MR. JUSTICE JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.
A decision of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has deprived petitioners of an injunction which a lower equity court of the State had granted to prohibit certain picketing by respondent labor union.
Petitioners were engaged in the trucking business and had twenty-four employees, four of whom were members of respondent union. The trucking operations formed a link to an interstate railroad. No controversy, labor dispute or strike was in progress, and at no time had petitioners objected to their employees joining the union.
The equity court held that respondents' conduct violated the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act.
This is not an instance of injurious conduct which the National Labor Relations Board is without express power to prevent and which therefore either is "governable by the State or it is entirely ungoverned." In such cases we have declined to find an implied exclusion of state powers. International Union v. Wisconsin Board, 336 U.S. 245, 254. Nor is this a case of mass picketing, threatening of employees, obstructing streets and highways, or picketing homes. We have held that the state still may exercise "its historic powers over such traditionally local matters as public safety and order and the use of streets and highways." Allen-Bradley Local v. Wisconsin Board, 315 U.S. 740, 749. Nothing suggests that the activity enjoined threatened a probable breach of the state's peace or would call for extraordinary police measures by state or city authority. Nor is there any suggestion that respondents' plea of federal jurisdiction and pre-emption was frivolous and dilatory, or that the federal Board would decline to exercise its powers once its jurisdiction was invoked.
Congress has taken in hand this particular type of controversy where it affects interstate commerce. In language almost identical to parts of the Pennsylvania statute, it has forbidden labor unions to exert certain types of coercion on employees through the medium of
It is true that the Act's preamble emphasizes the predominance of a public interest over private rights of either party to industrial strife, and declares its purpose to proscribe practices on the part of labor and management which are inimical to the general welfare, and to protect the rights of the public in connection with labor disputes affecting commerce.
Also, the Senate Committee, reporting the bill, said:
We are also reminded that this Court, in Amalgamated Utility Workers v. Consolidated Edison Co., supra, at 265, recognized this distinction by saying, "The Board as a public agency acting in the public interest, not any
It often is convenient to describe particular claims as invoking public or private rights, and this handy classification is doubtless valid for some purposes. But usually the real significance and legal consequence of each term will depend upon its context and the nature of the interests it is invoked to distinguish.
Statutes may be called public because the rights conferred are of general application, while laws known as private affect few or selected individuals or localities.
Federal law has largely developed and expanded as public law in this latter sense. It consists of substituting federal statute law applied by administrative procedures in the public interest in the place of individual suits in courts to enforce common-law doctrines of private right. This evolution, sharply contested, and presenting many problems, has taken place in many other fields as well as in labor law. For example, the common law recognized a shipper's right to have a common carrier transport his goods for reasonable rates, and the right was enforceable in the courts.
Even if we were to accept as significant the distinction between public and private rights and regard the national Labor Management Relations Act as enforcing only public rights, the same reasoning would prevent us from assuming that the Pennsylvania labor statute declares rights of any different category. It is true that petitioners sought an injunction to restrain damage to their own business. But the injunction appears to have been granted because the picketing violated the state statute, and neither the statutory language nor the opinion of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court warrants a conclusion that the statute protects private rights, as most authorities would define the term. Passed in 1937, the statute recites that the growing inequality of bargaining power between employers and employees "substantially and adversely affects the general welfare of the State" and that certain practices tend to create "industrial strife and unrest, which are inimical to the public safety and welfare, and frequently endanger the public health." Encouragement of collective bargaining is declared "the public policy of the State." And one subsection reads: "This act shall be deemed an exercise of the police power
This language is comparable, on the state level, to the language in the federal Act. If Congress was protecting a public, as opposed to a purely private, interest, the same could be said of the Pennsylvania Legislature. The State Supreme Court has not said otherwise.
Further, even if we were to assume, with petitioners, that distinctly private rights were enforced by the state authorities, it does not follow that the state and federal authorities may supplement each other in cases of this type. The conflict lies in remedies, not rights. The same picketing may injure both public and private rights. But when two separate remedies are brought to bear on
The detailed prescription of a procedure for restraint of specified types of picketing would seem to imply that other picketing is to be free of other methods and sources of restraint. For the policy of the national Labor Management Relations Act is not to condemn all picketing but only that ascertained by its prescribed processes to
Whatever purpose a classification of rights as public or private may serve, it is too unsettled and ambiguous to introduce into constitutional law as a dividing line between federal and state power or jurisdiction. Perhaps the clearest thing to emerge from the best-considered literature on this subject is that the two terms are not mutually exclusive, that the two classifications overlap,
Our decisions dealing with injunctions have been much concerned with the existence and nature of private property rights, but no case is cited or recalled in which this Court has recognized the distinction between private and public rights to reach such consequences as are urged here. Myers v. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., 303 U.S. 41; Frost v. Corporation Commission, 278 U.S. 515; Cavanaugh v. Looney, 248 U.S. 453; International News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215; In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564; In re Sawyer, 124 U.S. 200.
We conclude that when federal power constitutionally is exerted for the protection of public or private interests,
On the basis of the allegations, the petitioners could have presented this grievance to the National Labor Relations Board. The respondents were subject to being summoned before that body to justify their conduct. We think the grievance was not subject to litigation in the tribunals of the State.
Subsection (a) (3) reads in part: "It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer— . . . (3) by discrimination in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization . . . ." 61 Stat. 140, 29 U. S. C. (Supp. III) § 158 (a).
"(b) Equity procedure that permits a complaining party to obtain sweeping injunctive relief that is not preceded by or conditioned upon notice to and hearing of the responding party or parties or that permits sweeping injunctions to issue after hearing based upon written affidavits alone and not wholly or in part upon examination, confrontation and cross-examination of witnesses in open court is peculiarly subject to abuse in labor litigation for the reasons that—
"(1) The status quo cannot be maintained, but is necessarily altered by the injunction.
"(2) Determination of issues of veracity and of probability of fact from affidavits of the opposing parties that are contradictory and under the circumstances untrustworthy rather than from oral examination in open court is subject to grave error.
"(3) Error in issuing the injunctive relief is usually irreparable to the opposing party; and
"(4) Delay incident to the normal course of appellate practice frequently makes ultimate correction of error in law or in fact unavailing in the particular case." Pa. Laws 1937, 1198, Purdon's Pa. Stat. Ann., 1952, Tit. 43, § 206b.
"It is the purpose and policy of this Act, in order to promote the full flow of commerce, to prescribe the legitimate rights of both employees and employers in their relations affecting commerce, to provide orderly and peaceful procedures for preventing the interference by either with the legitimate rights of the other, to protect the rights of individual employees in their relations with labor organizations whose activities affect commerce, to define and proscribe practices on the part of labor and management which affect commerce and are inimical to the general welfare, and to protect the rights of the public in connection with labor disputes affecting commerce." § 1 (b), 61 Stat. 136, 29 U. S. C. (Supp. III) § 141 (b).