dealers from selling directly to
consumers of lumber. The sole basis for the injunction was the
distribution and dissemination of truthful information by the
association to its members in an official report. This Court
sustained the decree which broadly enjoined the distribution of
this truthful information.
The cases cited in note 21 of the Thornhill
include the following, strongly emphasizing states' powers to
regulate their internal industrial and economic affairs and
rejecting contentions that challenged regulations violated the
Federal Constitution. Senn v. Tile Layers Union,
301 U. S. 468
West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, 300 U.
; Nebbia v. New York, 291 U.
; Dorchy v. Kansas, 272 U.
; Aikens v. Wisconsin, 195 U.
; Holden v. Hardy, 169 U.
. Another case cited in note 21 of the
opinion was Ethyl Gasoline Corp. v. United
States, 309 U. S. 436
also involved a violation of the federal antitrust laws, and, once
again, this Court sustained the power of the Government to enjoin
trade practices deemed in violation of those laws. The only other
case cited in note 21, Labor Board v. Newport News Co.,
308 U. S. 241
sustained an order against an employer which restrained it from
using its influence over employees to interfere with their
Both parties here rely on the Ritter
contends that this Court affirmed the action of the Texas courts on
the basis of the state's antitrust law. Appellants argue that this
Court upheld the Texas injunction on the ground that the business
picketed did not bear a sufficiently close relation to the labor
dispute to justify picketing at that place. Since the Court relied
on this ground, appellants contend that the Court impliedly
rejected the contention that the injunction was justified because
of an alleged violation of the antitrust laws. This Court's opinion
in the Ritter
case, as well as the dissents, did emphasize
questions other than the antitrust act contentions. The Court of
Civil Appeals of Texas had not mentioned the Texas antitrust laws
in its first or second opinion in the Ritter
S.W.2d 223, 149 S.W.2d 694. A third opinion, denying rehearing, did
make reference for the first time to the state's antitrust laws,
but did not definitely point out in what way the picketers' conduct
violated any specific provision of these laws. 149 S.W.2d 694, 699.
Under these circumstances, nothing that was said in the
opinion stands for the principle that speech and
writings, utilized as a part of conduct engaged in only to break a
valid anti-trade restraint law, render that course of conduct
immune from state control.
"Picketing by an organized group is more than free speech, since
it involves patrol of a particular locality and since the very
presence of a picket line may induce action of one kind or another,
quite irrespective of the nature of the ideas which are being
disseminated. Hence, those aspects of picketing make it the subject
of restrictive regulation."
Bakery Drivers Local v. Wohl, supra,
at 315 U. S.
The opinion in Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.
, 323 U. S.
". . . When to this persuasion other things are added which
bring about coercion, or give it that character, the limit of the
right has been passed. . . . But, short of that limit, the
employer's freedom cannot be impaired. The Constitution protects no
less the employees' converse right. Of course, espousal of the
cause of labor is entitled to no higher constitutional protection
than the espousal of any other lawful cause. It is entitled to the
A concurring opinion in Thomas v. Collins,
323 U. S.
-544, stated this:
"But once he uses the economic power which he has over other men
and their jobs to influence their action, he is doing more than
exercising the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.
That is true whether he be an employer or an employee. But as long
as he does no more than speak, he has the same unfettered right, no
matter what side of an issue he espouses."