Appeals from order of Court of Common Pleas No. 5 of Philadelphia County, June T., 1963, No. 2479, in case of Charles Meyer et al. v. Joint Council 53, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America et al.
Edward Davis, for appellants.
Richard H. Markowitz, with him Richard Kirschner, and Wilderman, Markowitz & Kirschner, for appellants.
Edward Greer, with him Folz, Bard, Kamsler, Goodis & Greenfield, for appellees.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Musmanno dissents. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen.
Plaintiffs, six individuals, filed a complaint in trespass against seven individuals and five unincorporated labor organizations seeking damages for libel. The alleged defamation appeared in a printed tabloid called "Teamsters Extra"*fn1 which was specially issued during a campaign preceding a National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] representation election.*fn2
The complaint alleged that defendants, with willful and malicious intent to injure plaintiffs, published articles, sketches, and pictures in the "Teamsters Extra" which contained malicious and defamatory material. Among the statements was one which proclaimed that the top officers, members of the executive board, and active leaders of Voice have been individually convicted of one or more of a list of crimes. On the list were such crimes as burglary, manslaughter, rape, sodomy, and corrupting the morals of a minor.*fn3
Defendants filed preliminary objections which challenged jurisdiction. These were dismissed by the court below. On this appeal attacking the lower court's ruling, defendants have raised the question of whether the jurisdiction of our state courts is preempted by provisions of the National Labor Relations Act. Certain of the defendants have raised an additional question concerning exhaustion of internal union remedies.
We consider, first, the claim of federal preemption. The landmark case involving preemption in the labor
field is San Diego Bldg. Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 79 S. Ct. 773 (1959), which held that a state court lacked jurisdiction to award damages for conduct constituting a tortious unfair labor practice under state law. In that case, the tortious activity consisted of peaceful union picketing designed to compel employers to execute a contract which would provide that only union members, or workers who applied for union membership within 30 days, would remain in their employ.*fn4 Recognizing a congressional purpose, as expressed in relevant legislation, to foster the development of a uniform national labor policy through administrative regulation by the NLRB, the Supreme Court of the United States based its holding on the general principle that both state and federal courts must defer to the exclusive competence of the Board when the activity involved is arguably subject to Section 7*fn5 or Section 8*fn6 of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended. The Supreme Court further noted that previous cases permitting state courts to award damages for tortious activities marked by violence and imminent threats to public order were based on the
principle that "the compelling state interest, in the scheme of our federalism, in the maintenance of domestic peace is not overridden in the absence of clearly expressed congressional direction." Id. at 247, 79 S. Ct. at 781. ...