Commercial Can Corp. v. Local 810, Steel Metal, Alloys and Hardware Fabricators and Warehousemen, Intern. Broth. of Teamsters

CourtNew Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
Citation61 N.J.Super. 369,160 A.2d 855
Docket NumberNo. A--340,A--340
Decision Date12 May 1960

Page 369

61 N.J.Super. 369
160 A.2d 855
COMMERCIAL CAN CORP., a New Jersey corporation, Plaintiff-Respondent,
TEAMSTERS, et al., Defendants-Appellants.
No. A--340.
Superior Court of New Jersey
Appellate Division.
Argued March 21, 1960.
Decided May 12, 1960.

Page 371

[160 A.2d 856] Thomas L. Parsonnet, Newark, argued the cause for defendants-appellants (Parsonnet, Weitzman & Oransky, Newark, attorneys).

Charles E. Villanueva, Newark, argued the cause for plaintiff-respondent (Van Riper & Belmont, Newark, attorneys).


The opinion of the court was delivered by


Defendants are a labor union and certain of its officers and agents. Plaintiff corporation is a manufacturer whose plant is situated in Newark. Together with Fein's Tin Can Co. Inc. and Atlas Can Co., both of New York City, plaintiff is a wholly owned subsidiary of U.S. Hoffman Machinery Corp. The union is the collective bargaining agent of the employees of all three concerns, which are under common management and supervision.

At the time of institution of this action, December 7, 1959, there was in effect a collective bargaining agreement between plaintiff and the union which was due to expire January 31, 1960. A separate agreement covering the New York plants had expired some time previously and a strike was instituted by their employees against the New York companies because of the failure of negotiation of a new

Page 372

labor contract. Thereupon a number of the New York employees were assigned to the Newark plant. Defendants say this was done to assist the New York plants by handling some of the production the New York concerns were unable to effect because of their strike. No finding as to this was made by the trial court. Testimony relevant to this matter by plaintiff's general manager was equivocal. Regarding this procedure as bringing the plaintiff to the aid of the New York enterprises in their economic struggle with the union, the latter sent representatives from New York to picket the Newark factory notwithstanding that in its labor contract with plaintiff, still in effect, it agreed there would be no strikes, work stoppages, picketing or secondary boycotts, etc. and that the union would be liable in law and equity for a breach of such provisions.

In its verified complaint, seeking both an injunction and damages, plaintiff recited, Inter alia, that defendants were attempting to prevent plaintiff's employees from working and advising them not to work. It sought an injunction against the 'aforesaid [160 A.2d 857] interference with business, work stoppage * * * picketing * * * and all other activities of the defendants.'

On December 7, 1959 a judge of the Chancery Division issued a temporary restraint against defendants on the basis of Ex parte affidavits; heard the parties on an order to show cause the following day; and on December 11 entered a restraining order 'until further order of Court' enjoining them from 'picketing, boycotting, striking, displaying any signs regarding plaintiff, or in any way interfering with the operation of the business of plaintiff and prohibiting defendants from contacting, soliciting, or in any manner dealing with any business customers of plaintiff, and enjoining and restraining defendants from coming within one mile of plaintiff's plant * * *.' The court found that 'the defendant union is engaged in picketing the plaintiff in support of its current strike against' the New York companies but 'that there is at present no labor dispute

Page 373

shown by the record between plaintiff and defendants.' The issuance of the injunction was not preceded or attended by any of the procedural requisites or findings specified by the Anti-Injunction Act (N.J.S. 2A:15--51 to 58, N.J.S.A.) or by the filing of the bond for costs required by section 53. The restraining order recites that the cited statutory provisions 'do not apply' because the record does not 'establish that (a) labor dispute exists between the plaintiff and the defendants.'

Defendants petitioned the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey for removal of the cause on December 16, 1959. This was denied, insofar as the cause of action for an injunction was concerned, on the ground that there could be no removal thereof to the federal court since the federal court lacked initial jurisdiction and the state court lacked any jurisdiction over that feature of the controversy, the subject matter being 'federally pre-empted' by the provisions of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947 (Taft-Hartley), 29 U.S.C. Sec. 141 et seq., because of the implication of an unfair labor practice in the controversy under the fact-findings by the state court.

This court subsequently granted leave to appeal from the restraining order. Several contempt orders against various of the individual defendants have been issued in the interim.

Defendants urge two main grounds of appeal from the injunction: (1) the state courts have been excluded from jurisdiction over the unfair labor practices contended to inhere in this controversy (29 U.S.C. Sec. 158(b)(4)(A)) by virtue of section 10 of the Taft-Hartley Act, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 160, as construed in a series of controlling federal decisions culminating in San Diego Bldg. Trades Council, etc. v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 79 S.Ct. 773, 3 L.Ed.2d 775 (1959); (2) the case involved or arose from a labor dispute within the scope of the New Jersey Anti-Injunction Act, and the injunction was illegal because concededly not obtained in conformity with the mandatory procedural requirements of that statute. See United States Pipe, etc.,

Page 374

Co. v. United Steelworkers of America, 59 N.J.Super. 240, 157 A.2d 542 (App.Div.1960). Defendants also object to the unreasonableness of the scope of the restraints.

