405 F.2d 29 (2nd Cir. 1968), 449, Local 1251 Intern. Union of United Auto., Aircraft and Agr. Implement Workers of America, U A W v. Robertshaw Controls Co.

Docket Nº:449, 31955.
Citation:405 F.2d 29
Party Name:LOCAL 1251 INTERNATIONAL UNION OF UNITED AUTOMOBILE, AIRCRAFT AND AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA UAW, Lillian Perugiani, Zephire Lavergne, Pauline Jones, Nunzio Pastore, Jr., Vita Moher, on behalf of themselves and on behalf of other employees similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. ROBERTSHAW CONTROLS COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:June 24, 1968
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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405 F.2d 29 (2nd Cir. 1968)

LOCAL 1251 INTERNATIONAL UNION OF UNITED AUTOMOBILE, AIRCRAFT AND AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA UAW, Lillian Perugiani, Zephire Lavergne, Pauline Jones, Nunzio Pastore, Jr., Vita Moher, on behalf of themselves and on behalf of other employees similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

ROBERTSHAW CONTROLS COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 449, 31955.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

June 24, 1968

         John A. Arcudi, Bridgeport, Conn., for appellants.

         Francis V. Lowden, Jr., Richmond, Va. (Hunton, Williams, Gay, Powell & Gibson and Paul M. Thompson, Richmond, Va., and Buckley, Hilgendorff, Williams & Smith and Philip Hawley Smith, Bridgeport, Conn., on the brief), for appellee.

         Before LUMBARD, Chief Judge, and WATERMAN, MOORE, FRIENDLY, SMITH, KAUFMAN, HAYS, ANDERSON and FEINBERG, Circuit Judges.

         HAYS, Circuit Judge (with whom LUMBARD, Chief Judge, MOORE, FRIENDLY, SMITH, KAUFMAN, ANDERSON and FEINBERG, Circuit Judges, concur):

         This is an action brought by a union and certain of its members on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated to recover damages for breach of a collective bargaining agreement between the union and Lux Clock Manufacturing Company, Inc. The individual plaintiffs, who were employed in Lux's Waterbury, Connecticut plants, were laid off when Lux transferred two departments to its Lebanon, Tennessee plant. They contend that, under the seniority provisions of the 1960 collective bargaining agreement then in force, they were entitled to recall to available jobs at the Lebanon plant.

         The defendant, Robertshaw Controls Company, which acquired all of the assets of Lux in 1961, moved for summary

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judgment in the district court below partly on the ground that the collective agreement did not give the Waterbury employees any rights at the Lebanon plant. The district court granted the motion on that ground. We affirm.

         Lux was a clock manufacturer with plants located in Waterbury and Lebanon, and in Oakville, Ontario. Beginning in 1953 Lux from time to time for economic reasons transferred some of its operations from the Waterbury plants to its plants in Lebanon and Oakville. These transfers resulted in the layoff of a number of workers employed in the Waterbury plants. The transfer involved in this case was the most substantial, requiring the layoff of more than two hundred employees.

         The plaintiff union was certified as the bargaining representative of the employees at the Waterbury plants in December, 1955. In May, 1956 the union and Lux concluded the first of a series of successive collective bargaining agreements. It is the 1960 agreement on which plaintiffs rely in the present case. 1

         Concededly there is no language in the relevant provisions of the 1960 agreement, set forth in the margin, 2 which

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expressly grants to employees of the Waterbury plants seniority rights at plants located outside of Waterbury. Nor does the bargaining history suggest that any of these provisions should be read to include such rights. Despite the pattern of periodic transfers of operations from Waterbury, at no time prior to the negotiations for the 1960 contract did the union request that employees be given severance pay or priority rights at the other plants. A proposal for severance pay was made during the 1960 contract negotiations, but was rejected by Lux.

         In the last analysis, plaintiffs' claim rests entirely on the decision of this court in Zdanok v. Glidden Co., 288 F.2d 99, 90 A.L.R.2d 965 (2d Cir.), cert. denied on this issue, 368 U.S. 814, 82 S.Ct. 56, 7 L.Ed.2d 22 (1961). 3 The Glidden Company decided to close its plant in Elmhurst, New York and to move its equipment to a new and modern plant in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Certain employees at the Elmhurst plant who were laid off as a result of this move brought suit, alleging that the company had breached a collective bargaining agreement by failing to recall them with seniority to available jobs at the Bethlehem plant. The district court construed the seniority provisions, which were similar to those in the present case, as applying only to seniority at the Elmhurst plant and found for the defendant. On appeal, this court reversed, Chief Judge Lumbard dissenting.

         The majority opinion held that seniority rights survived beyond the term of collective agreement, which had expired shortly after the plaintiffs were laid off. The court then turned to the question whether these rights also survived the change in plant location. The agreement recited that it was made by the defendant 'for and on behalf of its plant facilities located at Corona Avenue and 94th Street, Elmhurst, Long Island, New York' but the court refused to give this language controlling significance. Zdanok v. Glidden Co., supra, 288 F.2d at 103. The court said that the burden to defendant of offering employment with seniority to Elmhurst workers at Bethlehem was not great. The court found that 'the reasonable expectations of the parties' would be fulfilled by construing the contract to accord the Elmhurst employees seniority rights at the Bethlehem plant. Id. at 104.

         The decision provoked considerable law review comment, most of it adverse. See, e.g., Aaron, Reflections on the Legal Nature and Enforceability of Seniority Rights, 75 Harv.L.Rev. 1532 (1962); Lowden, Survival of Seniority Rights Under Collective Agreements: Zdanok v. Glidden Co., 48...

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