1945 January 8

Supreme Court Strikes Down Texas Restriction on Labor Union Organizing

 

The Supreme Court on this day declared unconstitutional a Texas law that limited labor union organizing by requiring union organizers to obtain an organizer’s card before they could solicit people to join a union. The plaintiff, Thomas, was president of the United Automobile Workers (UAW), and was convicted of speaking at a union organizing meeting without a card. The court, in Thomas v. Collins, declared the law a prior restraint on freedom of speech.

See the landmark Supreme Court decision in Hague v. C.I.O (June 5, 1939) affirming the right of union organizers to attempt to organize unions in Jersey City, New Jersey, and establishing a constitutional freedom of assembly.

The Court: The idea is not sound, therefore, that the First Amendment’s safeguards are wholly inapplicable to business or economic activity. And it does not resolve where the line shall be drawn in a particular case merely to urge, as Texas does, that an organization for which the rights of free speech and free assembly are claimed is one “engaged in business activities,” or that the individual who leads it in exercising these rights receives compensation for doing so.

And: We think the controlling principle is stated in De Jonge v. Oregon [January 4, 1937]. In that case, this Court held that, “consistently with the Federal Constitution, peaceable assembly for lawful discussion cannot be made a crime.” And “those who assist in the conduct of such meetings cannot be branded as criminals on that score.”

Read: Nelson Lichtenstein, State of the Union: A Century of American Labor (2002)

Learn about your right to organize today here.

 

 

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