The Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 does not apply to a
controversy involving damages resulting from the picketing of a
foreign ship operated entirely by foreign seamen under foreign
articles while the vessel is temporarily in an American port,
though American unions to which the foreign seamen did not belong
participated in the picketing, and the Act therefore does not
preclude a remedy under state law for such damages. Pp.
353 U. S.
(a) Congress could have made the Labor Management Relations Act
applicable to wage disputes arising on foreign vessels between
nationals of other countries when the vessel comes within
territorial waters of the United States, but Congress did not do
so. Pp. 353 U. S.
(b) The cases of Sailors' Union of the Pacific,
N.L.R.B. 547, and Norris Grain Co. v. Seafarers' International
232 Minn. 91, 46 N.W.2d 94, are inapposite to the
question for decision here. P. 353 U. S. 143
(c) An intent on the part of Congress to change the contractual
agreement made by the foreign shipowner and the foreign seamen in
this case cannot be read into the Labor Management Relations Act.
Pp. 353 U. S.
233 F.2d 62 affirmed.
MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.
While the petitioners in this diversity case present several
questions, the sole one decided is whether the Labor Management
Relations Act of 1947 [Footnote
] applies to a
Page 353 U. S. 139
controversy involving damages resulting from the picketing of a
foreign ship operated entirely by foreign seamen under foreign
articles while the vessel is temporarily in an American port. We
decide that it does not, and therefore do not reach other questions
raised by the parties.
The S.S. Riviera,
on September 3, 1952, sailed into
harbor at Portland, Oregon, for repairs, to load a cargo of wheat,
and to complete an insurance survey. It was owned by respondent, a
Panamanian corporation, and sailed under a Liberian flag. The crew
was made up entirely of nationals of countries other than the
United States, principally German and British. They had agreed to
serve on a voyage originating at Bremen, Germany, for a period of
two years, or until the vessel returned to a European port. A
British form of articles of agreement was opened at Bremen. The
conditions prescribed by the British Maritime Board were
incorporated into the agreement, including wages and hours of
employment, all of which were specifically set out. The crew
further agreed to obey all lawful commands of the Master of the
Riviera in regard to the ship, the stores, and the cargo, whether
on board, in boats, or on shore.
On or about September 9, 1952, the members of the crew went on
strike on board the vessel and refused to obey the orders of the
Master. They demanded that their term of service be reduced, their
wages be increased, and more favorable conditions of employment be
granted. [Footnote 2
Page 353 U. S. 140
They refused to work, demanding their back pay and
transportation or its cost to their ports of engagement. The Master
told the crew to continue their work or they would be discharged.
When they declined to work, he discharged them and ordered them to
leave the ship, which they refused to do. This situation continued
until September 26, 1952, when the striking crewmen left the vessel
pursuant to an order of the United States District Court entered in
a possessory libel filed by the respondent. The crew had picketed
the vessel from September 9, 1952, when the strike began, until
September 26, when they left the ship. On September 15, 1952, they
had designated the Sailors' Union of the Pacific as their
collective bargaining representative. The striking crew or others
acting for them continued the picketing from September 26, 1952,
until they withdrew the picket line on October 13, 1952. The
Sailors' Union of the Pacific began picketing the Riviera on
October 14 and continued to do so until restrained by an injunction
issued in an action for injunctive relief and damages filed against
it and its principal representatives by the respondent. Two days
later, Local 90 of the National Organization of Masters, Mates, and
Pilots of America set up a picket line at the Riviera
which was maintained until December 8, 1952. This picketing was
stopped by a writ issued against that union and its representatives
in the second action for injunction and damages filed by respondent
and consolidated here. On December 10, 1952, another picket line
was established at the vessel. It was maintained this time by the
Atlantic and Gulf Coast District, S.I.U., [Footnote 3
] until it too was enjoined on December 12 in
a third action filed by the respondent in which the prayer likewise
was for an injunction
Page 353 U. S. 141
and damages. These three cases have been consolidated for
consideration here. All of the picketing was peaceful.
