APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF MISSOURI.
Vinson, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge, Burton
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*fn1 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
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 nonunion peddlers refused to join the union. To break down their resistance the union adopted a plan which was designed to make it impossible for nonunion 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 nonunion 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 nonunion peddlers.
Thus the avowed immediate purpose of the picketing was to compel Empire to agree to stop selling ice to nonunion peddlers. Missouri statutes, set out in note 1, 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.
(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 nonunion peddlers, in which event it would be compelled to wage a fight for survival against overwhelming odds; it could stop selling ice to nonunion 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 nonunion 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 nonunion peddlers. They contended that their right to do so was "guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments" ...