Claiming to have been expelled from membership in the International Association of Machinists and its Local No. 68 in violation of his rights under the constitution and by-laws of the unions, respondent, a marine machinist, brought this suit against the International and Local, together with their officers, in a Superior Court in California for restoration of his membership in the unions and for damages due to his illegal expulsion. The case was tried to the court, and, on the basis of the pleadings, evidence, and argument of counsel, detailed findings of fact were made, conclusions of law drawn, and a judgment entered ordering the reinstatement of respondent and awarding him damages for lost wages as well as for physical and mental suffering. The judgment was affirmed by the District Court of Appeal, 142 Cal.App.2d 207, 298 P.2d 92, and the Supreme Court of California denied a petition for hearing. We brought the case here, 352 U.S. 966, since it presented another important question concerning the extent to which the National Labor Relations Act, 49 Stat. 449, as amended, 29 U. S. C. §§ 141-188, has excluded the exercise of state power.
The crux of the claim sustained by the California court was that under California law membership in a labor union constitutes a contract between the member and the union, the terms of which are governed by the constitution and by-laws of the union, and that state law provides, through mandatory reinstatement and damages, a remedy for breach of such contract through wrongful expulsion. This contractual conception of the relation between a member and his union widely prevails in this country and has recently been adopted by the House of Lords in Bonsor v. Musicians' Union,  A. C. 104. It has been the law of California
That the power of California to afford the remedy of reinstatement for the wrongful expulsion of a union member has not been displaced by the Taft-Hartley Act is admitted by petitioners. Quite properly they do not attack so much of the judgment as orders respondent's reinstatement. As Garner v. Teamsters Union, 346 U.S. 485, could not avoid deciding, the Taft-Hartley Act undoubtedly carries implications of exclusive federal authority. Congress withdrew from the States much that had theretofore rested with them. But the other half of what was pronounced in Garner—that the Act "leaves much to the states"—is no less important. See 346 U. S., at 488. The statutory implications concerning what has been taken from the States and what has been left to them are of a Delphic nature, to be translated into concreteness by the process of litigating elucidation. See Weber v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 348 U.S. 468, 474-477.
Since we deal with implications to be drawn from the Taft-Hartley Act for the avoidance of conflicts between enforcement of federal policy by the National Labor Relations Board and the exertion of state power, it might be abstractly justifiable, as a matter of wooden logic, to suggest that an action in a state court by a member of a union for restoration of his membership rights is precluded. In such a suit there may be embedded circumstances that could constitute an unfair labor practice under § 8 (b) (2) of the Act. In the judgment of the
Although petitioners do not claim that the state court lacked jurisdiction to order respondent's reinstatement, they do contend that it was without power to fill out this
If, as we held in the Laburnum case, certain state causes of action sounding in tort are not displaced simply because there may be an argumentative coincidence in the facts adducible in the tort action and a plausible proceeding before the National Labor Relations Board, a state remedy for breach of contract also ought not be displaced by such evidentiary coincidence when the possibility of conflict with federal policy is similarly remote. The possibility of conflict from the court's award of damages in the present case is no greater than from its order that respondent be restored to membership. In either case the potential conflict is too contingent, too remotely related to the public interest expressed in the Taft-Hartley Act, to justify depriving state courts of jurisdiction to vindicate the personal rights of an ousted union member. This is emphasized by the fact that the subject matter of the litigation in the present case, as the parties and the court conceived it, was the breach of a contract governing the
The judgment is
MR. JUSTICE BLACK took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN, with whom MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS joins, dissenting.
By sustaining a state-court damage award against a labor organization for conduct that was subject to an unfair labor practice proceeding under the Federal Act, this Court sanctions a duplication and conflict of remedies to which I cannot assent. Such a disposition is contrary to the unanimous decision of this Court in Garner v. Teamsters C. & H. Local Union, 346 U.S. 485.