The ship sailed in December, 1952. In June, 1953, the injunction
orders were vacated on appeal to the Court of Appeals and were
ordered dismissed as moot. The cases were returned to the District
Court for trial on the damage claims. 205 F.2d 944. The ship had
not returned to an American port at the time of trial in 1954. At
the trial, the court found that the purpose of the picketing "was
to compel the [respondent] to reemploy" the striking members of the
crew for a shorter term and at more favorable wage rates and
conditions than those agreed upon in the articles. The court
further found that as a result of the picketing the employees of
the firms repairing and loading the vessel refused to cross the
picket line and the ship was forced to stand idly by without
repairs or cargo, all to the damage of respondent. The unions and
their representatives contended that the trial court was without
jurisdiction because the Labor Management Relations Act had
preempted the field. However, the trial court entered judgment for
damages against the three unions as well as their principal
representatives. The judgments were based on a common law theory
that the picketing was for an unlawful purpose under Oregon law.
The court found that respondent had no remedy under the Labor
Management Relations Act because that Act
"is concerned solely with the labor relations of American
workers between American concerns and their employees in the United
States, and it is not intended to, nor does it cover a dispute
between a foreign ship and its foreign crew."
The Court of Appeals thought that United Construction
Workers v. Laburnum Construction Corp., 347 U.
(1954), governed, but that Oregon law did not
permit recovery against the unions, since they were
Page 353 U. S. 142
associations. 233 F.2d 62. [Footnote 4
] This, in effect, left the judgments standing
against the individual representatives of the unions, the
petitioners here. We granted certiorari in order to settle the
important question of jurisdiction 352 U.S. 889.
It should be noted at the outset that the dispute from which
these actions sprang arose on a foreign vessel. It was between a
foreign employer and a foreign crew operating under an agreement
made abroad under the laws of another nation. The only American
connection was that the controversy erupted while the ship was
transiently in a United States port and American labor unions
participated in its picketing.
It is beyond question that a ship voluntarily entering the
territorial limits of another country subjects itself to the laws
and jurisdiction of that country. Wildenhus' Case,
120 U. S. 1
The exercise of that jurisdiction is not mandatory, but
discretionary. Often, because of public policy or for other
reasons, the local sovereign may exert only limited jurisdiction
and sometimes none at all. Cunard S.S. Co. v. Mellon,
262 U. S. 100
(1923). It follows that if Congress had so chosen, it could have
made the Act applicable to wage disputes arising on foreign vessels
between nationals of other countries when the vessel comes within
our territorial waters. The question here therefore narrows to one
of intent of the Congress as to the coverage of the Act.
The parties point to nothing in the Act itself or its
legislative history that indicates in any way that the Congress
intended to bring such disputes within the coverage of the Act.
Indeed the District Court found to the contrary, specifically
stating that the Act does not
Page 353 U. S. 143
"cover a dispute between a foreign ship and its foreign crew."
The Court of Appeals, though not passing on the question, noted
"[i]t may well be that American laws should not be construed to
apply, without some more explicit Congressional indication than we
are able to find in the National Labor Relations Act, as amended,
to situations with as many points of foreign contact as the
situation at bar."
233 F.2d at 65.
Our study of the Act leaves us convinced that Congress did not
fashion it to resolve labor disputes between nationals of other
countries operating ships under foreign laws. [Footnote 5
] The whole background ground of the Act
is concerned with
Page 353 U. S. 144
industrial strife between American employers and employees. In
fact, no discussion in either House of Congress has been called to
our attention from the thousands of pages of legislative history
that indicates in the least that Congress intended the coverage of
the Act to extend to circumstances such as those posed here. It
appears not to have even occurred to those sponsoring the bill. The
Report made to the House by its Committee on Education and Labor
and presented by the coauthor of the bill, Chairman Hartley, stated
that "the bill herewith reported has been formulated as a bill of
rights both for American
workingmen and for their
employers." The report declares further that, because of the
inadequacies of legislation, "the American
been deprived of his dignity as an individual," and that it is the
purpose of the bill to correct these inadequacies. (Emphasis
added.) H.R.Rep. No. 245, 80th Cong., 1st Sess. 4. What was said
inescapably describes the boundaries of the Act as including only
the workingmen of our own country and its possessions.
