Giboney v. Empire Storage & Ice Co., 336 U.S. 490; 69 S. Ct. 684; 93 L.Ed. 834 (1949)

Giboney v. Empire Storage & Ice Co., 336 U.S. 490; 69 S. Ct. 684; 93 L. Ed. 834 (1949)

Facts—The ice peddlers union of Kansas City, Missouri, sought to unionize all ice vendors in the city through an agreement with the ice wholesalers to refuse the sale of ice to nonunion peddlers. All but the Empire Ice Company agreed. The union proceeded to set up picket lines around the Empire Company’s place of business and threatened union members with the loss of their cards if they crossed the picket line. The avowed purpose of the picketing was to compel the Empire Company to stop selling ice to nonunion peddlers. A Missouri statute prohibited competing dealers and their aiders and abettors from combining to restrain the freedom of trade.

Question—Does Missouri have paramount constitutional power over a labor union to regulate and govern the manner in which certain trade practices shall be carried on within the state of Missouri?


ReasonsJ. Black (9–0). The Court ruled that the Missouri statute regulated trade one way, and the union adopted a program to regulate trade another way. The state had provided for enforcement of its statutory rule by imposing civil and criminal sanctions. The union had provided for enforcement of its rule by sanctions against union members who crossed picket lines. The purpose of the statute was to prevent trust combinations such as the union sought to compel the Empire Company to enter. The constitutional power to prevent such combinations by a state is beyond question.

“The conditions developed in industry may be such that those engaged in it cannot continue their struggle without danger to the community. But it is not for judges to determine whether such conditions exist, nor is it their function to set the limits of permissible contest and to declare the duties which the new situation demands. This is the function of the legislature which, while limiting individual and group rights of aggression and defense, may substitute processes of justice for the more primitive method of trial by combat.”

The state’s power to govern in this field is paramount, and nothing in the constitutional guarantees of speech or press compels a state to apply or not to apply its antitrade restraint law to groups of workers, businessmen, or others.

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