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UNITED CONSTRUCTION WORKERS ET AL. v. LABURNUM CONSTRUCTION CORP.

decided: June 7, 1954.

UNITED CONSTRUCTION WORKERS ET AL
v.
LABURNUM CONSTRUCTION CORP.



CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA.

Warren, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Burton, Clark, Minton; Jackson took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Burton

[ 347 U.S. Page 657]

 MR. JUSTICE BURTON delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question before us is whether the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947,*fn1 has given the National Labor Relations Board such exclusive jurisdiction over the subject matter of a common-law tort action for damages as to preclude an appropriate state court from hearing and determining its issues where such conduct constitutes an unfair labor practice under that Act. For the reasons hereafter stated, we hold that it has not.

November 16, 1949, Laburnum Construction Corporation, a Virginia corporation, respondent herein, filed a notice of motion for judgment in the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond, Virginia, against petitioners United Construction Workers, affiliated with United Mine Workers of America; District 50, United Mine Workers of America; and United Mine Workers of America. The proceeding was a common-law tort action for compensatory and punitive damages totaling $500,000. The notice contained substantially the following allegations: While respondent was performing construction work in Breathitt County, Kentucky, under contracts with Pond Creek Pocahontas Company and others, July

[ 347 U.S. Page 65826]

     -August 4, 1949, agents of the respective petitioners came there. They demanded that respondent's employees join the United Construction Workers and that respondent recognize that organization as the sole bargaining agent for respondent's employees on the project. They added that, if respondent and its employees did not comply, respondent would not be allowed to continue its work. Upon respondent's refusal and that of many of its employees to yield to such demands, petitioners' agents threatened and intimidated respondent's officers and employees with violence to such a degree that respondent was compelled to abandon all its projects in that area. The notice further alleged that, as the result of this conduct of petitioners' agents, respondent was deprived of substantial profits it otherwise would have earned on those and other projects. After trial, a jury found petitioners jointly and severally liable to respondent for $175,437.19 as compensatory damages, and $100,000 as punitive damages, making a total of $275,437.19.

Petitioners moved for a new trial claiming numerous errors of law, and for a dismissal on the ground that the Labor Management Relations Act had deprived the court of its jurisdiction over the subject matter. Both motions were overruled and the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia granted a writ of error and supersedeas. After argument, it struck out $146,111.10 of the compensatory damages and affirmed the judgment for the remaining $129,326.09. 194 Va. 872, 75 S. E. 2d 694. Because of the importance of the jurisdictional issue to the enforcement of common-law rights and to the administration of the Labor Management Relations Act, we granted certiorari limited to the following question:

"'In view of the type of conduct found by the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia to have been carried out by Petitioners, does the National Labor

[ 347 U.S. Page 659]

     Relations Board have exclusive jurisdiction over the subject matter so as to preclude the State Court from hearing and determining the issues in a common-law tort action based upon this conduct?'" 346 U.S. 936.*fn2

We are concerned only with the above-stated jurisdictional question. We accept the view of the National Labor Relations Board that respondent's activities affect interstate commerce within the meaning of the Labor Management Relations Act.*fn3 The "type of conduct found by the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia" is

[ 347 U.S. Page 660]

     set out in the margin.*fn4 Although the notice for judgment does not mention the Labor Management Relations Act or unfair labor practices as such, we assume the conduct

[ 347 U.S. Page 661]

     before us also constituted an unfair labor practice within the following provisions of that Act:

"SEC. 8. . . .

"(b) It shall be an unfair labor practice for a labor ...


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