The problem presented is not a new one to the Congress. In the
Seamen's Act of March 4, 1915, 38 Stat. 1164, the Congress declared
it unlawful to pay a seaman wages in advance, and specifically
declared the prohibition applicable to foreign vessels "while in
waters of the United States." Id.
at 1169, as amended, 46
U.S.C. § 599(e). In Sandberg v. McDonald, 248 U.
(1918), this Court construed the Act as not
"when the contract and payment were made in a foreign country
where the law sanctioned such contract and payment. . . . Had
Page 353 U. S. 145
intended to make void such contracts and payments, a few words
would have stated that intention, not leaving such an important
regulation to be gathered from implication."
at 248 U. S. 195
The Court added that "such sweeping and important requirement is
not found specifically made in the statute." Ibid. See
also Neilson v. Rhine Shipping Co., 248 U.
(1918). In 1920, Congress amended § 4 of the
Seamen's Act of 1915, and granted to every seaman on a vessel of
the United States the right to demand one-half of his then earned
wages at every port the vessel entered during a voyage. 41 Stat.
1006, 46 U.S.C. § 597. The section was made applicable to
"seamen on foreign vessels while in harbors of the United
States, and the courts of the United States shall be open to such
seamen for its enforcement."
This Court, in Strathearn Steamship Co. v. Dillon,
252 U. S. 348
(1920), upheld the applicability of the section to a British seaman
on a British vessel under British articles. The Court pointed
"taking the provisions of the act as the same are written, we
think it plain that it manifests the purpose of Congress to place
American and foreign seamen on an equality of right in so far as
the privileges of this section are concerned, with equal
opportunity to resort to the courts of the United States for the
enforcement of the act. Before the amendment . . . , the right to
recover one-half the wages could not be enforced in face of a
contractual obligation to the contrary. Congress, for reasons which
it deemed sufficient, amended the act so as to permit the recovery
upon the conditions named in the statute."
at 252 U. S. 355
In 1928, Jackson v. S.S. Archimedes, 275 U.
, was decided by this Court. It involved advance
payments made by a British vessel to foreign seamen before
Page 353 U. S. 146
Manchester on her voyage to New York and return. It was
contended that the advances made in Manchester were illegal and
void. That there was "no intention to extend the provisions of the
statute," the Court said,
"to advance payments made by foreign vessels while in foreign
ports is plain. This Court had pointed out in the Sandberg
that such a sweeping provision was not
specifically made in the statute. . . ."
at 275 U. S. 470
Soon thereafter, several proposals were made in Congress designed
to extend the coverage of the Seamen's Act so as to prohibit
advancements made by foreign vessels in foreign ports. A storm of
diplomatic protest resulted. Great Britain, Italy, Sweden, Norway,
Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, and Canada all joined in
vigorously denouncing the proposals. [Footnote 6
] In each instance, the bills died in
And so, here, such a "sweeping provision" as to foreign
applicability was not specified in the Act. [Footnote 7
] The seamen agreed in Germany to work
on the foreign ship under British articles. We cannot read into the
Labor Management Relations Act an intent to change the
Page 353 U. S. 147
provisions made by these parties. For us to run interference in
such a delicate field of international relations, there must be
present the affirmative intention of the Congress clearly
expressed. It alone has the facilities necessary to make fairly
such an important policy decision where the possibilities of
international discord are so evident and retaliative action so
certain. We, therefore, conclude that any such appeal should be
directed to the Congress, rather than the courts.
MR. JUSTICE WHITTAKER took no part in the consideration or
decision of this case.
