Irvin v. MOHAWK RUBBER COMPANY, No. H 68-C-13.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Eastern District of Arkansas
Writing for the CourtOREN HARRIS
Citation308 F. Supp. 152
PartiesMelvin D. IRVIN and Johnie E. Lewis, Plaintiffs, v. MOHAWK RUBBER COMPANY and Local 539, United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum and Plastic Workers of America, AFL-CIO, Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. H 68-C-13.
Decision Date12 January 1970

308 F. Supp. 152

Melvin D. IRVIN and Johnie E. Lewis, Plaintiffs,
v.
MOHAWK RUBBER COMPANY
and
Local 539, United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum and Plastic Workers of America, AFL-CIO, Defendants.

No. H 68-C-13.

United States District Court E. D. Arkansas, E. D.

January 12, 1970.


308 F. Supp. 153

George Howard, Jr., Pine Bluff, Ark., Barbara Morris, New York City, for plaintiffs.

J. W. Barron, Little Rock, Ark., J. P. Baker, Jr., West Helena, Ark., Joseph M. Holden, Akron, Ohio, for Mohawk Rubber Co.

James E. Youngdahl, Little Rock, Ark., for Local 539.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

OREN HARRIS, Chief Judge.

This is a class action brought by the plaintiffs, Melvin D. Irvin and Johnie E. Lewis, Negro employees of the Mohawk Rubber Company, on their behalf and on behalf of other Negroes similarly situated, against the defendants, Mohawk Rubber Company and Local 539, United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum and Plastic Workers of America, AFL-CIO, to enjoin them from continued employment practices and procedures in violation of

308 F. Supp. 154
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e et seq.)

The plaintiffs allege that due to the employment practices and collective bargaining agreements of the defendants, they have been segregated in their employment which has resulted in discrimination because of their race and color, thereby depriving them of equal employment opportunities.

Plaintiffs further allege that Local 539, their collective bargaining agent, has continuously refused to represent them (members of the collective bargaining unit) fairly. Furthermore, it is contended by the plaintiffs that Local 539 has acted in such a manner as to limit the plaintiffs' employment opportunities and to adversely affect their status as employees on the basis of race and color.

Jurisdiction is invoked pursuant to 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e-2(a) (c) (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), 28 U.S. C.A. § 1343 and 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 1981, 1983.

Pre-trial motions for summary judgment filed by the defendants were decided on the pleadings and briefs and denied July 18, 1969. The cause of action was tried to the Court on October 1 and 2, 1969.

The Mohawk Rubber Company at all times material herein has been engaged in the manufacture of vehicle tires at its plant in West Helena, Arkansas, and has in its employment approximately 589 persons. At all times material herein the defendant union, Local 539, has been the duly certified bargaining agent for certain of the employees, or groups of employees, including the plaintiffs and the class they represent.

The Defendant Company commenced operations in West Helena, Arkansas, in 1956. It is organized into divisions and into departments within those divisions.

The Plaintiff Melvin D. Irvin has been an employee of the Defendant Company since October 20, 1956, a short time after the plant opened. Three Negroes were employed at the plant when Irvin commenced work. The Plaintiff Johnie E. Lewis has been an employee of Mohawk since 1957.

The union was organized in 1957 and recognized as the bargaining agent. Traditionally contracts have been negotiated between defendants every two years and at all times material herein there has been in effect a collective bargaining contract between the company and the union.

Until 1965, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, all Negroes employed by Mohawk were segregated and confined to three departments of Division "B" in the plant and to the Janitorial Department 30 of Division "A". Until that time all employees of the three departments of Division "B" and Department 30 of Division "A" were Negro. There were no Negro employees in any other of the divisions or departments of Mohawk.

In April, 1966, Plaintiffs Irvin and Lewis filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against both defendants; on consideration of the complaint, the Commission found reasonable cause to believe that the Defendants Mohawk and Local 539 had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Until September, 1966, Defendant Mohawk directly hired employees needed and necessary in the operation of the plant. At that time, which date becomes important in this proceeding, the Company changed its employment policy and begain hiring its employees through the Arkansas Employment Securities Division at Helena, Arkansas.

