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U.S. Supreme Court


263 U.S. 403

No. 353.

Argued Nov. 22-23, 1923.
Decided Dec. 10, 1923.

Mr. John W. Davis, and Mr. Montgomery B. Angell of New York City, for appellants.

[263 U.S. 403, 405]   Mr. Solicitor General Beck, of Washington, D. C., and Mr. Robert P. Reeder for the United states.

[263 U.S. 403, 409]   Messrs. Pierre A. White, of Cleveland, Ohio, and Mr. I. L. Bradwin, Mr. R. M. Calfee and Mr. A. O. Dickey were on the brief.

[263 U.S. 403, 411]  

Mr. Justice HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a proceeding brought by the United States under the Act of July 2, 1890, c. 647, 4 (26 Stat. 209 [Comp. St. 8823]), to prevent an alleged violation of section 1 (Comp. St. 8820), which forbids combinations in restraint of trade among the States. The defendants are all the manufacturers of handblown window glass, with certain of their officers, and the National Window Glass Workers, a voluntary association, its officers and members, embracing all the labor to be had for this work in the United States. The defendants established a wage scale to be in effect from September 25, 1922, to January 27, 1923, and from January 29, 1923, to June 11, 1923; and the feature that is the object of the present attack is that this scale would be issued to one set of factories for the first period and to another for the second, but that no factory could get it for both, and without it they could not get labor and therefore must stop work. After a hearing a final decree was entered enjoining the defendants from carrying out the above or any similar agreements so far as they might limit and prescribe the time during which the defendant manufacturers should operate their factories for handblown window glass. 287 Fed. 228.

This agreement does not concern sales or distribution, it is directed only to the way in which union labor, the only labor obtainable it is true, shall be employed in production. If such an agreement can be within the Sherman Act at least it is not necessarily so. United Mine Workers of America v. Coronado Coal Co., 259 U.S. 344, 408 , 42 S. Sup. Ct. 570. To determine its legality requires a consideration [263 U.S. 403, 412]   of the particular facts. Board of Trade of Chicago v. United States, 246 U.S. 231, 238 , 38 S. Sup. Ct. 242, Ann. Cas. 1918D, 1207

The dominant fact in this case is that in the last quarter of a century machines have been brought into use that dispense with the employment of the highly trained blowers and the trained gatherers needed for the handmade glass and in that and other ways have enabled the factories using machines to produce window glass at half the cost of the handmade. The price for the two kinds is the same. It has followed of course that the companies using machines fix the price, that they make much the greater part of the glass in the market, and probably, as was testified for the defendants, that the handmakers are able to keep on only by the sufferance of the others and by working longer hours. The defendants say, and it is altogether likely, that the conditions thus brought about and the nature of the work have driven many laborers away and made it impossible to get new ones; for the work is very trying, requires considerable training, and is always liable to a reduction of wages if the machine industry lowers the price. The only chance for the handworkers has been when and where they could get cheap fuel and therefore their tendency has been to follow the discoveries of natural gas. The defendants contend with a good deal of force that it is absurd to speak of their arrangements as possibly having any effect upon commerce among the States, when manufacturers of this kind obviously are not able to do more than struggle to survive a little longer before they disappear, as human effort always disappears when it is not needed to direct the force that can be got more cheaply from water or coal.

But that is not all of the defendants' case. There are not twenty- five hundred men at present in the industry. The government says that this is the fault of the union; the defendants with much greater probability that it is the inevitable coming to pass. But wherever the fault, if [263 U.S. 403, 413]   there is any, that is the fact with which the defendants had to deal. There were not men enough to enable the factories to run continuously during the working season, leaving out the two or three summer months in which the heat makes it impossible to go on. To work undermanned costs the same in fuel and overhead expenses as to work fully manned, and therefore means a serious loss. On the other hand the men are less well off with the uncertainties that such a situation brings. The purpose of the arrangement is to secure employment for all the men during the whole of the two seasons, thus to give all the labor available to the factories, and to divide it equally among them. From the view that we take we think it unnecessary to explain how the present system sprang from experience during the war when the Government restricted production to one-half of what it had been and an accident was found of work well, or to do more than advert to the defendants' contention that with the means available the production is increased. It is enough that we see no combination in unreasonable restraint of trade in the arrangements made to meet the short supply of men.

Decree reversed.

Petition dismissed.

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