Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Butler County, June T., 1971, No. 10, in case of George Kerr and George Kerr, Inc. v. Butler Building Trades Council, AFL-CIO; Laborer's International Union of AFL-CIO Local 323, Thomas Spencer, Cliff Noel, Carl Staley, Clyde Yohe, Burdette Kaiser and others.
Emil E. Narick, with him Joseph Mark Maurizi, Leo M. Stepanian, and Suto, Power, Balzarini & Walsh, for appellants.
Lee A. Montgomery, with him Norman D. Jaffe, for appellee.
Jones, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy and Barbieri, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy. The former Mr. Chief Justice Bell took no part in the consideration or decision of this case. The former Mr. Justice Barbieri took no part in the decision of this case.
This is an appeal from a decree granting a preliminary injunction prohibiting the peaceful picketing of plaintiff's store by members of appellant, Butler Building Trades Council, AFL-CIO (Council). The appellant raises both jurisdictional and First Amendment challenges.
The facts are as follows: Plaintiff George Kerr and his wife owned a retail appliance store at 1609 North Main Street in Butler, Pennsylvania, which was operated by a family owned corporation, plaintiff George Kerr, Inc. Plaintiffs contracted with C. R. Holbein, a nonunion building contractor, to construct a portion of a new appliance store at another location near Butler. Between April 15 and April 23, 1971, the Council engaged members of its local unions to picket the new construction site on Mercer Road carrying signs reading "C. R. Holbein is unfair to organized labor." On April 24 the picketing activity shifted to appellee's store at North Main Street under the banner: "George Kerr is unfair to Local 323. Do Not Patronize Him." The picketing continued until the preliminary injunction now appealed from was entered on April 30, 1971.*fn1
Although the picketing at the store interfered with deliveries and adversely affected appellee's business, it was friendly and peaceful. The evidence conflicts and no specific determination was made by the lower court
as to whether the pickets remained exclusively on public property. It is uncontested that the purpose of the Council in picketing was to force the appellees either to breach the construction agreement with C. R. Holbein or to persuade Holbein to employ union workers.
From these facts the chancellor concluded that no labor dispute existed between the Council and appellees and that a court of equity had jurisdiction to enjoin this picketing of a store owner which, though peaceful, became unlawful when its purpose was to coerce the owner to breach a building contract. We disagree that the court had jurisdiction, and must therefore reverse. We accordingly do not reach the constitutional argument that the preliminary injunction violated the appellant's First Amendment right of free speech.
As we observed in Stryjewski v. Local Union No. 830, 426 Pa. 512, 516, 233 A.2d 264 (1967), the question of jurisdiction in labor litigation is generally a troublesome subject. We recognized, however, that "[i]t is clear beyond any doubt that it has been the intent of the Congress through its legislative enactments and of the United States Supreme Court through its pronouncements to fashion a labor policy which is national in scope." This recognition was based principally on the decision of the United States Supreme Court in San Diego Trades Council, etc. v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 3 L. Ed. 2d 775 (1959), where it was held that the National Labor Relations Act preempts the jurisdiction of state and federal courts to regulate conduct "arguably subject to § 7 or § 8 of the Act." 359 U.S. at 245. The United States Supreme Court has recently had occasion to reaffirm this ...