Youngstown Sheet and Tube CompanyVariant names
In this decision, the Supreme Court found that the president of the United States may not order the seizure of basic steel manufacturing plants during peacetime and without Congressional authorization.
On April 8, 1952, President Harry S. Truman, responding to a threatened strike by the United Steelworkers of America (USWA), issued an executive order granting the secretary of commerce requisite power to seize the nation's major steel manufacturing plants. Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer subsequently issued notices to the presidents of the major steel companies informing them that their property had been seized by the United States government and requesting that they perform the function of managing supervisors for the duration of the seizure. In response, the major steel companies, led by Youngstown Sheet and Tube, initiated court proceedings against Sawyer's actions. After a motion to place a temporary restraining order on Sawyer was turned down on April 9, a preliminary injunction was granted by the United States District Court of the District of Columbia on April 25. The injunction was stayed by a Court of Appeals on May 2, pending the decision of the Supreme Court. On June 2, 1952, the Supreme Court handed down its decision, finding the actions of the secretary of commerce unconstitutional.
From the description of Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company vs. Charles Sawyer, United States secretary of commerce : legal documents, 1952. (Cornell University Library). WorldCat record id: 63540674
In the latter part of 1951, a dispute arose between the steel companies and their employees over terms and conditions that should be included in new collective bargaining agreements. Long-continued conferences failed to resolve the dispute. On December 18, 1951, the employees' representative United Steelworkers of America, CIO, gave notice of an intention to strike when the existing bargaining agreements expired on December 31. Thereupon the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service intervened in an effort to get labor and management to agree. This failing, the President on December 22, 1951 referred the dispute to the Federal Wage Stabilization Board to investigate and make recommendations for fair and equitable terms of settlement. This Board's report resulted in no settlement. On April 4, 1952, the union gave notice of a nation-wide strike called to begin at 12:01 a.m. April 9.
The indispensability of steel as a component of substantially all weapons and other war materials led the President to believe that the proposed work stoppage would immediately jeopardize our national defense and that governmental seizure of the steel mills was necessary in order to assure the continued availability of steel. Reciting these considerations for his action, the President, a few hours before the strike was to begin, issued Executive Order 10340. The order directed the Secretary of Commerce to take possession of and operate most of the steel mills throughout the country. The Secretary immediately issued his own possessory orders, calling upon the presidents of the various seized companies to serve as operating managers for the United States. They were directed to carry on their activities in accordance with regulations and directions of the Secretary. The next morning the President sent a message to Congress reporting his action. Twelve days later he sent a second message. Congress took no action.
Obeying the Secretary's orders under protest, the companies brought proceedings against him in the District Court. Their complaints charged that the seizure was not authorized by an act of Congress or by any constitutional provisions. The District Court was asked to declare the orders of the President and the Secretary invalid and to issue preliminary and permanent injunctions restraining their enforcement. Opposing the motion for preliminary injunction, the United States asserted that a strike disrupting steel production for even a brief period would so endanger the well-being and safety of the nation that the President has "inherent power" to do what he had done - power supported by the Constitution, by historical precedent, and by court decisions.
The Government also contended that in any event no preliminary injunction should be issued because the companies had made no showing that their available legal remedies were inadequate or that their injuries from seizure would be irreparable. Holding against the Government on all points, the District Court on April 30 issued a preliminary injunction restraining the Secretary from "continuing the seizure and possession of the plant... and from acting under the purported authority of Executive Order No.10340." 103 F. Supp. 569. On the same day the Court of Appeals stayed the District Court's injunction.
Since the issues raised (1. Should the final determination of the constitutional validity of the President's order be made in a case which had reached only the preliminary injunction stage in the lower courts, and 2. was the secure order within the constitutional power of the president) were constitutional questions which it seemed best to decide promptly. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on May 3 and rendered its decision on June 2, 1952. By a 6 to 3 ruling they held that the President has no authority under the Constitution to seize private property of industry by executive order on the grounds that a work stoppage is imminent as a result of a labor dispute and that continued operation of the industry's facilities is necessary because of a national emergency.
From the guide to the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company. Steel Seizure Case. Records, 1952., (Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Martin P. Catherwood Library, Cornell University.)
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Iron industry and trade|
|Iron and steel workers|
|Petroleum industry and trade|
|Steel industry and trade|
|Steel tube industry|
|Strikes and lockouts|