What are the issues before the supreme court

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Boys Markets, Inc. (petitioner), had a collective bargaining agreement with the Retail Clerks Union (respondent). A company supervisor and certain other company employees who were not part of the Retail Clerks bargaining unit rearranged merchandise in the frozen food cases of one of the company's supermarkets. A union representative insisted that the merchandise be restocked by union personnel, because the bargaining unit work had been wrongfully taken away from union personnel. When Boys Markets refused to do so, a strike was called, and the union began to picket the market.

The company sought an injunction against the strike and an order compelling arbitration of the dispute, as the collective bargaining agreement contained a no-strike clause and a grievance-arbitration procedure to resolve disputes under the agreement. Upon removal from a state court, the U.S. district court ordered the parties to arbitrate the dispute and enjoined the strike. The court of appeals reversed, considering itself bound by the Sinclair decision. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.] BRENNAN, J.... At the outset, we are met with respondent's contention that Sinclair ought not to be disturbed because the decision turned on a question of statutory construction which Congress can alter at any time. Since Congress has not modified our conclusions in Sinclair, even though it has been urged to do so, respondent argues that principles of stare decisis should govern the present case. We do not agree that the doctrine of stare decisis bars a re-examination of Sinclair in the circumstances of this case.

We fully recognize that important policy considerations militate in favor of continuity and predictability in the law. Nevertheless, as Mr. Justice Frankfurter wrote for the Court, "[S]tare decisis is a principle of policy and not a mechanical formula of adherence to the latest decision, however recent and questionable, when such adherence involves collision with a prior doctrine more embracing in its scope, intrinsically sounder, and verified by experience." It is precisely because Sinclair stands as a significant departure from our otherwise consistent emphasis upon the congressional policy to promote the peaceful settlement of labor disputes through arbitration and our efforts to accommodate and harmonize this policy with those underlying the anti-injunction provisions of the Norris-LaGuardia Act that we believe Sinclair should be reconsidered.

Furthermore, in light of developments subsequent to Sinclair, in particular our decision in Avco Corp. v. Aero Lodge, 735, 390 U.S. 557 (1968), it has become clear that the Sinclair decision does not further but rather frustrates realization of an important goal of our national policy. Nor can we agree that conclusive weight should be accorded to the failure of Congress to respond to Sinclair on the theory that congressional silence should be interpreted as acceptance of the decision. The Court has cautioned that "[i]t is at best treacherous to find in congressional silence alone the adoption of a controlling rule of law."

Therefore, in the absence of any persuasive circumstances evidencing a clear design that congressional inaction be taken as acceptance of Sinclair, the mere silence of Congress is not a sufficient reason for refusing to reconsider the decision. We have also determined that the dissenting opinion in Sinclair states the correct principles concerning the accommodation necessary between the seemingly absolute terms of the Norris-LaGuardia Act and the policy considerations underlying Section 301(a).

Although we need not repeat all that was there said, a few points should be emphasized at this time. The literal terms of Section 4 of the NorrisLaGuardia Act must be accommodated to the subsequently enacted provisions of Section 301(a) of the Labor-Management Relations Act and the purposes of arbitration. Statutory interpretation requires more than concentration upon isolated words; rather, consideration must be given to the total corpus of the pertinent law and the policies which inspired ostensibly inconsistent provisions. The Norris-LaGuardia Act was responsive to a situation totally different from that which exists today.

In the early part of this century, the federal courts generally were regarded as allies of management in its attempt to prevent the organization and strengthening of labor unions; and in this industrial struggle the injunction became a potent weapon which was wielded against the activities of labor groups. The result was a large number of sweeping decrees, often issued ex parte, drawn on an ad hoc basis without regard to any systematic elaboration of national labor policy. In 1932 Congress attempted to bring some order out of the industrial chaos that had developed and to correct the abuses which had resulted from the interjection of the federal judiciary into unionmanagement disputes on the behalf of management.

See Declaration of Public Policy, Norris-LaGuardia Act, Section 2, 47 Stat. 70 (1932). Congress, therefore, determined initially to limit severely the power of the federal courts to issue injunctions "in any case involving or growing out of any labor dispute...." 47 Stat. 70. Even as initially enacted, however, the prohibition against federal injunctions was by no means absolute. See Norris-LaGuardia Act, Sections 7, 8, 9, 47 Stat. 70 (1932). Shortly thereafter Congress passed the Wagner Act, designed to curb various management activities which tended to discourage employee participation in collective action. As labor organizations grew in strength and developed toward maturity, congressional emphasis shifted from protection of the nascent labor movement to the encouragement of collective bargaining and administrative techniques for the peaceful resolution of industrial disputes.

