MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.
The petitioner and the respondent (which we shall call the union and the employer) were parties to a collective bargaining contract within the purview of the National Labor Relations Act. The contract contained the following provisions, among others:
In the meantime, the employer had brought this suit against the union in the Superior Court of King County, Washington, asking damages for business losses caused by the strike. After a trial that court entered a judgment in favor of the employer in the amount of $6,501.60.
We note at the outset a question as to our jurisdiction. Although the judgment before us has been certified as that of the Supreme Court of Washington, this case was actually heard and decided by Department One of that court, consisting of five of the nine members of the full court. Since the union could have filed a petition for rehearing en banc but did not do so, the argument is made that the judgment before us was not "rendered by the highest court of a State in which a decision could be had," and that the judgment is one we therefore have no power to review. 28 U. S. C. § 1257. This argument primarily rests upon Gorman v. Washington University, 316 U.S. 98, which held that, in view of the structure of Missouri's judicial system, a separate division of the Supreme Court of that State was not the highest state court in which a decision of a federal question could be had.
By contrast, a rehearing en banc before the Supreme Court of Washington is not granted as a matter of right. The Constitution and statutes of the State of Washington authorize its Supreme Court to sit in two Departments, each of which is empowered "to hear and determine causes, and all questions arising therein."
We can discern in Washington's system no indication that the decision in the present case, rendered unanimously
One of those issues—whether § 301 (a) of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 deprives state courts of jurisdiction over litigation such as this—we have decided this Term in Charles Dowd Box Co. v. Courtney, 368 U.S. 502. For the reasons stated in our opinion in that case, we hold that the Washington Supreme Court was correct in ruling that it had jurisdiction over this controversy.
In Dowd Box we proceeded upon the hypothesis that state courts would apply federal law in exercising jurisdiction over litigation within the purview of § 301 (a), although in that case there was no claim of any variance in relevant legal principles as between the federal law and that of Massachusetts. In the present case, by contrast, the Washington court held that there was nothing in § 301 "limiting the substantive law to be applied," and the court accordingly proceeded to dispose of this litigation exclusively in terms of local contract law. The union insists that the case was one to be decided by reference to federal law, and that under applicable principles of national labor law the strike was not a violation of the collective bargaining contract. We hold that in a case such as this, incompatible doctrines of local law must give way to principles of federal labor law.
It was apparently the theory of the Washington court that, although Textile Workers Union v. Lincoln Mills, 353 U.S. 448, requires the federal courts to fashion, from the policy of our national labor laws, a body of federal law for the enforcement of collective bargaining agreements, nonetheless, the courts of the States remain free to apply individualized local rules when called upon to enforce such agreements. This view cannot be accepted. The dimensions of § 301 require the conclusion that substantive principles of federal labor law must be paramount in the area covered by the statute. Comprehensiveness is inherent in the process by which the law is to be formulated under the mandate of Lincoln Mills, requiring issues raised in suits of a kind covered by § 301 to be decided according to the precepts of federal labor policy.
More important, the subject matter of § 301 (a) "is peculiarly one that calls for uniform law." Pennsylvania R. Co. v. Public Service Comm'n, 250 U.S. 566, 569; see Cloverleaf Butter Co. v. Patterson, 315 U.S. 148, 167-169. The possibility that individual contract terms might have different meanings under state and federal law would inevitably exert a disruptive influence upon both the negotiation and administration of collective agreements. Because neither party could be certain of the rights which it had obtained or conceded, the process of negotiating an agreement would be made immeasurably more difficult by the necessity of trying to formulate contract provisions in such a way as to contain the same meaning under two or more systems of law which might someday be invoked in enforcing the contract. Once the collective bargain was
The importance of the area which would be affected by separate systems of substantive law makes the need for a single body of federal law particularly compelling. The ordering and adjusting of competing interests through a process of free and voluntary collective bargaining is the keystone of the federal scheme to promote industrial peace. State law which frustrates the effort of Congress to stimulate the smooth functioning of that process thus strikes at the very core of federal labor policy. With due regard to the many factors which bear upon competing state and federal interests in this area, California v. Zook, 336 U.S. 725, 730-731; Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U.S. 218, 230-231, we cannot but conclude that in enacting § 301 Congress intended doctrines of federal labor law uniformly to prevail over inconsistent local rules.
Whether, as a matter of federal law, the strike which the union called was a violation of the collective bargaining contract is thus the ultimate issue which this case presents. It is argued that there could be no violation in the absence of a no-strike clause in the contract
The collective bargaining contract expressly imposed upon both parties the duty of submitting the dispute in question to final and binding arbitration.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK, dissenting.
