Power of Courts Over Labor Unions
Mine Worker's Challenge to Injunctive Process
Culminating events of the 1949–50 bituminous mine stoppage have raised serious doubt that injunction provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act as they now stand will ever again prove adequate to protect the country against nation-wide strikes by determined unions in basic industries. Private use of injunctions in labor disputes was curbed by the Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1932, after 40 years of complaint by labor leaders and others that the courts were being used by employers to break strikes and obstruct union organization. Government use of injunctions in situations which imperil the national health or safety is now under reexamination, on the basis of recent experience in the coal emergency, in an attempt to assay future chances of success for this method of enforcing government labor-management policy.
The federal Court of Appeals at Washington has set Apr. 26 for a hearing on the government's appeal from a finding of District Judge Richmond B. Keech, Mar. 2, that the United Mine Workers' union had not been proved in contempt of his order to terminate the nation-wide coal strike. A temporary restraining order issued by Judge Keech Feb. 11 had prohibited the union and its officers “from in any manner engaging in, permitting or encouraging the said strike or its continuation, in whole or in part” and had directed the officers to take “all appropriate action” to insure that the miners would return to work.
Refusal by the miners to obey a similar order issued by Judge T. Alan Goldsborough of the same court in 1948 resulted in a prompt contempt conviction and heavy fines on both the union and its president, John L. Lewis. In reply to union claims that no strike had been called, Goldsborough declared: “If a nod or a wink or a code was used in place of the word ‘strike,’ there was just as much a strike as if the word ‘strike’ had been used.”