In August 1906 members of Metal Polishers', Buffers', Platers', Brass Molders', and Brass and Silver Workers' International Union of North America (MPBPBS) 13 at the Buck's Stove and Range Co. of St. Louis struck to retain the nine-hour day. Company president James Van Cleave refused to meet with union representatives to mediate the conflict, and the local issued a circular on Aug. 29 announcing that it had placed the firm on the unfair list and that this action had been endorsed by the MPBPBS, the St. Louis Central Trades and Labor Union (CTLU), and the Metal Trades Council of St. Louis and Vicinity. The following spring, the AFL Executive Council voted to place the company on the AFL's "We Don't Patronize" list.
On Aug. 19, 1907, the Buck's Stove and Range Co. filed a bill of complaint in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia (SCDC), asking for an injunction against the AFL's boycott of its products (Buck's Stove and Range Co. v. American Federation of Labor et al.). Associate Justice Ashley Gould granted a temporary injunction on Dec. 18 that took effect on Dec. 23; Chief Justice Harry Clabaugh issued a permanent injunction on Mar. 23, 1908.
The injunctions prohibited the AFL and its officers from interfering with the company's business or boycotting its products or distributors; "from printing, issuing, publishing, or distributing . . . any copies or copy of the American Federationist, or any other printed or written newspaper, magazine, circular, letter or other document or instrument whatsoever, which shall contain or in any manner refer to the name of the complainant, its business or its product . . . in connection with the term 'Unfair' or with the 'We Don't Patronize' list, or with any other phrase, word or words of similar import"; and "from publishing or otherwise circulating, whether in writing or orally, any statement, or notice, of any kind or character whatsoever, calling attention . . . to any boycott against the complainant, its business or its product" (Washington Law Reporter 35 : 809). The AFL appealed to the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia (CADC; American Federation of Labor et al. v. Buck's Stove and Range Co.).
On July 20, 1908, before a decision had been rendered on the AFL's appeal, the company asked the SCDC to adjudge SG, John Mitchell, and Frank Morrison in contempt of court for violating the injunctions. Associate Justice Daniel Wright found the three in contempt on Dec. 23 and sentenced them respectively to a year, nine months, and six months in jail. They appealed to the CADC (Samuel Gompers, Frank Morrison, and John Mitchell v. Buck's Stove and Range Co.) and were released on bail.
On Mar. 11, 1909, the CADC modified Clabaugh's permanent injunction (33 App. D.C. 83 ). The new order prohibited "conspiring or combining" to boycott the Buck's Stove and Range Co. or its products, "threatening or declaring . . . abetting, aiding, or assisting" such a boycott, "threatening, coercing or intimidating" anyone buying or selling the company's wares, or including the firm "in print or otherwise" in any "'We Don't Patronize' or 'Unfair' list" (American Federationist 16 [April 1909]: 325). Both the AFL, which wanted the injunction vacated, and the company, which wanted no modification, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Nov. 2 the CADC affirmed Wright's ruling in the contempt case (33 App. D.C. 516 ), and the AFL also appealed this decision to the Supreme Court.
On Feb. 20, 1911, the Supreme Court dismissed the injunction appeals as moot--Buck's Stove president James Van Cleave having died in 1910 and his successor having resolved the company's dispute with its employees (219 U.S. 581 ). On May 15 the Supreme Court reversed the contempt decision on the grounds that the proceedings, which resulted in sentences for criminal contempt, should have been instituted by the court rather than the company (221 U.S. 418 ).
The Supreme Court's decision left open the possibility that the SCDC could itself take action against SG, Mitchell, and Morrison, and, on May 16, Wright asked the attorneys who had prosecuted the Buck's Stove case--J. J. Darlington, Daniel Davenport, and James Beck--to review the matter for the SCDC. The three formulated new contempt charges and reported them to the court on June 26.
The second contempt trial was held in early 1912, and, on June 24, the defendants were again found guilty and sentenced to prison (In re Samuel Gompers, John Mitchell, and Frank Morrison). They appealed and, on May 5, 1913, the CADC upheld the SCDC's verdict but reduced the penalties, sentencing SG to thirty days in prison and fining Mitchell and Morrison $500 each (Gompers v. United States [40 App. D.C. 293 (1913)]). They then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which on May 11, 1914, overturned their convictions because the new proceedings had not been instituted within the three-year statute of limitations (233 U.S. 604 ).