Friday, November 14, 2008

Court Addressed Scope of General Laws of the State

The main question here presented is as to whether this ordinance is in conflict with the existing law and the declared public policy of the state, and as to whether this field of legislation has been sufficiently covered by the state to make such local legislation invalid. The appellants argue from certain cases involving such matters as licenses, permits, filing of claims, eminent domain and compensation of elective officers, that there is no occupation of the field by the state unless the legislature has adopted a detailed scheme completely covering the entire field; that this state has adopted no detailed or comprehensive regulation of collective bargaining or of relations between unions and management; that the holding in the Shafer case, supra, is based on the common law rather than on statute; and that it follows that the field of right to work legislation has not been occupied by the general laws of this state. There are many statutes in this state regulating collective bargaining and governing the relations between unions and management, in addition to the Labor Code. All of those statutes and provisions should be considered in determining whether the state has so occupied the field as to make this local ordinance invalid. As the court said in Wilson v. Beville:

Determination of the question whether the Legislature has undertaken to occupy exclusively a given field of legislation depends upon an analysis of the statute and a consideration of the facts and circumstances upon which it was intended to operate. Where the Legislature has adopted statutes governing a particular subject matter, its intent with regard to occupying the field to the exclusion of all local regulations is not to be measured alone by the language used but by the whole purpose and scope of the legislative scheme.

There is a direct conflict between the public policy of the state as declared in section 923 of the Labor Code and the public policy of the city, as declared in this ordinance. The public policy of the state as thus declared is to leave the negotiation of terms and conditions of labor entirely to voluntary agreement, and that individual workmen shall have complete freedom in negotiating with respect to such terms and conditions of employment. The public policy of the city as so declared is to do away with voluntary agreement insofar as a closed shop is concerned, and to limit the workman's freedom in negotiating with respect to that part of the terms and conditions of employment. Some of the provisions of this ordinance would appear to be similar in effect to some of the provisions found in the Labor Code, but when viewed as a whole the ordinance clearly is an attempt to cover in a different way the same field as that covered by the statutes. As interpreted by the Supreme Court in Shafer v. Registered Pharmacists Union, those sections of the Labor Code do not place any restraint upon the efforts of workers to secure a closed shop contract from an employer. It was also held in that case that the validity of closed shop contracts has been recognized by the courts of this state for many years, and that the legislature by its enactment of other provisions of the Labor Code has shown its approval of the propriety of such contracts. It would reasonably seem that decisions of the Supreme Court, and the law of the state thereby established, are a part of the facts and circumstances which should be considered by a lower court in determining whether a particular field of legislation has been occupied by the state. While there is no statute in this state expressly authorizing or prohibiting a closed shop agreement it rather clearly appears from the decision in the Shafer case and in other cases that this particular field has been sufficiently covered by state law, and no room is left for such local legislation as that here in question with respect to that particular subject and field of activity. In view of the now existing state law it would be mere sophistry to say that, because the state has not by statute expressly declared closed shop contracts to be unlawful or expressly authorized them, it has not covered that field and that this city is therefore free to make such contracts illegal. The statutory declaration of public policy by the state that negotiations of terms and conditions of labor shall be left to a voluntary agreement between the parties has an affirmative effect, and it cannot reasonably be said that the state has taken no action with respect to the matter of closed shop agreements, leaving that field open for local legislation. Under state statutes, as presently interpreted by the Supreme Court, the public policy and laws of the state permit the making of closed shop contracts and the efforts of workers or their representative to secure such contracts from employers, and in a real and practical sense this local legislation forbidding the making of such contracts conflicts with and is contrary to existing state public policy and law.

For related case law see Invalid Municipal Law Would Be Valid if State Law; Statute of Frauds; and Friedman v. Tappan Development Corp.