CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF WISCONSIN.
Warren, Black, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Stewart, White, Fortas
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
The present controversy once again brings before the Court the troublesome question of where lies the line between permissible and federally preempted state regulation of union activities.
Petitioners ("Hanna") are four corporations whose integrated fleet of Great Lakes vessels carries cargo in interstate and foreign commerce and is operated by one of the four, the Hanna Mining Company. The respondent District 2, Marine Engineers Beneficial Association ("MEBA")*fn1 represented the licensed marine engineers in Hanna's fleet under a collective bargaining agreement
terminating on July 15, 1962. According to Hanna, while negotiations for a new contract continued during August 1962, a majority of the marine engineers informed Hanna by written petitions that they did not wish to be represented by MEBA. Hanna then declined to negotiate further until MEBA's majority status was established by a secret ballot. Without acquiescing in this proposal or questioning any of the employee signatures on the petitions, MEBA responded on September 12, 1962, by picketing one of Hanna's ships unloading at a dock in Duluth, Minnesota, with signs giving the ship's name, stating that Hanna unfairly refused to negotiate with MEBA, and indicating that no dispute existed with any other employer. Because of the continued picketing, dock workers refused day after day to unload the ship. From September 12 until shipping ended for the winter, MEBA similarly picketed Hanna ships at other Great Lakes ports, including Superior, Wisconsin.
Hanna turned first to the National Labor Relations Board. On September 12, it petitioned the Regional Director at Cleveland, Ohio, to hold a representation election among Hanna's engineers to prove or disprove MEBA's majority status. The petition was dismissed at the end of September on the stated ground that the engineers were "supervisors" under § 2 (11) of the National Labor Relations Act,*fn2 and automatically excluded from the Act's definition of "employees" under § 2 (3),*fn3 so election proceedings under § 9 were not warranted;*fn4 giving
the same reason, the Board in November declined to overturn this decision.*fn5 As a second measure, Hanna on September 15, 1962, filed charges with the Regional Director in Minneapolis, Minnesota, alleging that MEBA had violated § 8 (b)(4)(B) of the Act,*fn6 by inducing work stoppages among dockers at Duluth through improper secondary pressure. In October, the Regional Director dismissed the charges and the General Counsel sustained the dismissal in December, stating that MEBA's conduct
at Duluth and at other sites investigated did not exceed the bounds of lawful picketing under the Board's standards.*fn7 Hanna's third and last appeal to the Board came on September 27, 1962, when it filed charges with the Regional Director in Cleveland, Ohio, accusing MEBA of organizational or recognitional picketing improper under § 8 (b)(7) of the Act.*fn8 The Regional Director dismissed the charge in October and in the next two months the General Counsel affirmed the dismissal because in seeking to represent "supervisors" rather than "employees" MEBA fell outside the section.*fn9
Winter brought an end to both shipping and picketing for several months but when the navigation season opened in the spring of 1963 MEBA pickets once more appeared. After picketing occurred at Superior, Wisconsin, Hanna filed suit on June 24, 1963, in a Wisconsin circuit court. The complaint and affidavits alleged that MEBA was picketing ...