Int'l Pocketbook Workers' Union v. Orlove, s. 83-86.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Citation148 A. 826
Docket NumberNos. 83-86.,s. 83-86.
PartiesINTERNATIONAL POCKETBOOK WORKERS' UNION et al. v. ORLOVE et al. (four cases).
Decision Date12 February 1930
148 A. 826

ORLOVE et al. (four cases).

Nos. 83-86.

Court of Appeals of Maryland.

Feb. 12, 1930.

148 A. 827

Appeal from Circuit Court of Baltimore City; Duke Bond, Judge.

Suits by Harry A. Orlove and others, copartners trading as Orlove & Schwartz, against the International Pocketbook Workers' Union and others, and against Sam Melinkoff and others, and by Michael J. Fox, trading as M. J. Fox & Co., against the International Pocketbook Workers' Union and others, and against B. Barke and others. From the decrees rendered and from orders adjudging defendants in contempt, defendants appeal. Appeals from orders dismissed, and decrees reversed, and case remanded with directions.

Argued before BOND, C. J., and PATTISON, URNER, OFFUTT, PARKE, and SLOAN, JJ.

Ellis Levin and Robert F. Leach, Jr., both of Baltimore, for appellants in all cases.

Randolph Barton, Jr., and E. Milton Altfeld, both of Baltimore (Fulton Bramble, of Baltimore, on the brief), for appellees in all cases.

BOND, C. J. These appeals by a labor union and employees of the appellees, engaged in a strike to bring about the organization of a union in their trade in Baltimore, are taken from decrees enjoining some activities in the prosecution of the strike, and from orders adjudging the defendants to have been guilty of contempt in exceeding the limits imposed by a similar injunction issued at a preliminary stage in the contest. The firm of Orlove & Schwartz, and Fox, trading as M. J. Fox & Co., maintain in Baltimore city establishments for the manufacture of pocketbooks and bags. They have had open shops, employing workers without regard to their connection or lack of connection with a union, and dealing with each singly. Each shop occupies an upper floor of a building, and one employs about 55 workers, while the other employs 100. There are a few skilled workers, mostly men, used, and the larger portion of each force is made up of unskilled girls and boys from 14 up to 20 and more years of age. All employees have been paid weekly, except that discharges have terminated employments during a week upon payment of wages for each day of work up to the times of discharges. The wages have run from $8 to as high as $40 a week, with overtime payments made, to some of the men, at least. There are few manufacturers at this work in Baltimore, only about 200 persons being employed at it in the whole city. The larger part of the manufacturing is done in New York or near by, but there are a few other factories in the northeastern part of the country. The chief labor union for this trade, appellant in two of these appeals, has its headquarters in New York City.

There is dispute as to the initiation of the effort to organize the union in Baltimore. The existing union in New York is suspected of having initiated it, for the obvious advantages to its members in having employees organized in all competing establishments. One of its representatives explained in the testimony the advantage to be gained in the ability to defend high wages paid and the Saturday half holiday allowed, in union shops, against the effect of underselling by manufacturers paying lower wages for longer hours. But the actual evidence in the case is that this move originated among the men workers in the Fox shop, late in the year 1928. Those workers, the testimony is, dissatisfied with their wages and hours and some of their working conditions—and there were some allegations of unreasonable discharges and a blacklist of discharged men to prevent employment elsewhere in the trade—began discussing the desirability of organizing a union, and at the dinner hour engaged in conversations with the men workers of the Orlove and Schwartz shop, and after a time arranged with a designer at the Fox shop, Vinclair, who had worked in New York, that he have a representative of the union in New York come help in the formation of a union here. Such is the direct testimony of the workers, and the appellee Fox testified that in a talk early in the movement here, one of his workmen, David Snyder, said that he (Snyder) had started the whole thing, and to some extent regretted it. Whether this evidence presents the whole story is unimportant, however, for in the view taken by this court there would be no wrong in the mere fact of origination of the movement in New York rather than in

148 A. 828

Baltimore. As is conceded, there is a clear right in the workers to organize a union and secure collective bargaining if they can, and, so long as it is of their own free will, it is a matter of indifference whether they conclude to do so upon their own initiative or upon outside suggestion and persuasion. Exchange Bakers & Restaurant, Inc., v. Rifkin, 245 N. T. 260, 263, 157 N. E. 130; Stearns Lumber Co. v. Howlett, 260 Mass. 45, 66, 157 N. E. 82, 52 A. L. R. 1125.