61 Stat. 136, 29 U.S.C. § 141.
The demands were first transmitted to the Master on September 7,
1952, by a person identifying himself as a delegate of the Sailors'
Union of the Pacific. None of the crew belonged to that union. At 3
a.m. on September 8, 1952, the same party and some of the crew
members called on the Master in his cabin. They demanded that he
come to the crew's quarters and bargain with them on wages and
conditions on the ship. This demand was refused. While claim was
made that filthy conditions existed aboard and contaminated food
was served, the court, after hearing evidence and personally
inspecting the vessel, found to the contrary. There is no issue
here as to these findings.
None of the crew were members of any of the three unions
involved in the intermittent picketing.
A cross-petition for certiorari was filed for a review of this
question. The petition was denied. Compania Naviera Hidalgo,
S.A. v. Benz,
352 U.S. 890.
Petitioners rely on two cases to bolster their argument that the
Act applies to a foreign dispute such as the one here. We need only
say that these cases are inapposite, without, of course, intimating
any view as to their result. First, petitioners seek support in
Sailors' Union of the Pacific, AFL,
and Moore Dry Dock
92 N.L.R.B. 547 (1950). That case, however, was brought
to the Board by an American employer, the owner of the drydock,
claiming that the picketing by an American Sailors' Union was of
the drydock, and constituted a secondary boycott, and therefore an
unfair labor practice. The Board, in its opinion, gave no
indication that it felt that the Taft-Hartley Act was intended to
apply to a dispute involving employment aboard a foreign vessel. In
fact, in a forerunner of that same case, Compania Maritima
Case No. 20-RC-809, May 1, 1950, CCH NLRB
Decisions, 1950-1951, 10,081, a petition to represent employees on
a Panamanian vessel manned by foreign seamen, and owned by a Panama
corporation, the majority of whose stockholders were citizens of
foreign countries, was dismissed on the ground that the internal
economy of a vessel of foreign registry and ownership was involved.
The Board thus made it clear that it would not assume jurisdiction
when a foreign vessel was involved. It did assume jurisdiction in
the later dispute because that dispute was between an American
employer and an American union.
The second case on which petitioners rely is Norris Grain
Co. v. Seafarers' International Union,
1950, 232 Minn. 91, 46
N.W.2d 94. There, a suit for an injunction was brought by the
American owner of a grain elevator in Duluth, Minn., charging an
American union and its affiliate with a secondary boycott by
picketing not of a foreign vessel, but of the grain elevator.
Though a Canadian union (affiliated with the American union) was
joined as a defendant, the action ran between an American plaintiff
employer and an American defendant union. There was no claim by the
foreign vessel owner against a union.
1 U.S. Foreign Rel.: 1928 at 830-838 (Dept.State 1942);
1929 at 1005-1009 (Dept.State 1943); id.:
1931 at 808-814 (Dept.State 1946); id.:
1932 at 959-960
As far back as 1856, this Court was faced with a related
problem. In Brown v.
19 How. 183 (1857), in construing our
patent laws, which were silent as to their coverage of foreign
ships in our ports, the Court held that Congress had expressed no
intention of subjecting the use of improvements on foreign vessels
stopping at our ports to our patent laws. In this regard, the Court
"We think these laws ought to be construed in the spirit in
which they were made -- that is, as founded in justice -- and
should not be strained by technical constructions to reach cases
which Congress evidently could not have contemplated without
departing from the principle upon which they were legislating and
going far beyond the object they intended to accomplish."
at 60 U. S.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting.
The case involves a contest between American unions and a
foreign ship. The foreign ship came to Portland, Oregon, to load a
cargo of wheat for carriage to India. The crew members were paid
about one-third the amount of cash wages that are paid to American
seamen on American vessels carrying grain to the Orient. This
foreign ship is in competition with those American vessels.
American unions, therefore, have a interest in the working
conditions and wages of the seamen aboard this foreign vessel.
Their interest is in the reemployment of the foreign crew at better
wages and working conditions. And they peacefully picketed the
foreign vessel to further that interest.
The judgment we sustain today is one in damages against members
of the American union who engaged in that peaceful picketing. It is
for conduct precisely regulated by the Taft-Hartley Act.
If, as the District Court found, the purpose of the picketing
was to prevent the repairing and loading of the foreign vessel, the
question then arises whether the peaceful
Page 353 U. S. 148
picketing was not a secondary boycott condemned by § 303(a)(1)
of the Act.