In Garner, we rejected an attempt to secure preventive relief under state law for conduct over which the Board had remedial authority. We held that the necessity for uniformity in the regulation of labor relations subject to the Federal Act forbade recourse to potentially conflicting state remedies. The bases of that decision were clearly set forth:
The two subsequent opinions of this Court that have undertaken to restate the holding in Garner, one of them written by the author of today's majority opinion, confirm its prohibition against duplication of remedies. Weber v. Anheuser-Busch, 348 U.S. 468, 479;
The principles declared in Garner v. Teamsters C. & H. Local Union, supra, were not the product of imperfect consideration or untried hypothesis. They comprise the fundamental doctrines that have guided this Court's preemption decisions for over a century. When Congress, acting in a field of dominant federal interest as part of a comprehensive scheme of federal regulation, confers rights and creates remedies with respect to certain conduct, it has expressed its judgment on the desirable scope of regulation, and state action to supplement it is as "conflicting," offensive and invalid as state action in derogation. E. g., Pennsylvania v. Nelson, 350 U.S. 497; Missouri
That the foregoing principles of pre-emption apply to the type of dispute involved in this case cannot be doubted. Comment hardly need be made upon the comprehensive nature of the federal labor regulation in the Taft-Hartley Act. One of its declared purposes is "to protect the rights of individual employees in their relations with labor organizations whose activities affect commerce . . . ."
Assuming that the union conduct involved constituted a § 8 (b) (2) unfair labor practice,
The further recovery of $2,500 damages for "mental suffering, humiliation and distress" serves to aggravate the evil. When Congress proscribed union-inspired job discriminations and provided for a recovery of lost wages by the injured party, it created all the relief it thought necessary to accomplish its purpose. Any additional redress under state law for the same conduct cannot avoid disturbing this delicate balance of rights and remedies. The right of action for emotional disturbance, like the punitive recovery the plaintiff sought unsuccessfully in this case, is a particularly unwelcome addition to the scheme of federal remedies because of the random nature of any assessment of damages. Without a reliable gauge to which to relate their verdict, a jury may fix an amount in response to those "local procedures and attitudes toward labor controversies" from which the Garner case sought to isolate national labor regulation. The prospect of such recoveries will inevitably exercise a regulatory effect on labor relations.
The state and federal courts that have considered the permissibility of damage actions for the victims of job discrimination lend their weight to the foregoing conclusion. While most sustain the State's power to reinstate members wrongfully ousted from the union, they are unanimous in denying the State's power to award damages
The legislative history and structure of the Federal Act lend further support to a conclusion of pre-emption. While § 8 (b) (2) and the other provisions defining unfair labor practices on the part of labor organizations were first introduced in the Taft-Hartley Act, similar conduct by an employer had been an unfair labor practice under § 8 (3) of the Wagner Act, 49 Stat. 452. Committee reports dealing with that provision leave no doubt that the Congress was prescribing a complete code of federal labor regulation that did not contemplate actions in the state court for the same conduct.
Special considerations prompted adoption of a Senate amendment creating an action for damages sustained from one unfair labor practice, the secondary boycott.
Since the majority's decision on the permissibility of a state-court damage award is at war with the policies of the Federal Act and contrary to the decisions of this Court, it is not surprising that the bulk of its opinion is concerned with the comforting irrelevancy of the State's conceded power to reinstate the wrongfully expelled. But it will not do to assert that the "possibility of conflict with federal policy" is as "remote" in the case of damages as with reinstatement. As we have seen, the Board has no power to order the restoration of union membership rights, while its power to require the payment of back pay is well recognized and often exercised. If a state court may duplicate the latter relief, and award exemplary or pain and suffering damages as well, employees will be deterred from resorting to the curative machinery of the
The majority draws satisfaction from the fact that this was a suit for breach of contract, not an attempt to regulate or remedy union conduct designed to bring about an employer discrimination. But the presence or absence of pre-emption is a consequence of the effect of state action on the aims of federal legislation, not a game that is played with labels or an exercise in artful pleading. In a pre-emption case decided upon what now seem to be discarded principles,
And see Guss v. Utah Labor Relations Board, 353 U.S. 1, 6: "The National Act expressly deals with the conduct charged to appellant which was the basis of the state tribunals' actions. Therefore, if the National Board had not declined jurisdiction, state action would have been precluded by our decision in Garner v. Teamsters Union, . . . ."
Then: "United Constr. Workers v. Laburnum Constr. Corp., 347 U.S. 656, was an action for damages based on violent conduct, which the state court found to be a common-law tort. While assuming that an unfair labor practice under the Taft-Hartley Act was involved, this Court sustained the state judgment on the theory that there was no compensatory relief under the federal Act and no federal administrative relief with which the state remedy conflicted." 348 U. S., at 477.
Now: "If, as we held in the Laburnum case, certain state causes of action sounding in tort are not displaced simply because there may be an argumentative coincidence in the facts adducible in the tort action and a plausible proceeding before the National Labor Relations Board, a state remedy for breach of contract also ought not be displaced by such evidentiary coincidence when the possibility of conflict with federal policy is similarly remote." Ante, p. 621.