The local union was formed so far as to be able to hold a first meeting in January of 1029. The meetings, and the discussions among workmen, were noticed by the employers, and they procured the names of workmen attending the meetings. Then each shop discharged a few of the union men, apparently, as this court reads the evidence, because of their activity in organizing the union. The two employers were, and remained throughout, firm in their decision to maintain open shops and not to bargain with a union, collectively.

Thereupon, during the month of February, a New York representative of the union, Shiplacoff, wrote a series of letters to each employer, asking for an interview; but these were not answered. At the instance of Shiplacoff, Rabbi Israel, of Baltimore, who is chairman of a commission of Jewish rabbis interested in industrial and social problems, had a conference with the employers, investigated the wages and conditions at the shops, and made recommendations for changes. The employers, however, maintained their position on the question of having to deal with a union of the workers, and at the end of February a strike was called, and a large portion of the workers stopped work within the next few days. So far as appears, those leaving at that time did so quite voluntarily, at least. Evidence of attempts of some of them to persuade remaining employees to join them indicates much zeal on their part in the effort they were making. The existence of the strike, under the auspices of the New York and Baltimore unions, was advertised in newspapers; and, as a step in the preparations, the union managers arranged in advance for bail for striking employees who might be arrested. The New York union, furthermore, arranged to pay the striking employees during the strike their ordinary wages in full.

The strike was conducted quietly, with no public disturbances. And policemen detailed to watch over it reported nothing objectionable, except that in a few instances striking employees on the sidewalks below the shops accosted some of those entering or coming from work. Pickets were employed. On the sidewalk below one place, two men walked in opposite directions, passing and repassing, and at the other place four men walked similarly in pairs. They wore placards or banners, 18 inches square, announcing the strike, at first with the additional statement that the employers were unfair to labor, but after the issue of the preliminary injunction merely announcing the strike under the auspices of the unions. The statement was appended that the New York union was affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. There was testimony that placards or banners were required by the police department of the city to be carried by pickets, and that now and then pickets were warned by a policeman against walking without banners; but the exact requirement, and the purpose of it, were not explained, testimony on this having been excluded. The employers testified that the pickets tried to catch up with the workers on the street, that a greater number of employees than usual had lunch brought in to them while the place was picketed, and that at the closing hour the girls went home in bunches to a greater degree than usual. Efforts by pickets to come near enough to see packages being loaded on wagons were testified to. There was testimony of striking employees loitering on nearby corners, but not engaged in picketing. And there was testimony, all contradicted, of scattered instances of threats by various employees on the strike to others remaining. Some of these instances, if true, seem unimportant; some seem strained in construction to bring them within the classes of strike activities which have been held wrong in cases elsewhere. But a few other activities testified to sound more serious. There is evidence, however, of merely peaceful persuasion of employees to join the strike, and the scattered instances of threatening do not appear sufficient to show a general purpose and method of coercion of employees.

During the progress of the strike, the employers advertised in Philadelphia for workers, and secured three men, who, after they went to work, cut and destroyed material given them. Supposed confessions of the men, stricken out of the evidence by the court as mere hearsay statements in this case, have nevertheless been inserted in the record by the appellees; but they cannot, of course, be considered on the appeal. The testimony contains denials of any implication of the present appellants in the actions of those men. It is admitted, however, that when the men were arrested in Baltimore, the union secured bail for them, and that counsel engaged by the union represented two of the men arrested.

The respective employers, on March 14 and March 15, 1929, filed bills of complaint against the two unions, the New York union and the Baltimore union, and their agents, and former employees...

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    • United States
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    ...... 1936, there was a strike by the Independent Union of All Workers against the Gamble Robinson ...200, 161 N.W. 524;International Pocketbook Workers' Union v. Orlove, 158 Md. 496, 148 A. ......
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    • 1 Abril 1938
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