Law School Case Brief
United States v. Hutcheson - 312 U.S. 219, 61 S. Ct. 463 (1941)
So long as a union acts in its self-interest and does not combine with non-labor groups, the licit and the illicit under § 20 of the Clayton Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 52, are not to be distinguished by any judgment regarding the wisdom or unwisdom, the rightness or wrongness, the selfishness or unselfishness of the end of which the particular union activities are the means. There is nothing remotely within the terms of § 20 that differentiates between trade union conduct directed against an employer because of a controversy arising in the relation between employer and employee, as such, and conduct similarly directed but ultimately due to an internecine struggle between two unions seeking the favor of the same employer.
During a dispute with a rival union over certain jobs at a worksite, appellees Hutchinson and several other union members employed conventional, peaceful activities, such as picketing and striking. The Government later charged them with creating, together with others, a criminal combination and conspiracy in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C.S. § 1. At trial in federal district court, appellees filed demurrers in which they denied that their conduct constituted a violation of the laws of the United States. The district court sustained the demurrers. The Government appealed.
Was appellees' use of conventional, peaceful union activities in their controversy with a rival union over certain jobs a violation of the Sherman Act?
The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the district court's judgment. The acts of appellees, as members of a labor union, operating in restraint of interstate commerce, in calling a strike because of an employer's refusal to accede to the union's demand that certain work be given to its members rather than to members of another craft union, in picketing the employer's place of business, and in recommending that union members and their friends refrain from buying the employer's product, were protected from prosecution under the Sherman Act by § 20 of the Clayton Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 52, when construed in the light of Congress's definition of a "labor dispute" in the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C.S. §§ 101-115.
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