Opinions & Commentaries

This case presents the question whether the provisions of the Wisconsin Labor Code which authorize giving publicity to labor disputes, declare peaceful picketing and patrolling lawful and prohibit granting of an injunction against such conduct, violate, as here construed and applied, the due process clause or equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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Petitioner, Byron Thornhill, was convicted in the Circuit Court of Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, of the violation of § 3448 of the State Code of 1923.[1] The Code section reads as follows:

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The supreme court of Illinois sustained an injunction against the Milk Wagon Drivers Union over the latter's claim that it involved an infringement of the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Since this ruling raised a question intrinsically important, as well as affecting the scope of Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88, and Carlson v. California, 310 U.S. 106, we brought the case here. 310 U.S. 655.

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In Milk Wagon Drivers Union v. Meadowmoor Dairies, ante, p. 287, we held that acts of picketing when blended with violence may have a significance which neutralizes the constitutional immunity which such acts would have in isolation. When we took this case, 310 U.S. 620, it seemed to present a similar problem. More thorough study of the record and full argument have reduced the issue to this: is the constitutional guarantee of freedom of discussion infringed by the common law policy of a state forbidding resort to peaceful persuasion through picketing merely because there is no immediate employer-employee dispute?

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We brought this case here from the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, 314 U.S. 590, to canvass the claim that Wisconsin has forbidden the petitioners to engage in peaceful *438 picketing insofar as we have deemed it an exercise of the right of free speech protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88; American Federation of Labor v. Swing, 312 U.S. 321. The specific question for decision is the constitutional validity of an order made by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Board acting under the Employment Peace Act, Wisconsin Laws of 1939, c. 57. In deciding this question we are of course controlled by the construction placed by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin upon the order and the pertinent provisions of the Act.

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The facts of this case are simple. Ritter, the respondent, made an agreement with a contractor named Plaster for the construction of a building at 2810 Broadway, Houston, Texas. The contract gave Plaster the right to make his own arrangements regarding the employment of labor in the construction of the building. He employed non-union carpenters and painters. The respondent was also *723 the owner of Ritter's Cafe, a restaurant at 418 Broadway, a mile and a half away. So far as the record discloses, the new building was wholly unconnected with the business of Ritter's Cafe. All of the restaurant employees were members of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees International Alliance, Local 808. As to their restaurant work, there was no controversy between Ritter and his employees or their union. Nor did the carpenters' and painters' unions, the petitioners here, have any quarrel with Ritter over his operation of the restaurant. No construction work of any kind was performed at the restaurant, and no carpenters or painters were employed there.

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The petitioners are a labor union and certain of its officers. The union membership consists of truck drivers occupied in the distribution of baked goods. The respondents Wohl and Platzman are, and for some years have *770 been, peddlers of baked goods. They buy from bakeries and sell and deliver to small retailers, and keep the difference between cost and selling price, which in the case of Wohl is approximately thirty-two dollars a week, and in the case of Platzman, about thirty-five dollars a week. Out of this each must absorb credit losses and maintain a delivery truck which he owns — but has registered in the name of his wife. Both are men of family. Neither has any employee or assistant. Both work seven days a week, Wohl putting in something over thirty-three hours a week, and Platzman about sixty-five hours a week. It was found that neither has any contract with the bakeries from whom he buys, and it does not appear that either had a contract with any customer.

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In March 1996, California voters passed Proposition 198. Known as the Open Primary Act, the law changed the state's primary election from a closed to a blanket primary. In a blanket primary, voters can switch primaries for different offices. For instance, a registered Democrat can vote in the Republican primary for governor, the Libertarian primary for a state representative and in the Democratic primary for another office. Four political parties the Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Peace and Freedom parties contend that the law infringes on their free association rights to pick and choose their own candidates. In 1997, a federal district court judge ruled the blanket primary law constitutional. On appeal, the 9th Circuit affirmed. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the decision on January 21, 2000.

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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[1] 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 *492 law. The picketing occurred in Kansas City, Missouri. The injunction was issued by a Missouri state court.

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339 U.S. 470 (1950) INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, ETC. UNION, LOCAL 309, ET AL. v. HANKE ET AL., DOING BUSINESS AS ATLAS AUTO REBUILD. No. 309. Supreme Court of United States. Argued February 9, 1950. Decided May 8, 1950. CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF WASHINGTON.[*] Samuel B. Bassett argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioners. J. Will Jones argued the cause for respondents in No. 309. With him on the brief was Clarence L. Gere. C. M. McCune argued the cause for respondent in No. 364. With him on the brief was Austin E. Griffiths. J. Albert Woll, […]

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It is the public policy of the State of Washington that employers shall not coerce their employees' choice of representatives for purposes of collective bargaining. Do the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Federal Constitution permit the State, in reliance on this policy, to enjoin peaceful picketing carried on for the purpose of compelling an employer to sign a contract with a labor union which coerces his employees' choice of bargaining representative?

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Does the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution bar a State from use of the injunction to prohibit picketing of a place of business solely in order to secure compliance with a demand that its employees be in proportion to the racial origin of its then customers? Such is the broad question of this case.

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This is one more in the long series of cases in which this Court has been required to consider the limits imposed by the Fourteenth Amendment on the power of a State to enjoin picketing. The case was heard below on the pleadings and affidavits, the parties stipulating that the record contained "all of the facts and evidence that would be adduced upon a trial on the merits . . . ." Respondent owns and operates a gravel pit in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, where it employs 15 to 20 men. Petitioner unions sought unsuccessfully to induce some of respondent's employees to join the unions and commenced to picket the entrance to respondent's place of business with signs reading, "The men on this job are not 100% affiliated with the A. F. L." "In consequence," drivers of several trucking companies refused to deliver and haul goods to and from respondent's plant, causing substantial damage to respondent. Respondent thereupon sought an injunction to restrain the picketing.

