American Federation of Labor, Railway Employees Department vs. Union Pacific Railroad Company, Hanson et al. Records

Collection Number: 5366

Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library

This collection was processed with the help of generous funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
DESCRIPTIVE SUMMARY

Title:
American Federation of Labor, Railway Employees Department vs. Union Pacific Railroad Company, Hanson et al. Records, 1955- 1956
Collection Number:
5366
Creator:
American Federation of Labor (AFL);
Union Pacific Railroad Company (UP);
Nebraska. Supreme Court.;
Nebraska, Amicus Curiae ;
Florida, Amicus Curiae ;
Mississippi, Amicus Curiae ;
South Carolina, Amicus Curiae;
Virginia, Amicus Curiae ;
Texas, Amicus Curiae;
South Dakota, Amicus Curiae;
Utah, Amicus Curiae
Quantity:
0.5 linear ft.
Forms of Material:
Records (documents) .
Repository:
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
Abstract:
This collection consists of judicial opinions, amicus briefs, and a law journal article relating to a case argued before both the Nebraska State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court. This was a case designed to determine the constitutionality of the union shop provision of the Railway Labor Act. The union shop provision was amended to the act in 1951 [Section 2, Eleventh]. The case was argued before the Nebraska Supreme Court in July 1955, and in front of the United States Supreme Court in October 1955 [No. 451].
Language:
Collection material in English


ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY

The Railway Labor Act [RLA], which applies to employees of interstate rail and air carriers, was amended in 1951 to add a union shop provision [Section 2, Eleventh]. Prior to 1951, the RLA did not have this clause, but rather specified that union membership could not be a requirement to employment nor were union-dues check-offs allowed. This was to curb the possibility of company controlled labor organizations serving as bargaining agents with themselves at the expense of the employees. By 1951, these company dominated unions were no longer a factor, and after lobbying by railroad labor groups, the above mentioned amendment was added to the RLA, empowering unions to enter into union shop agreements with railroad carriers. The amendment to the RLA reads, in part, that labor organizations "shall be permitted...to make agreements, requiring, as a condition of continued employment, that within 60 days the beginning of such employment all employees shall become members of the labor organization representing their craft or class" [Section 2, Eleventh (a)]. In addition to allowing the union shop, the amendment also explicitly stated that this amendment superseded any laws or statutes passed at the local or state level. However, the amendment did not repeal the prior injunction against union shop; it merely superseded it. This is in contrast to the Taft-Hartley Act, which allows individual states to impose more stringent measures against unions. At the time of the amendment to the RLA, there were eighteen states with right to work laws that outlawed union shop agreements; eleven of these were in the South.
In 1953, Union Pacific Railroad Company [UP] entered into a union shop agreement with sixteen labor unions. The plaintiffs, Robert L. Hanson and other non-union employees of UP, sued the company and the labor unions in a district court in Nebraska to halt the union shop agreement because Nebraska has a right to work clause in its state constitution. The plaintiffs argued that in addition to being unconstitutional under the state constitution, they would suffer irreperable injury by being forced to pay dues, fees, and assessments to an organization they were being compelled to join. Conversely, the unions argued that these employees, dubbed "free riders," enjoyed all the benefits the unions achieved for employees through collective bargaining without paying their share of the costs of conducting those bargaining agreements.
The district court judge issued the injunction and in 1954 found in favor of the plaintiffs. The unions appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Nebraska which, in an opinion written by Justice Adolph Wenke, upheld the lower court's decision. The labor unions then appealled the case to the United States Supreme Court.
The United States Supreme Court found the union shop provision of the RLA constitutional. Justice Douglas wrote in his opinion, "We only hold that the requirement for financial support of the collective-bargaining agency by all who receive the benefits of its work is within the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause."
The complete text of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision may be found here.

COLLECTION DESCRIPTION

Inclusive date range: 1955-1956
Bulk date: 1955
This collection consists of the released opinion of the Supreme Court of Nebraska in the case of Hanson v. Union Pacific Railroad Company [160 Neb. 669, 71 N.W. (2d) 526 (1955)], fourteen amicus briefs filed with the United States Supreme Court by various enitities after the suit was successfully appealed, the brief Robert L. Hanson and his fellow individual appellees filed with the Supreme Court, and an article written by J. A. McClain, Jr., dean of the School of Law of Duke University on the ruling of the Supreme Court.
The opinion of the Nebraska Supreme Court was written by Justice Adolph Wenke and found in favor of the plaintiffs. Amicus briefs were filed by other individuals opposed to union shops, organizations that supported right to work legislation, and individual American states and commonwealths that had right to work laws. The organizations represented in the amicus briefs are the American Farm Bureau Federation , the National Right to Work Committee, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, and the Southern States Industrial Council. The states and commonwealths who filed amicus briefs are South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, South Dakota, and Utah; Nebraska, Florida, and Mississippi filed their brief jointly.
SUBJECTS

Names:
Hanson, Robert L., appellee
American Federation of Labor, appellants
American Federation of Labor. Railway Employees Dept., appellants
Union Pacific Railroad Company, appellee

Subjects:
Open and closed shop -- Nebraska
United States. Railway Labor Act.
Railroads. Employees. Legal status, laws, etc. United States.
Railroads, Employees. Labor Unions. United States.

Form and Genre Terms:
Records (documents)


INFORMATION FOR USERS

Access Restrictions:
Access to the collections in the Kheel Center is restricted. Please contact a reference archivist for access to these materials.
Restrictions on Use:
This collection must be used in keeping with the Kheel Center Information Sheet and Procedures for Document Use.
Cite As:
American Federation of Labor, Railway Employees Department vs. Union Pacific Railroad Company, Hanson et al. Records #5366. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library.

RELATED MATERIALS

Related Collections:
5378: M.E. Sandsberry, Jr. et al. vs. Gulf Colorado and Santa Fe Railway Company et al. Records

CONTAINER LIST

Container
Description
Date
Box 1 Folder 1 1955
Robert L. Hanson, et al., appellees v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, a corporation, appellee, Railway Employees' Department, American Federation of Labor, et al., appellants.
Box 1 Folder 2 1955
October, 1955.
Box 1 Folder 3 1955
October, 1955.
Box 1 Folder 4 1955
October, 1955.
Box 1 Folder 5 1955
October, 1955. The States are Nebraska, Florida, and Mississippi.
Box 1 Folder 6 1955
October, 1955.
Box 1 Folder 7 1955
October, 1955.
Box 1 Folder 8 1955
October, 1955.
Box 1 Folder 9 1955
October, 1955.
Box 1 Folder 10 1955
October, 1955.
Box 1 Folder 11 1955
October, 1955.
Box 1 Folder 12 1955
October, 1955.
Box 1 Folder 13 1955
October, 1955.
Box 1 Folder 14 1955
October, 1955.
Box 1 Folder 15 1955
October, 1955.
Box 1 Folder 16 1955
October, 1955.
Box 1 Folder 17 1956
by J. A. McClain, Jr., Dean of the School of Law at Duke University. Reprinted from American Bar Association Journal, August 1956.