Benson v. School Dist. No. 1 of Silver Bow County, 1

Citation344 P.2d 117,136 Mont. 77
Decision Date29 June 1959
Docket NumberAFL-CI,B,No. 1,AFL-CIO,I,No. 9908,1,9908
PartiesHilda BENSON, Ethel Blomgren, Mabel Erickson, Sadie Erickson, Inga Hoem, Helen McGregor, Muriel Ralph, Myrtle Stewart, Respondents, v. SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1 OF SILVER BOW COUNTY, James Curtin, Newell Evans, John F. Kingston, Kevin J. Shannon, Harry Robinson, Robert W. Sparks, Thomas J. Stanisich, Constituting the Board of Trustees of Said School Districtutte Teachers Union, Local 332, American Federation of Teachers (), Appellants, Montana Education Association and National Education Association of the United States, American Federation of Teachers, Montana State , Interveners.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana

Maurice F. Hennessey, Robert J. Holland, Butte, Arnold H. Olsen, Helena, appeared and argued orally for appellants.

Wesley W. Wertz, Helena, Henry E. Butler, Jr., Washington, D. C., John Ligtenberg, Chicago, Ill., A. H. Lalime, Seattle, Wash., for interveners.

Frank Burgess, Butte, for respondents.

ANGSTMAN, Justice.

Plaintiffs brought this proceeding in mandamus and for a declaratory judgment to compel the defendant School District to enter into contracts with them and to require the issuance of salary warrants for the payment of the salary schedule designated under what is known as the 'Master Agreement' made and entered into between the School District and the Teachers' Union. They also prayed for a declaratory judgment, declaring that the defendants have no authority to discriminate against plaintiffs or any other teachers who do not become members of the Butte Teachers' Union, and that the provisions of the Master Agreement providing for union security be declared null and void and of no effect. It also sought attorneys' fees.

Plaintiffs are school teachers of defendant School District. They obtained a judgment in their favor upon the pleadings, and defendants and certain interveners appealed.

Since the judgment was entered on the pleadings it becomes necessary to consider the state of the pleadings. The complaint alleges that the plaintiffs are school teachers in School District No. 1 of Silver Bow County; that the defendants are the trustees of that School District; that on the 2nd day of April 1956, the defendant School District approved what it called a Master Agreement which among other things contained the following provisions that 'The single salary principle of equal salary for equal training and experience shall prevail.'

It established a salary schedule for the plaintiffs of $5,100 per year for four of them and $4,900 for the other four. The Master Agreement then contained these clauses:

'(a) All members now employed by the Board, who are not now members of the Union, must become members of the Union on or before the 4th day of September, 1956, and shall maintain their membership in the Union in good standing as defined by the constitution and by-laws of the Union during the term of their employment.

'(b) All teachers now employed by the Board, who are now members of the Union, shall maintain their membership in the Union in good standing as defined by the constitution and by-laws of the Union during the term of their employment.

'(c) All new teachers or former teachers employed by the Board shall become members of the Union within thirty (30) days after date of their employment and shall maintain their membership in good standing as defined in the constitution and by-laws of the Union during the term of their employment.

'The provisions of this Union Security Clause shall be adopted as a Board Rule and shall be a condition of all contracts issued to any teacher covered by this agreement.

'Any teacher who fails to sign a contract which includes the provisions of this Union Security Clause and who fails to comply with the provisions of this Union Security Clause shall be discharged on the written request of the Union, except that any such teacher who now has tenure under the laws of the State of Montana shall not be discharged but shall receive none of the benefits nor salary increases negotiated by the Union and shall be employed, without contract, from year to year on the same terms and conditions as such teacher was employed at during the year 1955-1956.'

