559 F.2d 310 (5th Cir. 1977), 75-2176, James v. Stockham Valves & Fittings Co.

Docket Nº:75-2176.
Citation:559 F.2d 310
Party Name:Dec. P 7842 Patrick JAMES et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. STOCKHAM VALVES AND FITTINGS CO. et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:September 19, 1977
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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559 F.2d 310 (5th Cir. 1977)

Dec. P 7842

Patrick JAMES et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,


STOCKHAM VALVES AND FITTINGS CO. et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 75-2176.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

September 19, 1977

As Corrected Nov. 18, 1977.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Demetrius C. Newton, Birmingham, Ala., Jack Greenberg, Barry L. Goldstein, New York City, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Richard A. Cohen, Phoenix, Ariz., Charles L. Reischel, EEOC, Washington, D. C., for amicus curiae.

John C. Falkenberry, Jerome A. Cooper, John J. Coleman, Jr., James P. Alexander, Birmingham, Ala., for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Before WISDOM, CLARK, and RONEY, Circuit Judges.

WISDOM, Circuit Judge:

This appeal presents issues of segregated facilities and programs that were long ago resolved in the courts of this country. The case also raises issues related to job assignment, transfer, promotion, training, recruitment, seniority, and testing; some of the answers to these questions seem clear, but others are still being formulated by legal processes. All of the issues, the settled and the unsettled, are intertwined.



On October 5, 1966, the named plaintiffs, Patrick James, Howard Harville and Louis Winston, black employees at Stockham's Birmingham facilities, filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") against Stockham Valves and Fittings, Inc. ("Stockham" or "company"), alleging that the company maintained racially segregated facilities; discriminated against black employees in job assignment, promotion, training, and transfer; and employed discriminatory testing, education, and age requirements. The EEOC found "reasonable cause" to believe that Stockham engaged in discriminatory practices and issued the plaintiffs a "right to sue" notice in February 1970.

The plaintiffs brought this class action suit on March 16, 1970, within the thirty-day statutory period, against Stockham under the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The plaintiffs filed an amended charge of discrimination with the EEOC on June 8, 1970, against the United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO ("Steelworkers") and its Local 3036 ("Local" or "Union"), and later amended its complaint by adding the Steelworkers and the Local as defendants. The union defendants are alleged to have violated Title VII and 29 U.S.C. §§ 151 et seq. ("the duty of fair representation"). The district court referred the case to the EEOC for conciliation until June 1973 when the district court granted the plaintiffs' motion to set aside the stay order. The court certified the class represented by the named

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plaintiffs under Rule 23(b)(1), F.R.Civ.P., to include all black hourly production and maintenance employees of Stockham who are currently employed and all black persons who have been so employed at Stockham from July 2, 1965, to the date of trial. The trial was held from February 4 through February 22, 1974.

The district court rendered final judgment March 19, 1975. Relying heavily on the proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law filed by the defendant Stockham, 1 the court found that, except for those segregated facilities maintained by Stockham and resolved in a conciliation agreement between the EEOC and Stockham two weeks before the trial, Stockham had engaged in no employment discrimination. 2 The plaintiffs appeal from the district court's judgment in favor of the defendants. 3



  1. Introduction

    Stockham is engaged in the manufacture of cast iron valves; malleable fittings; bronze, iron and steel valves; and other industrial valves and fittings at its facilities in Birmingham, Alabama. The product diversity and overall capacity of the company have gradually increased since Stockham

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    was founded in 1903. By 1973 Stockham's work force in Birmingham was comprised of more than two thousand employees. Although the district court found that "(h) istorically, approximately two-thirds of Stockham's employees have been black", 394 F.Supp. at 443, the record reveals that the two-thirds figure applies to production and maintenance workers during the years from 1966 to 1973. Approximately 56 percent of the entire work force at Stockham's Birmingham facility was black during that same period, a figure larger than the percentage of blacks in the Birmingham area.

