Parent labor unions are not legally responsible for wildcat strikes by their local affiliates, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
The unanimous opinion severely restricts the ability of employers to collect damages when victimized by such strikes. It also removes an incentive for parent unions to prevent wildcat walkouts.
The court interpreted the Taft-Hartley Act, which governs labor-management relations in the United States, as creating a "shield" for parent unions against responsiblity for the actions of its locals.
The ruling went against the Carbon Fuel Co., which sued the United Mine Workers following 48 unauthorized strikes against the company by UMW locals from 1969 to 1973.
The company argued that the UMW and its district council in West Virginia were obliged to "use all reasonable means to prevent and end unauthorized strikes."
A federal district court originally agreed with that argument and awarded more than $500,000 to Carbon Fuel. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the award and its action was affirmed yesterday by the Supreme Court.
Justice William Brennan, writing for the unanimous court, said the parent union could be held responsible only if it helped cause the wildcat strikes.
But the Taft-Hartley Act imposes no obligation on the parent unions to prevent them, Brennan said.
In other action yesterday, the court:
Agreed to hear the U.S. government's appeal of a $105 million award to the Sioux nation in repayment for land taken by the government in 1877. The U.S. Court of Claims had ruled that the land, on which gold eventually was discovered, had been taken unconstitutionally without proper compensation.
Let stand lower court decisions preventing adopted people from inspecting sealed records that would tell them the names of their natural parents. The lower court ruled that the adoptees had to show some legal necessity, other than curiosity, to see the records.
Agreed to review the death sentence of a Texas man who argued that the exclusion of prospective jurors voicing qualms about the death penalty violated his rights.
Did nothing on the challenge of Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) and others to President Carter's abrogation of the U.S. defense treaty with Taiwan. The treaty expires Jan. 1 unless the court reinstates a District Court ruling that the president's action required the consent of the Senate.
Agreed to consider the question of whether a criminial suspect may challenge his conviction on the grounds that it was based on an illegal search of someone else's property. The government is seeking an end to such challenges, which were approved by the Warren Court in 1960. CAPTION: Picture, JUSTICE WILLIAM BRENNAN . . . Taft-Hartley provides a "shield"