Senn v. Tile Layers Protective Union, Local No. 5, et al.
Decided on May 24, 1937; 301 US 468


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Union picketing

B. Legal Question Presented:

Do the provisions of the Wisconsin Labor Code, which authorize giving publicity to labor disputes, declare peaceful picketing and patrolling lawful and prohibit granting of an injunction against such conduct, violate, as here construed and applied, the due process clause or equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

Paul Senn owned a small tile laying business in Milwaukee, WI. He worked in it himself, along with one or two helpers. In 1935, he was approached by the Tile Layers Union, and was originally willing to join. Converting his establishment to a union one would have required him to hire only union workers at union stipulated wages. One other stipulation was that he no longer perform manual labor within his operation. This clause was in all other union contracts signed by other companies, and it was there for the protection of union tile layers. However, as Paul Senn argued, he could not afford to quit working, and he refused to sign the union contract.

The Union commenced peaceful picketing outside of his home. Picketing outside employers' homes was lawful under Wisconsin Labor Code Sec. 103-53. Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that union picketing was lawful in this case. Senn appealed to the US Supreme Court.

On appeal the Supreme Court affirmed the State Supreme Court's judgment.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Unavailable Unavailable

C. The Arguments:

ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Unavailable Unavailable

III. AMICI CURIAE:

ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Brief of amici curiae urging affirmance was filed by Francis Biddle, Osmond K. Fraenkel, Lloyd K. Garrison, Nathan Greene, and V. Henry Rothschild, 2nd, filed a brief on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union and the International Juridical Association

Joseph A. Padway argued the cause for appellees.

Leon B. Lamfrom argued the cause for appellant.

IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"Clearly the means which the statute authorizes - picketing and publicity - are not prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment. Members of a union might, without special statutory authorization by a state, make known the facts of a labor dispute, for freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

The statute provides that the picketing must be peaceful; and that term as used implies not only absence of violence, but absence of any unlawful act. It precludes the intimidation of customers. It precludes any form of physical obstruction or interference with the plaintiff's business. It authorizes giving publicity to the existence of the dispute 'whether by advertising, speaking, patrolling any public street or any place where any person or persons may lawfully be' ... Inherently, the means authorized are clearly unobjectionable... The state courts found that the unions observed the limitations prescribed by the statute."

The Supreme Court affirmed the Wisconsin Supreme Court's judgment.

Justice Vote: 5 Pro vs. 4 Con
  • Brandeis, L.D. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Hughes, C. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Stone, H.F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Roberts, O.J. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Cardozo, B.N. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Butler, P. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Van Devanter, W. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • McReynolds, J.C. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • Sutherland, G. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged affirmance of the Wisconsin Supreme Court's Judgment; the Supreme Court affirmed in a 5-4 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.