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Under § 8 (b) (4) (ii) (B) of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended,[1] it is an unfair labor practice for a union "to threaten, coerce, or restrain any person," with the object of "forcing or requiring any person to cease using, selling, handling, transporting, or otherwise dealing in the products of any other producer. . . or to cease doing business with any other person . . . ." A proviso excepts, however, "publicity, other than picketing, for the purpose of truthfully advising the public . . . that a product or products are produced by an employer with whom the labor organization has a primary dispute and are distributed by another employer, as long as such publicity does not have an effect of inducing any individual employed by any person other than the primary employer in the course of his employment to refuse to pick up, deliver, or transport any goods, or not to perform any services, at the establishment of the employer engaged in such distribution." (Italics supplied.) The question in this case is whether the respondent unions violated this section when they limited their secondary picketing of retail stores to an appeal to the customers of the stores not to buy the products of certain firms against which one of the respondents was on strike.

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Appellant, the Reverend Mr. B. Elton Cox, the leader of a civil rights demonstration, was arrested and charged *538 with four offenses under Louisiana law—criminal conspiracy, disturbing the peace, obstructing public passages, and picketing before a courthouse. In a consolidated trial before a judge without a jury, and on the same set of facts, he was acquitted of criminal conspiracy but convicted of the other three offenses. He was sentenced to serve four months in jail and pay a $200 fine for disturbing the peace, to serve five months in jail and pay a $500 fine for obstructing public passages, and to serve one year in jail and pay a $5,000 fine for picketing before a courthouse. The sentences were cumulative.

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Appellant was convicted of violating a Louisiana statute which provides:

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Appellants brought this action for declaratory and injunctive relief in the District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. They sought a judgment declaring that the Mississippi Anti-Picketing Law[1] is an overly *613 broad and vague regulation of expression, and therefore void on its face. They also sought a permanent injunction restraining appellees—the Governor and other Mississippi officials—from enforcing the statute in pending or future criminal prosecutions or otherwise, alleging that the then pending prosecutions against them for violating the statute[2] were part of a plan of selective enforcement engaged in by appellees with no expectation of securing convictions, but solely to discourage appellants from picketing to protest racial discrimination in voter registration and to encourage Negro citizens to attempt to register to vote.

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Overruled

About the Logan Valley Plaza: The Plaza is a large shopping mall located near the city of Altoona, Pennsylvania. The shopping center directly abuts Plank Road to the east and Goods Lane to the South. Plan Road, otherwise known as U.S. Route 220, is a heavily traveled, high speed highway. There are five entrances to the Plaza: three from Plank Road and two from Goods Lane. At the time of the case, the Plaza was occupied by two businesses, Weis Markets, Inc. and Sears, Roebuck and Co. About Weis: Weis Markets, Inc. owns and operates supermarkets through out the United States. Weis owns an enclosed supermarket building in Logan Valley Plaza. The property includes an open pick-up porch, where Weis consumers can temporarily park and load groceries into their automobiles. About Amalgamated Food Employees Union, Local 590: AFEU 590 is a local food employees union. The members of the union were employed by competitors of Weis.

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This is a simple case. Petitioners, accompanied by Chicago police and an assistant city attorney, marched in a peaceful and orderly procession from city hall to the mayor's residence to press their claims for desegregation of the public schools. Having promised to cease singing at 8:30 p. m., the marchers did so. Although petitioners and the other demonstrators continued to march in a completely lawful fashion, the onlookers became unruly as the number of bystanders increased. *112 Chicago police, to prevent what they regarded as an impending civil disorder, demanded that the demonstrators, upon pain of arrest, disperse. When this command was not obeyed, petitioners were arrested for disorderly conduct.

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A black minister who led an orderly civil rights march in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963, was arrested and convicted for violating § 1159 of the city's General Code, an ordinance which proscribed participating in any parade or procession on city streets or public ways without first obtaining a permit from the City Commission. Section 1159 permitted the Commission to refuse a parade permit if its members believed that "the public welfare, peace, safety, health, decency, good order, morals or convenience require that it be refused." The minister had previously been given to understand by a member of the Commission that under no circumstances would he and his group be allowed to demonstrate in Birmingham.

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City ordinance prohibiting all picketing within 150 feet of a school, except peaceful picketing of any school involved in a labor dispute, found by the Court of Appeals to be unconstitutional because overbroad, held violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment since it makes an impermissible distinction between peaceful labor picketing and other peaceful picketing.

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At issue in this case is the constitutionality under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of a state statute that generally bars picketing of residences or dwellings, but exempts from its prohibition "the peaceful picketing of a place of employment involved in a labor dispute."

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Brookfield, Wisconsin, has adopted an ordinance that completely bans picketing "before or about" any residence. This case presents a facial First Amendment challenge to that ordinance.

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A Florida state court ordered that antiabortion protestors could not demonstrate within 36 feet of an abortion clinic, make loud noises within earshot of the clinic, display images observable from the clinic, approach patients within 300 feet of the clinic, and demonstrate within 300 feet of the residence of any clinic employee. The Florida Supreme Court upheld the injunction in its entirety. When speech in a public forum is prohibited because of its content, the state must be able to demonstrate that the regulation is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling governmental issue. Perry Education Assn. v. Perry Local Educators' Assn., 460 U.S. 37 (1983). If the regulation is neutral as to the speaker's content, the regulation need only be a reasonable restriction on the time, place, or manner of the speech. Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781 (1989).

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