American Constitutional Law: Introductory Essays & Selected Cases

By Alpheus Thomas Mason; William M. Beaney | Go to book overview
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Youngstown Co. v. Sawyer

343 U.S. 579, 72 S.Ct. 863, 96 L.Ed. 1153 ( 1952)

A labor dispute in the steel industry, which began in 1951, resulted ultimately in 1952 in a Presidential order authorizing the Secretary of Commerce to seize and operate the steel mills. The Presidential order was not based on any statutory authority, but rather was premised on the national emergency created by the threatened strike in an industry vital to defense production. Additional details are contained in the opinion. The steel companies then obtained an injunction from a federal district court restraining Secretary of Commerce Sawyer. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to review a court of appeals decision staying the injunction. The Supreme Court acted with unusual speed: it granted certiorari on May 3, heard the argument on May 12, and handed down the decision on June 2, 1952. It should be noted also, that each of the six members of the majority delivered an opinion, and that MR. JUSTICE: CLARK concurred only in the result.

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

We are asked to decide whether the President was acting within his constitutional power when he issued an order directing the Secretary of Commerce to take possession of and operate most of the Nation's steel mills. The mill owners argue that the President's order amounts to lawmaking, a legislative function which the Constitution has expressly confided to the Congress and not to the President. The Government's position is that the order was made on findings of the President that his action was necessary to avert a national catastrophe which would inevitably result from a stoppage of steel production, and that in meeting this grave emergency the President was acting within the aggregate of his constitutional powers as the Nation's Chief Executive and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States. The issue emerges here from the following series of events:

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. Longcontinued conferences failed to resolve the dispute. On December 18, 1951, the employees' representative, United Steelworkers of America, C.I.O., 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

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American Constitutional Law: Introductory Essays & Selected Cases
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