Petitioners, coal mine operators in southeastern Tennessee, were plaintiffs in the trial court, where their complaint accused respondent United Mine Workers of America of violating the Sherman Act by conspiring with various coal producers to drive petitioners out of business. The major thrust of the claim was that the Union had expressly or impliedly agreed with the major producers to impose the provisions of the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement (NBCWA), first executed by the Union and certain companies in 1950, on all coal mine operators, knowing that small and nonmechanized operators would be unable to meet the contract's terms. The purpose of this alleged conspiracy was to eliminate the marginal operators, control production, and reserve the market for larger concerns. The claim of express agreement rested on the so-called Protective Wage Clause (PWC) added to the NBCWA by amendment in 1958. The PWC, after reciting that the parties agreed that coal mines "shall be so operated as not to debase or lower the standards of wages, hours, safety requirements and other conditions of work, established by this contract," provided as follows:
Petitioners in any event claimed that a conspiratorial arrangement between the Union and the major operators could be implied from the PWC, the course of negotiations between the Union and those operators from 1950 forward,
A panel of the Court of Appeals ruled the trial court had erred in applying the clear-evidence standard but rehearing en banc was granted. The Court of Appeals then agreed with the District Court's construction of the PWC but with respect to the clear-evidence standard, four judges agreed with the trial judge and four disagreed. The latter insisted that the ordinary preponderance-of-evidence standard was applicable in civil antitrust actions against labor unions except with respect to proving the authority of individual members, officers, and agents of
In a section of his opinion entitled "Legal Guidelines," the District Judge inquired as to "the standard of proof that must govern a proceeding involving a Sherman Act charge against a labor union." His answer was: "The burden of proof borne by the plaintiff is not the usual preponderance of the evidence rule applicable in civil cases generally. The requirement imposed by Section 6 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act is that of `clear proof' where a labor organization is a party to an action such as this. . . . That the `clear proof' standard applies to an action wherein a labor organization is sought to be charged with a Sherman Act violation appears settled." 265 F. Supp., at 400. In this and other passages in the trial judge's opinion,
The reasoning of the lower courts in departing from the usual preponderance-of-evidence rule generally applicable to civil actions in federal courts
Judge O'Sullivan cogently observed in the Court of Appeals that: "This is plain language which . . . clearly exposes the Section's limitation." 416 F. 2d, at 667. On its face § 6 is not addressed to the quantum of evidence required to prove the occurrence of the alleged "unlawful acts." It is concerned only with requiring "clear proof" that the person or organization charged actually participated in, authorized, or ratified "such acts." Nothing in the words of the section suggests that a new and different standard of proof was being prescribed for all issues in actions against a union, its members or its officers involved in a labor dispute. The section neither expressly nor by implication requires satisfaction of the clear-proof standard in deciding factual issues concerning the commission vel non of acts by union officers or by members alleged to constitute a conspiracy, or the inferences to be drawn from such acts, or concerning overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy, the impact on the relevant market or the injury to plaintiffs' businesses.
The legislative history of § 6 was reviewed at length in United Brotherhood of Carpenters v. United States, 330 U.S. 395 (1947). We have reviewed it again and we find nothing to suggest that the section means something different from what its language seems to say.
Prior cases in this Court relied on by the courts below are not to the contrary. Carpenters' major concern was § 6. The Court there said that "[t]he limitations of that section are upon all courts of the United States in all matters growing out of labor disputes, covered by the Act, which may come before them." Id., at 401. The statement is unexceptionable—the federal courts, of course, must heed § 6 in all cases arising out of labor disputes in which the section is applicable.
United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715 (1966), insofar as it dealt with § 6, was concerned only with the failure of the evidence clearly to show union responsibility for illegal acts of violence. There was no suggestion in that case that § 6 had broader scope. And § 6 was not even involved in United Mine Workers v. Pennington, 381 U.S. 657 (1965), as it came to this Court. The section was neither cited nor discussed and there were no indications that our passing reference, 381 U. S., at 665, to forfeiture of union exemption from antitrust liability when union connivance with employers is clearly shown was intended to establish a stricter standard of proof in actions charging labor unions with violations of the Sherman Act.
In our view, § 6 requires clear and convincing evidence only as to the Union's authorization, participation in, or ratification of the acts allegedly performed on its behalf. Nor do we discern any basis for our fashioning a new standard of proof applicable in antitrust actions against labor unions. Accordingly, the District Court erred in requiring petitioners' compliance with the standard of § 6 in proving other elements of their treble-damage case against the Union.
Petitioners argue two other matters. We are urged to construe the PWC as itself being an illegal bargain for which the Union is not exempt under the antitrust
Finally, petitioners in effect ask us to reconsider our holding in Pennington and other cases that under the Clayton and Norris-LaGuardia Acts the Union incurs no liability under the antitrust laws when it concludes "a
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, with whom MR. JUSTICE BLACK, MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, and MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL concur, dissenting.