The complaint alleges that the plaintiffs are not members of the Butte Teachers' Union Local 332, and that they all signed and returned the contracts to the trustees of the district, but deleted therefrom the provisions that required them to become members of Butte Teachers' Union; that each of the plaintiffs was then advised by letter that their salaries would be at the rates enjoyed by them prior to the making of this contract, which was $300 per year less than the contract price stated in the Master Agreement. This letter after referring to the salary at which they would be retained contained a clause that should the teachers thereafter sign the Master Agreement they should then receive the higher salary from the date of so signing. The complaint alleges that it is above and beyond the powers of the defendant Board of Trustees to compel the plaintiffs to join or belong to the Butte Teachers' Union in order to qualify for and receive the wages, salary and compensation fixed by the Board.

It alleges the failure and refusal of the defendant Trustees to issue to the plaintiffs warrants for the payment of their increased salary though demand therefor has been made. It is alleged that the defendant Board of Trustees did issue to plaintiffs warrants for the lesser salary. It is alleged that plaintiffs entered upon their duties as teachers and have continued to perform those duties as teachers for the School District.

The Montana Education Association and National Education Association were permitted to intervenue and they filed a complaint in intervention in which they alleged that the plaintiffs are members of those organizations; they reiterated the allegations contained in the Master Agreement so far as they relate to the Union Security Clause and alleged that such provisions did not appear in prior contracts between the School District and these plaintiffs. In general they joined with the plaintiffs and sought the same relief which plaintiffs seek.

The American Federation of Teachers was permitted to intervene and it to all intents and purposes promoted the cause of the defendants. Otto Habedank, an attorney at law of Sidney, Montana, was also permitted to appear as amicus curiae. He advanced the cause of the plaintiffs. The Montana State Federation of Labor and the CIO were also permitted to intervene. They unite with the defendants in asserting the validity of the Master Agreement and all its provisions.

All of the material allegations of the complaint are admitted except denial is made of certain conclusions of law drawn from the facts alleged. Defendants denied that they fixed the wages, salary and compensation of the plaintiffs as alleged in the complaint but they did admit that they offered the schedule of rates as alleged but upon condition that the Union Security Clause be also a part of the contract. They allege in substance that when the plaintiffs rejected the Union Security Clause of the agreement that the defendants were obliged under section 75-2401, R.C.M.1947, to employ the plaintiffs on the basis of their prior year's salary and defendants deny specifically that plaintiffs are entitled to have a contract of employment in writing giving them the salary to which they claim they are entitled and allege that they are only entitled to a contract for the salary which they obtained the year previous to the offering of the contract in question here.

Defendants deny specifically that the plaintiffs were compelled to employ counsel and deny that the sum of $5,000 is reasonable compensation to be paid their counsel, and deny that plaintiffs have no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.

So far as material here the answer set up an affirmative defense to the effect that if the plaintiffs are entitled to the increased salary for which they claim, that they may recover the same in an action at law.

In another affirmative defense defendants allege that they are authorized by law to exercise a discretion in fixing the rate of wages and the terms and conditions of employment of the teachers under section 75-1632, and that this discretion may not be controlled by mandamus.

As a further affirmative defense the defendants allege in substance that the defendants executed to plaintiffs checks for the lesser salary in accordance with the requirements of the law, and that the checks were accepted and cashed by the plaintiffs as payment for their services rendered in accordance with the contract of employment.

The court after a hearing rendered judgment on the pleadings granting plaintiffs the relief which they sought. In general the court held that the Union Security provisions of the contract tendered to plaintiffs were null and void as against teachers who have tenure under the laws of the state. It ordered execution of contracts under the salary schedules provided in the Master Agreement.

The court expressly found that defendants appeared and made defense in this proceeding in good faith, and fixed the sum of $2,000 as and for a reasonable attorneys' fee.

One of the main contentions on the appeal is whether the plaintiffs may proceed in mandamus, it being the contention of the defendants that under sections 93-9102 and 93-9103 the writ does not lie where there is a plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, and it is the contention of defendants that such a remedy does exist in the ordinary course of law.

They point out that under section 75-1632, the Board of Trustees has the power and the duty to prescribe and enforce rules for the government of schools under their supervision, and to employ and discharge teachers, and to enter...

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