The petitioner local union and the respondent company entered into a written collective bargaining agreement containing an express provision for the arbitration of disputes growing out of differences as to the proper application of the agreement in the following terms:
The Court now finds—out of clear air, so far as I can see— that the union, without saying so in the agreement, not only agreed to arbitrate such differences, but also promised that there would be no strike while arbitration of a dispute was pending under this provision. And on the
That the Court's decision actually vacates and amends the contract that the parties themselves had made and signed is shown, I think, by the very face of that original contract. The arbitration provision covering disputes growing out of the application of the contract immediately follows another quite different arbitration provision —one covering disputes "as to the true interpretation of this agreement" in the following terms:
In view of the fact that this latter provision contains an explicit promise by the union "that during such arbitration, there shall be no suspension of work," it seems to me plain that the parties to this contract, knowing how to write a provision binding a union not to strike, deliberately included a no-strike clause with regard to disputes over broad questions of contractual interpretation and deliberately excluded such a clause with regard to the essentially factual disputes arising out of the application of the contract in particular instances. And there is not a word anywhere else in this agreement which indicates that this perfectly sensible contractual framework for handling these two different kinds of disputes was not
The defense offered for the Court's rewriting of the contract which the parties themselves made is that to allow the parties' own contract to stand "would obviously do violence to accepted principles of traditional contract law" and "be completely at odds with the basic policy of national labor legislation to promote the arbitral process." I had supposed, however—though evidently the Court thinks otherwise—that the job of courts enforcing contracts was to give legal effect to what the contracting parties actually agree to do, not to what courts think they ought to do. In any case, I have been unable to find any accepted principle of contract law—traditional or otherwise—that permits courts to change completely the nature of a contract by adding new promises that the parties themselves refused to make in order that the new court-made contract might better fit into whatever social, economic, or legal policies the courts believe to be so important that they should have been taken out of the realm of voluntary contract by the legislative body and furthered by compulsory legislation.
The mere fact that the dispute which brought about this strike was subject to "final and binding" arbitration under this contract certainly does not justify the conclusion that the union relinquished its right to strike in support of its position on that dispute. The issue here involves, not the nature of the arbitration proceeding, but the question of whether the union, by agreeing to arbitrate, has given up all other separate and distinct methods of getting its way. Surely, no one would suggest that a provision for final and binding arbitration would preclude a union from attempting to persuade an employer to forego action the union was against, even where that action was fully within the employer's rights under the contract. The same principle supports the right of the
The additional burden placed upon the union by the Court's writing into the agreement here a promise not to strike is certainly not a matter of minor interest to this employer or to the union. The history of industrial relations in this country emphasizes the great importance to unions of the right to strike as well as an understandable desire on the part of employers to avoid such work stop-pages. Both parties to collective bargaining discussions have much at stake as to whether there will be a no-strike clause in any resulting agreement. It is difficult to believe that the desire of employers to get such a promise and the desire of the union to avoid giving it are matters which are not constantly in the minds of those who negotiate these contracts. In such a setting, to hold—on the basis of no evidence whatever—that a union, without knowing it, impliedly surrendered the right to strike by virtue of "traditional contract law" or anything else is to me just fiction. It took more than 50 years for unions to have written into federal legislation the principle that they have a right to strike. I cannot understand how anyone familiar with that history can allow that legislatively recognized right to be undercut on the basis of the attenuated implications the Court uses here.
I do not mean to suggest that an implied contractual promise cannot sometimes be found where there are facts and circumstances sufficient to warrant the conclusion
I agree that the Taft-Hartley Act shows a congressional purpose to treat collective bargaining contracts and agreements for arbitration in them as one important way of insuring stability in industrial production and labor relations. But the fact that we may agree, as I do, that these settlements by arbitration are desirable is no excuse whatever for imposing such "contracts," either to compel arbitration or to forbid striking, upon unwilling parties. That approach is certainly contrary to the industrial and labor philosophy of the Taft-Hartley Act. Whatever else may be said about that Act, it seems plain that it was enacted on the view that the best way to bring about industrial peace was through voluntary, not compelled, labor agreements. Section 301 is torn from its roots when it is held to require the sort of compulsory arbitration imposed by this decision. I would reverse this case and relegate this controversy to the forum in which it belongs—the collective bargaining table.
Revised Code of Washington, § 2.04.120, provides:
"Two departments—Quorum. There shall be two departments of the supreme court, denominated respectively department one and department two. The chief justice shall assign four of the associate judges to each department and such assignment may be changed by him from time to time: Provided, That the associate judges shall be competent to sit in either department and may interchange with one another by agreement among themselves, or if no such agreement be made, as ordered by the chief justice. The chief justice may sit in either department and shall preside when so sitting, but the judges assigned to each department shall select one of their number as presiding judge. Each of the departments shall have the power to hear and determine causes, and all questions arising therein, subject to the provisions in relation to the court en banc. The presence of three judges shall be necessary to transact any business in either of the departments, except such as may be done at chambers, but one or more of the judges may from time to time adjourn to the same effect as if all were present, and a concurrence of three judges shall be necessary to pronounce a decision in each department: Provided. That if three do not concur, the cause shall be reheard in the same department or transmitted to the other department, or to the court en banc."
"Apportionment of business—En banc hearings. The chief justice shall from time to time apportion the business to the departments, and may, in his discretion, before a decision is pronounced, order any cause pending before the court to be heard and determined by the court en banc. When a cause has been allotted to one of the departments and a decision pronounced therein, the chief justice, together with any two associate judges, may order such cause to be heard and decided by the court en banc. Any four judges may, either before or after decision by a department, order a cause to be heard en banc."
"Finality of departmental decision—Rehearings. The decision of a department, except in cases otherwise ordered as hereinafter provided, shall not become final until thirty days after the filing thereof, during which period a petition for rehearing, or for a hearing en banc, may be filed, the filing of either of which, except as hereinafter otherwise provided, shall have the effect of suspending such decision until the same shall have been disposed of. If no such petition be filed the decision of a department shall become final thirty days from the date of its filing, unless during such thirty-day period an order for a hearing en banc shall have been made: . . . . Whenever a decision shall become final, as herein provided, a judgment shall issue thereon."