WASHINGTON, December 4--John L. Lewis was fined $10,000 and his United Mine Workers $3,500,000 today after a rearing courtroom scene in which Lowis challenged the judge to fine him anything he pleased.
The union will appeal, but meanwhile further contempt-of-court action can be taken in the same court if Lewis doesn't call off the 14-day old strike in the soft coal mines, now in government possession.
Federal Judge T. Alan Goldsborough, when Lewis rose and challenged him to fine him any amount, warned the massive-laced AFL, leader not to get in contempt of court again, Lewis, with a lawyer tugging at his coat, sat down.
Goldsborough imposed today's fines for contempt of court because Lewis and the union ignored the judge's order of Nov. 13 to head off the strike.
The judge replaced that order today with a temporary injunction. Thus Lewis is still under orders to end his strike. Continued refusal could bring another contempt charge. Still to be tried is the government's request for a flat judgement that the strike is illegal and must end.
The mild-voiced Goldsborough called that strike "an evil, demoniac, monstrous thing." He said it meant "hunger and cold, and unemployed and democratic government itself, and "If actions of this kind can be successfully persisted in, the government will be overthrown, and the government that would take its place would be a dictatorship."
He declared that the first act of a dic- tatorship would be to "destroy the labor unions."
Goldsborough said quietly--even the lawyers had to strain to catch his words--that "it seems to me this is one of the most serious situations that has ever developed in a republic."
He said he himself was a friend of labor, but "if it becomes a question of the destruction of this union, or the preservation of this republic, the republic is going to be preserved."
Goldsborough said Lewis really ought to be sent to prison. But the Justice Department recommended against a prison sentence. Assistant Attorney General John F. Sonnett, questioned by the judge, frankly said it would "make a martyr" out of Lewis. The judge yielded to this view.
Goldsborough also asked Sonnett what he thought of a continuing fine of $250,000 a day, extending into the future. But Sonnett said the government was not yet prepared to ask such a fine.
It was a day that will occupy an important page in America's labor history and also in legal history. Goldsborough said the case was "unprecedented."
Lewis' lawyers shouted that the sentence was "cruel." Welly K. Hopkins, UMW chiew counsel, made a raging, emotional protest in which he roared that the government, to further the administration's political aims, was seeking to "break the union politically, financially, and morally."
Lewis got up and grasped his hand and as Hopkins' eyes gleamed with tears, Lewis said he subscribed to every word.
It was agreed that if Lewis and the union post bond for their fines and file their appeals by tomorrow at 3 PM (EST), they won't have to pay them until their appeal is decided. In normal course the case would go to the U.S. circuit Court of Appeals here, but federal lawyers have said they would ask that it go straight to the Supreme Court instead