    The district court found that Stockham has a multi-plant complex in Birmingham that is, in effect, six plants in one, comprised of a cast iron fittings plant, a malleable iron fittings plant, a bronze valve plant, an iron valve plant, a steel valve plant, and a butterfly valve plant. That finding is overstated, for at least four of the twenty-two seniority departments at Stockham, valve machining and assembly, electrical, machine shop, and construction, extend over all or virtually all of the "plants".

    The defendant unions, the Steelworkers and its Local, have been the bargaining unit representatives for the production and maintenance hourly employees at Stockham since 1944. A majority of the local union's members have been black since World War II, and a majority of the members of the Local's grievance committee and of its officers have been black since 1967. Plaintiffs James and Winston have been officers of the Local and participated in collective bargaining negotiations. The Steelworkers' staff representative who has aided the Local in contract negotiations is black.

    All the plaintiffs were black hourly employees of Stockham. Patrick James, a high school graduate and a graduate of Booker T. Washington Business College, was hired as a laborer at Stockham in 1950 and twenty-four years later at the time of trial was still working in that capacity. Howard Harville was hired in 1946 and worked as an arbor molder in the grey foundry until 1970 when he retired on a medical disability. Louis Winston was hired as a laborer for the galvanizing department in 1964, was transferred to the electrical department as a laborer in 1965, and in 1971 became one of the first blacks enrolled in the apprenticeship program.

  2. Organization

    1. Departments

      By agreement with the Local, Stockham has maintained a formal departmental seniority system since 1949. There are twenty-two seniority departments. The foundry departments produce the basic materials and molds for Stockham's products (e. g. grey iron foundry, bronze foundry, and malleable foundry); other departments assemble, finish, and machine products (e. g. tapping room and valve machining and assembly); and another group of departments perform maintenance functions (e. g. electrical shop, machine shop, valve tool room, and construction).

      Since 1965 the company has regularly employed approximately two hundred office and clerical personnel. In addition, the work force includes twenty-two non-union, salaried timekeepers. As of June 1973, there were also thirty-two plant guards. The Stockham sales department in Birmingham included twenty-two employees at the time of trial. At that time a total of forty-six salesmen were employed by Stockham throughout the country.

    2. Wage Determinants

      Within each seniority department bargaining unit jobs are divided into twelve job classes in ascending order of hourly wage from JC 2 to JC 13. These classifications reflect the increasingly complex nature of the jobs and the level of skill necessary to perform them. An employee's job classification determines his base pay rate. Other factors such as incentive earnings and merit raises also determine actual earnings. For each job classification there are different gradations of pay for non-incentive employees. Under Stockham's incentive system employees in highly repetitive jobs can add to their base pay if their work

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      output reaches a sufficiently high level. A direct incentive worker's earnings averages approximately twenty-five percent above his base pay rate. Indirect incentive workers provide support services to direct incentive workers and receive incentive pay based on the output of the incentive workers. Non-incentive workers advance from one grade of pay to the next within a job classification if they achieve a predetermined score under a formal merit rating system. Although incentive workers are not eligible for merit pay raises, all employees receive merit ratings from their foremen every six months.

    3. Advancement and Transfers

      The merit scores received by both incentive and non-incentive employees become part of their personnel records; such ratings constitute one of the factors considered in promotion and training selection. 4

      Job vacancies have never been posted at Stockham and the company does not have a formal bidding system. In 1965 Stockham instituted a "timely application" procedure that received a formal blessing in the 1970 collective bargaining agreement. An employee may ask his supervisor to prepare an application on his behalf for any job at Stockham, whether or not a vacancy for that job exists at the time of the application. The application is considered "timely" regardless of when the vacancy occurs. In filling vacancies company officials are not restricted to those employees who have filed timely applications. In practice many promotion and training selections are made in favor of employees who have not filed such applications.

      Stockham administered the Wonderlic Test (discussed later in this opinion) to job applicants and employees seeking promotions and transfers from August 1965 until April 1971....

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