American Federation of Labor v. American Sash & Door Company/Opinion of the Court

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United States Supreme Court

335 U.S. 538

American Federation of Labor, et al.  v.  American Sash & Door Company, et al.

No. 27.  Argued: November 8-10, 1948. --- Decided: January 3, 1949.

This case is here on appeal from the Supreme Court of Arizona under § 237 of the Judicial Code as amended, 28 U.S.C. 344, 28 U.S.C.A. § 344 (now § 1257). It involves the constitutional validity of the following amendment to the Arizona Constitution, adopted at the 1946 general election:

'No person shall be denied the opportunity to obtain or retain employment because of non-membership in a labor organization, nor shall the State or any subdivision thereof, or any corporation, individual or association of any kind enter into any agreement, written or oral, which excludes any person from employment or continuation of employment because of non-membership in a labor organization.' Laws Ariz.1947, p. 399.

The Supreme Court of Arizona sustained the amendment as constitutional against the contentions that it 'deprived the union appellants of rights guaranteed under the First Amendment and protected against invasion by the states under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution'; that it impaired the obligations of existing contracts in violation of Art. I, § 10, of the United States Constitution; and that it deprived appellants of due process of law, and denied them equal protection of the laws contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. All of these questions properly reserved in the state court, were decided against the appellants by the State Supreme Court. [1] The same questions raised in the state court are presented here.

For reasons given in two other cases decided today we reject the appellants' contentions that the Arizona amendment denies them freedom of speech, assembly or petition, impairs the obligation of their contracts, or deprives them of due process of law. Lincoln Federal Labor Union No. 19129, American Federation of Labor v. Northwestern Iron & Metal Co., and Whitaker v. State of North Car lina, 335 U.S. 525, 69 S.Ct. 251. A difference between the Arizona amendment and the amendment and statute considered in the Nebraska and North Carolina cases has made it necessary for us to give separate consideration to the contention in this case that the Arizona amendment denies appellants equal protection of the laws.

The language of the Arizona amendment prohibits employment discrimination against non-union workers, but it does not prohibit discrimination against union workers. It is argued that a failure to provide the same protection for union workers as that provided for non-union workers places the union workers at a disadvantage, thus denying unions and their members the equal protection of Arizona's laws.

Although the Arizona amendment does not itself expressly prohibit discrimination against union workers, that state has not left unions and union members without protection from discrimination on account of union membership. Prior to passage of this constitutional amendment, Arizona made it a misdemeanor for any person to coerce a worker to make a contract 'not to join or become a member of any labor organization' as a condition of getting or holding a job in Arizona. A.C.A.1939, § 43-1608. A section of the Arizona code made every such contract (generally known as a 'yellow dog contract') void and unenforceable. [2] Similarly, the Arizona constitutional amendment makes void and unenforceable contracts under which an employer agrees to discriminate against non-union workers. Statutes implementing the amendment have provided as sanctions for its enforcement relief by injunction and suits for damages for discrimination practiced in violation of the amendment. [3] Whether the same kind of snactions would be afforded a union worker against whom an employer discriminated is not made clear by the opinion of the State Supreme Court in this case. But assuming that Arizona courts would not afford a remedy by injunction or suit for damages, we are unable to find any indication that Arizona's amendment and statutes are weighted on the side of non-union as against union workers. We are satisfied that Arizona has attempted both in the anti-yellow-dog-contract law and in the anti-discrimination constitutional amendment to strike at what were considered evils, to strike where those evils were most felt, and to strike in a manner that would effectively suppress the evils.

In National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, 57 S.Ct. 615, 81 L.Ed. 893, 108 A.L.R. 1352, this Court considered a challenge to the National Labor Relations Act on the ground that it applied restraints against employers but did not apply similar restraints against wrongful conduct by employees. We there pointed out, 301 U.S. at page 46, 57 S.Ct. at page 628, the general rule that 'legislative authority, exerted within its proper field, need not embrace all the evils within its reach.' And concerning state laws we have said that the existence of evils against which the law should afford protection and the relative need of different groups for that protection 'is a matter for the legislative judgment.' West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379, 400, 57 S.Ct. 578, 586, 81 L.Ed. 703, 108 A.L.R. 1330. We cannot say that the Arizona amendment has denied appellants equal protection of the laws.


Mr. Justice MURPHY, dissents.

For concurring opinions of Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER and Mr. Justice RUTLEDGE, see 335 U.S. 538, 69 S.Ct. 260.


^1  American Federation of Labor v. American Sash & Door Co., 67 Ariz. 20, 189 P.2d 912.

^2  Ariz.Code Ann. § 56-120 (1939).

^3  Ariz.Sess.Laws 1947, ch. 81, p. 173.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).