As of September 1, 1966, there were 554 employees of Mohawk, 454 white and 100 Negroes. Of the 100 Negroes 60 were assigned to Division "B" and 23 to Department 30 of Division "A". There were no white employees in Department 30 or in Division "B". One Negro was employed in a department of Division

308 F. Supp. 155
"C" and 15 Negroes were employed in six departments of Division "D"

For a clearer understanding of the organizational scheme of the Mohawk Rubber Company in manufacturing and fabricating rubber products, the plant is organized into six divisions as follows:

 Division A - comprised of departments: 30 janitorial department
                 31 power house
                 32 boiler room
                 33 plant maintenance
                 Division B - banbury or mixing division
                 which is comprised of departments: 02 compounding and mixing
                 division
                 20 cement house
                 42 receiving raw materials
                 department 50 has been combined
                 with department 42
                 Division C - the stock preparation division
                 which is comprised of
                 departments: 04 free roll and gum calendar
                 05 tubing and milling
                 07 (which has been combined
                 with department
                 17)
                 Z calendar
                 Division D - building, curing and final
                 finishing division, which is
                 comprised of departments: 06 passenger band building
                 09 scrap salvage
                 10 passenger tire building
                 11 truck band and tire building
                 12 passenger tire curing
                 14 truck tire curing
                 18 final finishing and shipping
                 25 and 18 have been combined
                 as have departments 15
                 and 18
                 Storehouse Division
                 Statistical Quality Control Division
                

We are concerned primarily with the employment practices of Division "A", Janitorial Department 30; Division "B"; Division "C"; and Division "D".

At the time of the trial the company had in its employment some 589 employees. There were 68 employees in 15 classifications or separate job descriptions in Division "A"; there were 59 employees with 14 job classifications in Division "B"; there were 59 employees with 28 job classifications in Division

308 F. Supp. 156
"C"; and there were 392 employees with 52 job classifications in Division "D". The other employees were in the Storehouse Division and in the Statistical Quality Control Division.

From 1957 to 1960 the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the defendants provided that in the event of curtailment of production, or reduction in force, Negro employees in Division "A" Department 30 and those in Division "B" could not transfer to vacancies in other departments or divisions. The collective bargaining agreement prohibited inter-divisional transfer to fill vacant positions. As a result, these Negro employees were permanently "locked" into these departments and divisions by reason of their race.

From June, 1960, until August, 1968, the collective bargaining agreement (traditionally negotiated every two years) was altered only to the extent that in the event of curtailment of work, or reduction of the labor force, all employees who would have been laid off by reason of the foregoing conditions were allowed to transfer temporarily to vacant positions in divisions and departments other than their regular divisions and departments. However, upon resumption of work, these employees were required to return to their resident departments.

Complaint was made to defendants about these procedures and Plaintiff Irvin requested that non-discriminatory practices be adopted whereby employees could transfer to vacancies in any department or division on the basis of their seniority attained at the plant. The issue was considered by Defendant Local 539, which consistently refused to alter or change the procedure and allow inter-divisional transfers on the basis of seniority within the plant.

After the filing of this proceeding and during its pendency a new contract was negotiated between the defendants in June, 1968. The new contract included a provision for the filling of vacancies in the various divisions of the company plant. It provided four steps in job opportunities. Eligibility for an initial opening or vacancy was based on maximum seniority in the same department and division in which the vacancy occurred. The second step in the chain for a vacancy was open only to an employee with the greatest seniority in the division where the vacancy occurred. Employees in the other divisions and their departments were ineligible for employment to fill such vacancies. The new contract provided for only two bids in one chain. Job bidding rights were restricted to one bid in any 12-month period. Furthermore, employees were ineligible to bid until they had been employed in excess of nine months.

The third step in the chain for filling of the vacancies was by surplus help, recalled personnel (employees previously laid off) and finally newly-hired personnel. No inter-divisional transfer procedure was included.

Some two months later, in August, 1968, an amendment was negotiated, adopted and became a part of the collective bargaining agreement between the defendants. This amendment, which is now in force, becomes another important issue in this proceeding. It modifies the procedures for filling of vacancies as follows:

Eligibility for the first vacancy is limited to employees in the same department of the division in which the vacancy occurs. The vacancy is awarded to the individual with the greatest seniority who fills these prerequisites. Eligibility for the second vacancy is limited to employees of the division in which the vacancy occurs and the job is awarded to the...

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1 practice notes
  • Chrapliwy v. Uniroyal, Inc., Civ. No. 72 S 243.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • May 31, 1977
    ...532 (W.D.N.C.1971); United States v. Virginia Electric & Power Co., 327 F.Supp. 1034 (E.D.Va.1971); and Irvin v. Mohawk Rubber Co., 308 F.Supp. 152 (E.D. Ark.1970). The more difficult question now facing the court is whether Uniroyal breached its duty of affirmative action. As a practical m......
1 cases
  • Chrapliwy v. Uniroyal, Inc., Civ. No. 72 S 243.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • May 31, 1977
    ...532 (W.D.N.C.1971); United States v. Virginia Electric & Power Co., 327 F.Supp. 1034 (E.D.Va.1971); and Irvin v. Mohawk Rubber Co., 308 F.Supp. 152 (E.D. Ark.1970). The more difficult question now facing the court is whether Uniroyal breached its duty of affirmative action. As a practical m......

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