Vanderbilt Law Review


Fred Graham

First Page



There is a traditional reluctance on the part of judges to involve the courts in the internal affairs of labor unions. Consequently, a judge will often pause in the course of an opinion adjudicating a union controversy with an aside to the effect that:

"Of course, it is well understood that courts are indisposed to interfere with the internal management of an unincorporated, voluntary association as is here involved. We have held that the right of a voluntary association to interpret and administer its own rules and regulations is as sacred as the right to make them, and there is no presumption against just and correct action or conduct on the part of its supervising or appelate authorities and tribunals. However ...."

By such statements the courts pay homage to the institutional ancestor of the present-day labor unions--the clubs and churches which were governed by the law applicable to voluntary associations. But since the modern union is neither strictly voluntary nor primarily social, very often the courts will follow such a disclaimer by directly intervening in the union's internal affairs.