Railway Employees' Dept. v. Hanson
351 U.S. 225 (1956)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Railway Employees' Dept. v. Hanson, 351 U.S. 225 (1956)

Railway Employees' Department, American

Federation of Labor v. Hanson

No. 451

Argued May 2, 1956

Decided May 21, 1956

351 U.S. 225


Claiming that a "union shop" agreement between an interstate railroad and unions of its employees made pursuant to § 2, Eleventh, of the Railway Labor Act, which expressly authorizes such agreements notwithstanding any state law, violated the First and Fifth Amendments of the Federal Constitution and the "right to work" provision of the Nebraska Constitution, nonunion employees of the railroad sued in a Nebraska state court to enjoin enforcement of such an agreement.

Held: on the record in this case, the agreement is valid and enforceable as to these employees. Pp. 351 U. S. 227-238.

1. The enactment of the federal statute authorizing union shop agreements is the governmental action on which the Constitution operates, though it takes a private agreement to invoke the federal sanction. Pp. 351 U. S. 231-232.

2. Since § 2, Eleventh, of the Railway Labor Act expressly permits "union shop" agreements notwithstanding any state law, an agreement made pursuant thereto has the imprimatur of the federal law upon it and, by force of the Supremacy Clause of Art. VI of the Constitution, could not be invalidated or vitiated by any state law. P. 351 U. S. 232.

3. On the record in this case, the requirement for financial support of a collective bargaining agency by all who receive the benefits of its work is within the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause, and does not violate either the First or the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 351 U. S. 233-238.

(a) Enactment of the provision of § 2, Eleventh, of the Railway Labor Act authorizing union shop agreements between interstate railroads and unions of their employees was a valid exercise by Congress of its powers under the Commerce Clause, and it does not violate the Due Process Clause. Pp. 351 U. S. 233-235.

(b) The only conditions to union membership authorized by § 2, Eleventh, of the Railway Labor Act are the payment of "periodic dues, initiation fees, and assessments," which relate to

Page 351 U. S. 226

financial support of the work of the union in the realm of collective bargaining, and this involves no violation of the First or the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 351 U. S. 235-238.

(c) Judgment is reserved a to the validity or enforceability of a union or closed shop agreement if other conditions of union membership are imposed or if the exaction of dues, initiation fees, or assessments is used as a cover for forcing ideological conformity or other action in contravention of the First or the Fifth Amendment. P. 351 U. S. 238.

160 Neb. 669, 71 N.W.2d 526, reversed.

Page 351 U. S. 227

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