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APEX Hosiery Co. v. Leader

June 21, 1937


Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; William H. Kirkpatrick, Judge.

Author: Davis

Before BUFFINGTON and DAVIS, Circuit Judges, and DICKINSON, District Judge.

DAVIS, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from the District Court denying a temporary injunction to the plaintiff and dismissing its bill of complaint on the ground that interstate commerce had not been so affected as to give the federal court jurisdiction.

The plaintiff is a corporation of Pennsylvania engaged in manufacturing hosiery in Philadelphia where it employs about 2500 persons. The defendants are: The Philadelphia Branch No. 1, Local No. 706 of the American Federation of Full Fashioned Hosiery Workers; William Leader, its president; Joseph Burge, its vice president; Harry Omeig, its treasurer; and Huey Brown, its secretary.

The plaintiff has what is known as an open shop in which both union and nonunion persons may work if they so desire. Some time in April, 1937, Leader wrote a letter to the plaintiff's president, William Meyer, inclosing a proposed agreement for a closed shop, in which union men only may work; said that he expected him to sign the agreement; that he would be in touch with him shortly thereafter and would like to arrange a meeting with him and a committee in his shop where the formal signing could take place. Nothing whatever was further heard from Leader or any of the other defendants until May 6, 1937, when some time between 1 and 3 o'clock in the afternoon a crowd estimated to be between 8,000 and 10,000 appeared in front of plaintiff's factory. Plaintiff had been informed that the union had called out all of its members from the union shops in Philadelphia to make what they called a "demonstration" at his factory. All the employees, except about 60, consisting of the office and maintenance force (a large number of whom were women and girls), and some foremen, had been sent home.

The undisputed evidence, none having been offered by defendants, shows that shortly before 3 o'clock Inspector LaRue of the Philadelphia police went into the plant and told Meyer that he was a messenger boy for Leader who wanted to see him. Meyer replied that under these conditions, with thousands of "noisy" people "milling around on the outside" "hollering and shouting," he could not then see him, but was willing to see him in the office of Meyer's attorney. This the inspector reported to Leader who, standing on the front steps, cried out to the crowd: "I declare a sit-down strike in Apex Hosiery Company." Immediately a volley of bricks, stones, and pipe was thrown through the windows, breaking practically every pane of glass; the sash were broken out and some of Leader's crowd were "tossed in" through the windows; the front door was battered down, and amid "noise and yelling and crying and cursing and everything else that you can imagine" the crowd rushed in, broke down partitions, dumped out files, threw adding machines and typewriters around, and smashed up things generally. "Everything was overturned in the office, the offices were complete shambles, typewriters were broken, adding machines were wrecked, first floor mimeograph machines, everything was wrecked on the first floor." The Apex employees sought refuge in the wareroom to keep from being struck with bricks and to avoid bodily harm, but they were crowded out of there and finally forced up to the sixth floor. Meyer was struck on the shoulder with a brick and hit on the back of the head with an inkwell which caused "a tremendous swelling." He described the situation in part as follows:

"They kept on coming forward and they were hollering all kinds of threats and kept crowding me and crowding me until finally they crowded me out, pushing me and pommeled me around and pushed me out into the shop room, where I closed the door between, but that didn't seem to help, because they put their foot through the glass, broke the glass out of that door and kept on coming, until they had me backed up against the wall, and it was then I said, 'For God's sake, isn't there anybody around here who can stop this terrible situation?' and somebody said, 'Go get Bill Leader.'"

Leader immediately came in and Meyer said to him: "For goodness sake, stop this situation, this was absolutely uncalled for." Leader said he would get a committee together. After a short time he came in with several persons, their attorney shortly afterward following, and said to Meyer: "Now, what about signing this agreement?" Meyer replied: "Absolutely, under these conditions, I can't sign the agreement."

The "mob," which had taken possession of the plant, then began violently to attack plaintiff's loyal employees, so beating one that it produced a fracture of the brain or skull, a fracture of the jaw, which had to be "wired up" and still remains wired; both eyes were closed and he was black and blue from his shoulders up. He was confined to the Episcopal Hospital for three weeks. They beat another employee with fists and a piece of pipe until he was unconscious, bruising his eyes and body, and breaking five of his ribs so that he was confined in the hospital for a considerable time. They broke two ribs of Elwood Struve, plaintiff's general manager. Others were knocked down, beaten, and kicked after they were down and otherwise injured.

While this violence was taking place and the employees were in fear of more serious injury, they were forced to sign union pledge cards, of which the following is a copy:

"Pledge Card

American Federation of Hosiery Workers

Branch No. 1

Affiliated with the C.I.O. (Committee for Industrial Organization)

I hereby accept membership in the American Federation of Hosiery Workers' Union and of my own free will authorize its representatives to act for me as a collective bargaining agency in all matters of wages, hours of employment, single machine system on leggers, union ...

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