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U.S. Supreme Court

Buffalo Forge Co. v. Steelworkers, 428 U.S. 397 (1976)

Buffalo Forge Co. v. United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO

No. 75-339

Argued March 24, 1976

Decided July 6, 1976

428 U.S. 397


After petitioner employer's "office clerical-technical" (O&T) employees went on strike and picketed petitioner's plants during negotiations for a collective bargaining contract, petitioner's production and maintenance (P&M) employees, who are represented by respondent unions, honored the O&T picket lines and stopped work in support of the sister unions representing the O&T employees. Petitioner then filed suit against respondents under § 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act, claiming that the P&M employees' work stoppage violated the no-strike clause in the collective bargaining contracts between petitioner and respondents, and that the question whether such work stoppage violated the no-strike clause was arbitrable under the grievance and arbitration provisions of the contracts for settling disputes over the interpretation and application of each contract. Petitioner sought damages, injunctive relief, and an order directing respondents to arbitrate such question. The District Court, concluding that the work stoppage was the result of P&M employees' engaging in a sympathy strike in support of the striking O&T employees, held that it was prohibited from issuing an injunction by § 4 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act because the P&M employees' strike was not an "arbitrable grievance," and hence was not within the "narrow" exception to the Norris-LaGuardia Act established in Boys Markets v. Retail Clerks Union, 398 U. S. 235. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The District Court was not empowered to enjoin the P&M employees' sympathy strike pending the arbitrator's decision as to whether the strike was forbidden by the no-strike clause. Pp. 428 U. S. 404-413.

(a) The strike was not over any dispute between respondents and petitioner that was even remotely subject to the arbitration provisions of the collective bargaining contract, but was a sympathy strike in support of sister unions negotiating with petitioner with neither the purpose nor the effect of denying or evading

Page 428 U. S. 398

an obligation to arbitrate or of depriving petitioner of its bargain. Boys Markets, supra, distinguished. Pp. 428 U. S. 405-408.

(b) Nor was an injunction authorized solely because it was alleged that the sympathy strike violated the' no-strike clause, since, although a § 301 suit may be brought against strikes that breach collective bargaining contracts, this does not mean that federal courts may enjoin contract violations despite the Norris-LaGuardia Act. P. 428 U. S. 409.

(c) While the issue whether the sympathy strike violated the no-strike clause was arbitrable, it does not follow that the District Court was empowered not only to order arbitration but also to enjoin the strike pending the arbitrator's decision, since, if an injunction could so issue, a court could enjoin any alleged breach of a collective bargaining contract pending the exhaustion of the applicable grievance and arbitration procedures, thus cutting deeply into the Norris-LaGuardia Act's policy and making courts potential participants in a wide range of arbitrable disputes under many collective bargaining contracts, not just for the purpose of enforcing promises to arbitrate, but for the purpose of preliminarily dealing with the factual and interpretative issues that are subjects for the arbitrator. Pp. 428 U. S. 409-412.

517 F.2d 1207, affirmed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, BLACKMUN, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and POWELL, JJ., joined, post, p. 428 U. S. 413.

Page 428 U. S. 399

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