This phase of this protracted litigation involves quite a different problem than the one presented in United Mine Workers v. Pennington, 381 U.S. 657. Pennington involved the question whether § 20 of the Clayton Act, 38 Stat. 738, and § 4 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 47 Stat. 70, under the complaint there made exempted the United Mine Workers from liability under the antitrust laws. That was recognized as the single issue. Id., at 661-666. The Court said, "[W]e think a union forfeits its exemption from the antitrust laws when it is clearly shown that it has agreed with one set of employers to impose a certain wage scale on other bargaining units." Id., at 665.
The question in this case involves not the scope of the exemption but whether the Sherman Act has been violated. As we said in Apex Hosiery Co. v. Leader, 310 U.S. 469, 512, "[A]ctivities of labor organizations not immunized by the Clayton Act are not necessarily violations of the Sherman Act."
A union-employer agreement to force other employers out of business causes the union to lose its exemption. But the fact that a union may be sued under the Sherman Act does not mean that it is necessarily liable. The question in the present case is, indeed, only one phase of the alleged Sherman Act violation. It solely concerns the kind of proof needed.
The Court says that: "On its face § 6 is not addressed to the quantum of evidence required to prove the occurrence of the alleged `unlawful acts.' " I respectfully disagree.
Unions usually act through officers, members, or agents, not as a body. Their liability is therefore vicarious; and Congress was anxious to safeguard, curtail, and limit it. The "clear proof" required was not restricted to "clear proof" of authority to act or "clear proof" of agency or "clear proof" of other "authorization." The "clear proof" was "clear proof" of authority to commit "the unlawful acts." The "clear proof" required was "clear proof" of "actual participation" in the "unlawful acts." The "clear proof" required was "clear proof" of the "ratification" of the "unlawful acts."
Authorization to perform those "unlawful acts" like ratification of them or participation in them must, if § 6 is to be given full vitality, be based on "clear proof" that the union had full complicity in the scheme.
United Mine Workers and BCOA (Bituminous Coal Operators Association) entered into an industry-wide wage agreement in 1958 which provided wage scales for employees of all "signatory operators" of coal lands or leases.
It is argued that this agreement constituted an agreement by United Mine Workers to impose the wage scale on all nonsignatory coal operators in order to force some (including petitioners) out of business. If that was the agreement then, as I said in Pennington (381 U. S., at 674), the union would have lost its exemption. But there is not a word in the agreement, as I read it, that covers nonsignatory operators.
On this issue of the case, Judge Wilson of the District Court ruled:
The action of United Mine Workers officials in agreeing to the wage clause was the action of fully authorized agents. If that is all that the "clear proof" of § 6 requires, the case would be easy. For then it would be immaterial whether "clear proof" of an illegal purpose
Judge Wilson of the District Court and eight members of the Court of Appeals have reviewed the evidence in detail. While they agree that a case against the union has been made out if "preponderance of the evidence" is the test, none has suggested that the "clear proof" test has been satisfied if it is to mean more than "clear proof" of an agency relation.
In United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 739, we spoke of the effect of § 6 in a case where the union is charged with the damages flowing from violence:
If in Gibbs union officials were authorized to talk with employers and to protest certain issues that threatened the union's interests, would the union be liable if the protest became so heated that it erupted into violence? Certainly not. Authorization to use dynamite in the protest would be "clear proof"; authorization to carry dynamite for a lawful purpose would certainly not be "clear proof" of the authorization to use the dynamite to destroy an employer's business.
In the present case, authorization of union officials to use their best efforts to get an industry-wide wage scale
By the same reasoning we should ask here: Was there "clear proof" that the union approved a plan to drive small, marginal operators out of business?
Since on this record no one has suggested that there is such "clear proof," the judgment of the District Court should be affirmed.
In another case, Tennessee Consolidated Coal Co. v. UMW, 416 F.2d 1192 (CA6 1969), the Court of Appeals stated that the Protective Wage Clause was a "quid pro quo" for the foregoing undertaking of the operators which was described by the court as an agreement "to boycott coal not produced in conformity with the national agreement." 416 F. 2d, at 1198.
Yet, as S. Rep. No. 163, 72d Cong., 1st Sess., 19, said respecting § 6: "Opposition to this section has been voiced on the ground that it seeks to establish a `new law of agency.' In the first place, this section is concerned especially with establishing a rule of evidence. There is no provision made relieving an individual from responsibility for his acts, but provision is made that a person shall not be held responsible for an `unlawful act' except upon `clear proof' of participation or authorization or ratification." And see H. R. Conf. Rep. No. 793, 72d Cong., 1st Sess., 6; H. R. Conf. Rep. No. 821, 72d Cong., 1st Sess., 6.