The first of these questions is one of uncommon complexity and difficulty as applied to the precise problem here presented--an employer's right to a state court injunction against a union's breach of a collective bargaining agreement where such conduct may also be reasonably contended to constitute an unfair labor practice under the Taft-Hartley Act. Cf. McCarroll v. Los Angeles County, D.C. of C., 49 Cal.2d 45, 315 P.2d 322 (Sup.Ct.1957). Neither our own courts nor the United States Supreme Court have yet passed upon the specific issue. We have decided to avoid resolution of the question as we are fully satisfied that the restraint was improper in any event as in contravention of the requirements of the New Jersey Anti-Injunction Act cited above.

[160 A.2d 858] Plaintiff urges that the issue is now moot as the labor contract between the parties has expired, plaintiff's employees have gone on strike, and the restraint is presumably vacatable as of course since there is no subsisting contract between the parties. Defendants counter that the invalidity of the restraint when issued will affect pending contempt proceedings and bear upon the union's right to allowance of a counsel fee under N.J.S. 2A:15--53, N.J.S.A. Without implying any view as to the merits of these assertions we think a determination of this appeal is shown to be at least debatably germane to such prospective questions. Moreover, the question as to the scope of the Anti-Injunction Act in this context is one of considerable general concern. We shall therefore proceed to determine the appeal.

Plaintiff, as noted, takes the position that no 'labor dispute' was involved here within the meaning of the Anti-Injunction Act and that its procedural requirements are therefore not applicable. Its reasoning is summarized in its brief as follows:

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'In its complaint plaintiff alleged that it had been advised of no dispute by the aforesaid Local 810, or by any of its members, or by any of plaintiff's employees. The record is void of any labor dispute between plaintiff corporation and defendant Local 810. There was no dispute between them regarding the rates of pay, conditions of employment, or any other matters related thereto. The picketing, which was not done for the purpose of obtaining any relief from the plaintiff, could properly be characterized as 'blackmail picketing' in that there was no demand for any relief against the plaintiff corporation. * * *'

But it does not follow that because the union was not yet complaining concerning existing rates of pay or conditions of employment at Newark it was therefore not in a dispute with plaintiff or that the latter was not apprised of its nature. From defendants' contentions below and here, the proofs before the trial judge of shifts of substantial numbers of employees from New York to Newark, and the absence of pertinent fact-findings as to this matter, we must for present purposes accept as true defendants' assertion that the union was disaffected by plaintiff's economic cooperation with its associated enterprises in New York which naturally had the effect of giving aid and comfort to the New York companies in their full-blown economic struggle with the union there. For present purposes we are not, of course, concerned with the lawfulness under either state or federal law of the objective of defendants' picketing, since, if the 'case' is one 'involving or growing out of a labor dispute,' as defined in the Anti-Injunction Act, the procedural provisions of the act must be complied with whether or not the activity of the union is substantively illegal and properly enjoinable on the merits of the controversy. N.J.S. 2A:15--53, 58, N.J.S.A.; Independent Dairy Workers, etc., v. Milk Drivers, etc., Local No. 680, 30 N.J. 173, 185,...

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4 practice notes
4 cases
  • Independent Oil Workers at Paulsboro v. Socony Mobil Oil Co.
    • United States
    • Superior Court of New Jersey
    • January 17, 1964
    ...does not withdraw this controversy from the scope of the Anti-Injunction Act. In the case of Commercial Can Corp. v. Local 810, etc. Teamsters, 61 N.J.Super. 369, 160 A.2d 855 (App.Div.1960), the court held that the Anti-Injunction Act prohibits the granting of an injunction for the breach ......
  • Tidewater Exp. Lines, Inc. v. Freight Drivers and Helpers Local Union No. 557, 139
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • January 29, 1963
    ...5 The Superior Court of New Jersey (Appellate Division), in Commercial Can Corp. v. Local 810, Steel Metal, Alloys and Hardware Fabricators and Warehousemen, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 61 N.J.Super. 369, 160 A.2d 855, a thorough opinion in which the State and Federal authoritie......
  • Gotthelf Knitting Mills, Inc. v. Local No. 222, N. J. Knitgoods Workers, Intern., A--268
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • December 12, 1966
    ...the cause to that extent from being terminable over the union's objection as moot. See also Commercial Can Corp. v. Local 810, etc., Teamsters, 61 N.J.Super. 369, 374, 160 A.2d 855 (App.Div.1960). However, as defendants conceded at oral argument, not any denial or reversal of injunctive rel......
  • Lamena v. Camden Local No. 396 of Journeymen Barbers, Hairdressers, Cosmetologists and Proprietors' Intern. Union of America, A--1105
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • July 8, 1963
    ...etc., Co. v. United Steel Workers of America, 59 N.J.Super. 240, 157 A.2d 542 (App.Div.1960); Commercial Can Corp. v. Local 810, Teamsters, 61 N.J.Super. 369, 160 A.2d 855 (App.Div.1960). As a matter of discretion, in the light of the Prima facie state of the pertinent proofs and the law, w......

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