During the Korean War, President Truman issued an Executive Order directing Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer to take possession of a number of companies in order to stabilize the steel supply in furtherance of the war effort. Youngstown Sheet & Tube, a steel company embroiled in a labor dispute, was among these companies.

Truman asserted that the labor strife threatened the steady supply of steel crucial to the war effort. Judge David Pine granted the company injunctive relief, holding that the Constitution did not grant the President power to execute such a seizure.

The Court of Appeals stayed the injunction, and the Supreme Court scheduled immediate review. It agreed with Judge Pine that the President lacked authority to seize the facilities because the Executive Order was in substance an exercise of legislative—not executive—power.