MACHINISTS V. STREET, 367 U. S. 740 (1961)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Machinists v. Street, 367 U.S. 740 (1961)

International Association of Machinists v. Street

No. 4

Argued April 21, 1960

Set for reargument June 20, 1960

Reargued January 17-18, 1961

Decided June 19, 1961

367 U.S. 740


A group of railroad employees sued in a Georgia State Court to enjoin enforcement of a union shop agreement entered into between a group of railroads and labor unions of their employees under § 2, Eleventh, of the Railway Labor Act, which required all employees to join the union and to pay initiation fees, assessments and dues in order to keep their jobs. The complaint alleged that a substantial part of the money each of these employes was thus compelled to pay was used over his protest to finance the campaigns of political candidates whom he opposed, and to promote the propagation of political and economic doctrines, concepts, and ideologies with which he disagreed. The trial court found that the allegations were fully proved, and that, in these circumstances, the union shop agreement violated the complaining employees' rights under the First Amendment. It enjoined enforcement of the union shop agreement and awarded some of the employees judgments for the money they had been required to pay. The Supreme Court of Georgia affirmed.

Held: The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings. Pp. 367 U. S. 742-775.

1. In Railway Employees' Dept. v. Hanson, 351 U. S. 225, this Court held that enactment of the provision of § 2, Eleventh, which authorizes union shop agreements between interstate railroads and unions of their employees was a valid exercise by Congress of its powers under the Commerce Clause and did not, on its face, violate the First Amendment or the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, but it reserved decision on the constitutional questions presented in this case by the actual application of that section and the union shop agreements entered into thereunder. Pp. 367 U. S. 746-749.

2. Though the record in this case adequately presents those constitutional questions, it is not necessary for this Court to decide the correctness of the constitutional determinations made by the Georgia Courts, because § 2, Eleventh, denies authority to a union,

Page 367 U. S. 741

over the employee's objection, to spend his money for political causes which he opposes. Pp. 367 U. S. 749-770.

(a) A review of the legislative history of the Railway Labor Act leads to the conclusion that the purpose of § 2, Eleventh, is to force employees to share the costs of negotiating and administering collective agreements and adjusting and settling disputes. Pp. 367 U. S. 750-764.

(b) Section 2, Eleventh, denies the unions the power, over an employee's objection, to use his exacted funds to support political causes which he opposes. Pp. 367 U. S. 765-770.

3. The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings, including the fashioning of a more appropriate remedy. Pp. 367 U. S. 771-775.

(a) The union shop agreement itself is not unlawful, and the employees here involved remain obligated, as a condition of continued employment, to make the payments to their respective unions called for by the agreement. P. 367 U. S. 771.

(b) The injunction restraining enforcement of the union shop agreement is not a remedy appropriate to the violation of the Act's restrictions on expenditures. Pp. 367 U. S. 771-772.

(c) A blanket injunction against all expenditures of funds for the disputed purposes, even one conditioned on cessation of improper expenditures, would not be a proper exercise of equitable discretion. Pp. 367 U. S. 772-773.

(d) Any remedy should be granted only to employees who have made known to the union officials that they do not desire their funds to be used for political causes to which they object. P. 367 U. S. 774.

(e) The present action is not a true class action, since there was no attempt to prove the existence of a class of workers who had specifically objected to the exaction of dues for political purposes. Therefore, only those who have identified themselves as opposed to political uses of their funds are entitled to relief in this action. P. 367 U. S. 774.

(f) One possible remedy would be an injunction against expenditure for political causes opposed by each complaining employee of a sum, from those moneys to be spent by the union for political purposes, which is so much of the moneys exacted from him as is the proportion of the union's total expenditures made for such political activities to the union's total budget. Pp. 367 U. S. 774-775.

Page 367 U. S. 742

(g) Another possible remedy would be restitution to each individual employee of that portion of his money which the union expended, despite his notification, for the political causes to which he advised the union he was opposed. P. 367 U. S. 775.

215 Ga. 27, 108 S. E. 2d 796, judgment reversed and case remanded.

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