If the purpose of the peaceful picketing was to force the
foreign vessels to bargain with one of the American unions without
any of them being first certified as the representative of the
seamen, the question arises whether that was not a violation of §
303(a)(2) of the Act.
If either § 303(a)(1) or § 303(a)(2) was violated, then the
injured person may sue in the federal courts for damages, as
provided in § 303(b). The Court bases its decision that the Act is
inapplicable on the conclusion that the underlying controversy was
between the foreign vessel and its crew. It intimates, however,
that the Act would apply if this suit had been brought by the
American independent contractors whose employees refused to cross
the picket line, although the identical conduct by the American
unions were involved. But, even if we assume arguendo
the foreign vessel would not be subject to the regulatory
provisions of the Act, it could nonetheless sue under § 303(b) to
get protection from any unfair labor practice condemned by the Act.
That is indeed the force of our ruling in Teamsters Union v.
New York, N.H. & H. R. Co., 350 U.
, 350 U. S.
The Labor Board has asserted jurisdiction over unions that bring
their pressures to bear on vessels of foreign registry. (In the
Matter of Sailors' Union of the Pacific,
92 N.L.R.B. 547) at
the same time that it has declined to assume jurisdiction over the
foreign vessel. [Footnote 2/1
Page 353 U. S. 149
If there is to be peace along the waterfront and a full and free
flow of commerce as declared in § 1 of the Act, these American
unions should be subject only to disciplinary action by the federal
agencies to whom Congress has entrusted the job of law enforcement.
] Only by applying
those centralized controls can we avoid the "diversities and
conflicts likely to result from a variety of local procedures and
attitudes toward labor controversies." Garner v. Teamsters
Union, 346 U. S. 485
346 U. S.
There is no hiatus in the federal regulatory scheme, as was true
in United Construction Workers v. Laburnum Construction
Corp., 347 U. S. 656
facts alleged in the complaint, if true, might constitute unfair
labor practices under the Act, and Congress has provided, as
against American unions, both an
Page 353 U. S. 150
administrative remedy and a remedy by way of damages. I see no
answer, therefore, to the conclusion that state law has been
preempted by federal law within the meaning of our decision in
Weber v. Anheuser-Busch Inc., 348 U.
If American unions or their members are to be mulcted in damages
for unfair labor practices affecting commerce, Congress has
provided the way in which it shall be done.
The Sailors' Union of the Pacific picketed the main gate of a
San Francisco shipyard, where a ship of foreign registry and
ownership was undergoing repairs, after the owner of the vessel
refused to recognize the union as exclusive representative of the
crew. After the picketing began, the union filed, with the Board's
Regional Office, a petition to be certified as the representative
of the vessel's crew. As noted by the Court, the Board's Regional
Director administratively dismissed the petition, "inasmuch as the
internal economy of a vessel of foreign registry and ownership is
involved." The Board sustained the Regional Director's action on
the ground that it had no jurisdiction over the foreign owner of
the vessel. The Board, however, assumed jurisdiction over an unfair
labor practice complaint, issued against the union by the same
Regional Director, charging that the picketing violated §
8(b)(4)(A) of the Act.
That was the conclusion of the Minnesota Supreme Court in a
situation similar to this one. An American union and a Canadian
union picketed the dock of an American grain company to prevent the
loading and unloading of vessels owned by a Canadian company, which
had served notice that it would cease to recognize the Canadian
union as bargaining representative for its crews. In a suit by the
grain company against both unions, the Minnesota Supreme Court
concluded that the state courts had no jurisdiction over the
dispute, which was governed by the Federal Act.
"This action is directed not against the relationship between
the Canadian Company and its employes or its relationship with the
Canadian Union, but against acts of defendants done in the United
States, and neither seeks to regulate the relationship between the
Canadian Company and its employes or the Canadian Company and the
Norris Grain Co. v. Seafarers' International Union,
Minn. 91, 109, 46 N.W.2d 94, 104.