This shift in emphasis was accomplished, however, without extensive revision of many of the older enactments, including the anti-injunction section of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. Thus it became the task of the courts to accommodate, to reconcile the older statutes with the more recent ones. The principles elaborated in Trainmen v. Chicago River R.R., 353 U.S. 30 (1957), are equally applicable to the present case. To be sure, Chicago River involved arbitration procedures established by statute. However, we have frequently noted, in such cases as Lincoln Mills, the Steelworkers Trilogy, and Lucas Flour, the importance which Congress has attached generally to the voluntary settlement of labor disputes without resort to self-help and more particularly to arbitration as a means to this end.

Indeed, it has been stated that Lincoln Mills, in its exposition of Section 301(a), "went a long way towards making arbitration the central institution in the administration of collective bargaining contracts." The Sinclair decision, however, seriously undermined the effectiveness of the arbitration technique as a method peacefully to resolve industrial disputes without resort to strikes, lockouts, and similar devices. Clearly, employers will be wary of assuming obligations to arbitrate specifically enforceable against them when no similarly efficacious remedy is available to enforce the concomitant undertaking of the union to refrain from striking. On the other hand, the central purpose of the Norris-LaGuardia Act to foster the growth and viability of labor organizations is hardly retarded-if anything, this goal is advanced-by a remedial device which merely enforces the obligation that the union freely undertook under a specifically enforceable agreement to submit disputes to arbitration.

We conclude, therefore, that the unavailability of equitable relief in the arbitration context presents a serious impedimentto the congressional policy favoring the voluntary establishment of a mechanism for the peaceful resolution of labor disputes, that the core purpose of the Norris-LaGuardia Act is not sacrificed by the limited use of equitable remedies to further this important policy, and consequently that the Norris-LaGuardia Act does not bar the granting of injunctive relief in the circumstances of the instant case. Our holding in the present case is a narrow one. We do not undermine the vitality of the NorrisLaGuardia Act. We deal only with the situation in which a collective bargaining contract contains a mandatory grievance adjustment or arbitration procedure.

Nor does it follow from what we have said that injunctive relief is appropriate as a matter of course in every case of a strike over an arbitrable grievance. The dissenting opinion in Sinclair suggested the following principles for the guidance of the district courts in determining whether to grant injunctive relief-principles which we now adopt: A District Court entertaining an action under Section 301 may not grant injunctive relief against concerted activity unless and until it decides that the case is one in which an injunction would be appropriate despite the NorrisLaGuardia Act. When a strike is sought to be enjoined because it is over a grievance which both parties are contractually bound to arbitrate, the District Court may issue no injunctive order until it first holds that the contract does have that effect; and the employer should be ordered to arbitrate, as a condition of his obtaining an injunction against the strike.

Beyond this, the District Court must, of course, consider whether issuance of an injunction would be warranted under ordinary principles of equity-whether breaches are occurring and will continue, or have been threatened and will be committed; whether they have caused or will cause irreparable injury to the employer; and whether the employer will suffer more from the denial of an injunction than will the union from its issuance. 370 U.S., at 228. In the present case there is no dispute that the grievance in question was subject to adjustment and arbitration under the collective bargaining agreement and that the petitioner was ready to proceed with arbitration at the time an injunction against the strike was sought and obtained. The District Court also concluded that, by reason of respondent's violations of its no-strike obligation, petitioner "has suffered irreparable injury and will continue to suffer irreparable injury."

Since we now overrule Sinclair, the holding of the Court of Appeals in reliance on Sinclair must be reversed. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case with directions to enter a judgment affirming the order of the District Court. It is so ordered. BLACK J., Dissenting ... Although Congress has been urged to overrule our holding in Sinclair, it has steadfastly refused to do so. ...

When the law has been settled by an earlier case then any subsequent "reinterpretation" of the statute is gratuitous and neither more nor less than an amendment: it is no different in effect from a judicial alteration of language that Congress itself placed in the statute. Altering the important provisions of a statute is a legislative function. And the Constitution states simply and unequivocally: "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States...." U.S. Const., Art. I. It is the Congress, not this Court, that responds to the pressures of political groups, pressure entirely proper in a free society...

Case Question
1. How did the labor dispute that led to this litigation arise?

2. What are the issues before the Supreme Court?

3. Does the majority believe that the doctrine of stare decisis bars a reexamination of the Sinclair decision handed down in 1962?

4. What guiding principles adopted by the Court are to be utilized by district courts in determining whether to grant injunctive relief?

Reference no: EM131281348

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