Suits Against Labor Unions

July 9, 1958

Report Outline
Anti-Union Damage Suits By Workers
Federal State Authority Over Unions
Union Problems Under New Court Rulings

Anti-Union Damage Suits By Workers

Threat to Labor in Recent Court Decisions

Two recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court threaten organized labor with greater hardship than any except the most extreme labor legislation offered in the present Congress. The two labor reform measures passed by the Senate at the 1958 session and now awaiting action by the House are designed, in the main, to rid the labor movement of corrupt and unethical practices like those uncovered by the Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor and Management Fields, headed by Sen. John L. McClellan (D-Ark.). The first of these bills, passed by the Senate on April 28, provides safeguards for employee welfare and pension funds; the second, passed June 17, is designed to keep union internal processes and financial operations free from corrupt influences.

George Meany, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., was able to endorse the welfare fund bill in its entirety; such objections as he had to provisions of the bill to advance internal union democracy he ascribed “for the most part [to] a divergence over means and not over ends.” In contrast, the special counsel for the A.F.L.-C.I.O., Arthur T. Goldberg, said on May 27 of the Supreme Court ruling the day before in the Russell case: “It might imperil the very right to strike by making bankruptcy the penalty for engaging in this guaranteed, constitutional right.”

Both labor decisions handed down by the Court on May 26 upheld the power of state courts to award compensatory and punitive damages in suits filed by workers against unions. Hostile action by state courts and state legislatures has long been considered by labor leaders the gravest present threat to growth, even survival, of trade unions. They have campaigned unceasingly for removal of that provision in the Taft-Hartley Act which sanctions enactment of “right-to-work” laws by the states. They have battled for federal jurisdiction over labor-management relations in the courts, in the belief that judgments rendered by federal tribunals are generally fairer than those handed down in some states.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Labor Unions
Aug. 07, 2015  Unions at a Crossroads
Sep. 02, 2005  Labor Unions' Future Updated
Jun. 28, 1996  Labor Movement's Future
Jun. 14, 1985  Organized Labor in the 1980s
Nov. 06, 1981  Labor Under Siege
Mar. 24, 1978  Labor's Southern Strategy
Aug. 20, 1976  Labor's Options
Oct. 27, 1971  Organized Labor After the Freeze
Oct. 19, 1966  Labor Strife and the Public Interest
Jan. 30, 1963  Strike Action and the Law
Sep. 20, 1961  Conflicts in Organized Labor
Aug. 04, 1960  Labor, Management, and the National Interest
Dec. 16, 1959  Future of Free Collective Bargaining
Nov. 04, 1959  Featherbedding and Union Work Rules
Feb. 18, 1959  Public Intervention in Labor Disputes
Jul. 09, 1958  Suits Against Labor Unions
Nov. 13, 1957  Right-To-Work Laws
Oct. 31, 1956  Union Organizing
May 01, 1954  State Powers in Labor Relations
Oct. 02, 1953  Toward Labor Unity
Apr. 11, 1953  Industry-Wide Bargaining and Industry-Wide Strikes
Sep. 03, 1952  Labor and Politics
Mar. 25, 1950  Labor Injunctions
Jan. 25, 1950  Trade Unions and Productivity
Sep. 26, 1949  Fact-Finding Boards in Labor Disputes
Mar. 05, 1949  Closed Shop
Dec. 01, 1948  Revision of the Taft-Hartley Act
Jan. 01, 1947  Labor Unions, the Public and the Law
Oct. 09, 1946  Revision of the Wagner Act
Sep. 25, 1946  Labor Productivity
May 29, 1946  Labor Organization in the South
Jan. 30, 1946  Compulsory Settlement of Labor Disputes
May 18, 1945  Labor Policy After the War
Mar. 29, 1945  Union Maintenance
Feb. 02, 1945  Labor Relations in Coal Mining
Oct. 12, 1944  No-Strike Pledge
Sep. 16, 1944  Political Action by Organized Labor
May 30, 1944  Unionization of Foremen
Apr. 01, 1944  Dismissal Pay
Apr. 29, 1943  Labor in Government
Apr. 09, 1943  Public Regulation of Trade Unions
Nov. 19, 1941  Labor Policies of the Roosevelt Administration
Oct. 23, 1941  Closed Shop Issue in Labor Relations
Mar. 29, 1941  Labor as Partner in Production
Feb. 12, 1941  Labor and the Defense Program
Feb. 23, 1940  Labor in Politics
Jan. 17, 1939  Settlement of Disputes Between Labor Unions
Jul. 01, 1938  Three Years of National Labor Relations Act
Nov. 12, 1937  State Regulation of Labor Relations
Jul. 10, 1937  Restrictions on the Right to Strike
Apr. 28, 1937  The Labor Market and the Unemployed
Mar. 26, 1937  Control of the Sit-Down Strike
Mar. 13, 1937  Collective Bargaining in the Soft-Coal Industry
Jan. 22, 1937  Responsibility of Labor Unions
Nov. 11, 1936  Industrial Unionism and the A.F. of L.
Jul. 30, 1936  Federal Intervention in Labor Disputes
Jul. 14, 1936  Labor Relations in the Steel Industry
Apr. 17, 1934  Company Unions and Collective Bargaining
Feb. 07, 1934  Settlement of Labor Disputes
Sep. 12, 1933  Trade Unionism Under the Recovery Program
Feb. 17, 1932  Wage Concessions by Trade Unions
Oct. 01, 1929  Status of the American Labor Movement
Jul. 20, 1929  Trade Unionism in the South
Aug. 31, 1928  Organized Labor in National Politics
Feb. 04, 1928  The Use of Injunctions in Labor Disputes
Sep. 09, 1927  Organized Labor and the Works Council Movement
Oct. 12, 1923  The A.F. of L. and the “New Radicalism”
Supreme Court History and Decisions
Unions and Labor-Management Relations