Masonite Corp. v. International Woodworkers of America, AFL-CIO, AFL-CIO

Citation215 So.2d 691
Decision Date18 November 1968
Docket NumberNo. 45019,AFL-CIO,45019
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi

Page 691

215 So.2d 691

5-443, et al.
No. 45019.
Supreme Court of Mississippi.
Nov. 18, 1968.

Page 692

Gibbes & Graves, Laurel, Hulse Hays, Jr., Cincinnati, Ohio, for appellant.

James E. Youngdahl, Little Rock, Art., for appellees.

BRADY, Justice:

This is an appeal by Masonite Corporation from a final decree of the Chancery Court of the Second Judicial District of Jones County dismissing with prejudice appellant's bill for injunction which would have made permanent a temporary injunction which had been issued on May 2, 1967, pursuant to a fiat dated May 1 issued by Justice Robertson of the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Masonite Corporation operates a large manufacturing plant in Laurel, Mississippi, which produces finished wood products for both inter and intra-state sale. On March 3, 1967, Local 5-443 of theInternational Woodworkers of America, AFL-CIO, executed with Masonite a collective bargaining agreement which provided for a five-step program for resolving grievances of employees against Masonite. The final step of this program was arbitration. In addition to Article 26 of the contract which provides for the adjustment procedure and for arbitration, Article 23 of the collective bargaining agreement provides what is commonly referred to as a 'no strike' clause. Section 1 of Article 23 states:

At no time, during the full term of this agreement, shall the Union or any of its members authorize or engage in any strike, walkout or other type of work stoppage. At no time, during such term, shall the employer lock out any of its employees.

However, on April 21, 1967, the International and Local unions called a strike

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at the Masonite plant in Laurel. The appellees allege in their answer (1) that the Masonite Corporation had required employees to cross departmental lines in violation of the contract, (2) that Masonite had been neglectful in processing the grievances of the employees, and (3) that as a result of the actions of Masonite, which the Union contended amounted to unfair labor practices, the contract with the collective bargaining agreement had been breached by appellant and was not in full force and effect on that date. On April 21 or the day thereafter pickets appeared before the Masonite plant in Laurel; cars and people were prohibited from entering or leaving the plant; and signs appeared which stated 'On strike, I.W.A., Local 5-443, AFL-CIO.'

Violence attended the picketing. On the morning of April 24 as Mr. Paul, the general manager of the Mississippi operation, and a passenger, Mr. Lewis Carter, approached the plant, they found the entrance to the parking lot completely blocked by cars and people. The crowd converged on Mr. Paul's car and began to rock it, smashed the back window with a pipe, attempted to kick out the side windows, and struck the windshield, but failed to break it. Mr. Paul was prevented from entering the plant. On the evening of April 21 as Mr. Shows, a supervisory employee of Masonite, drove his car through the front gate, a part of the crowd surrounded his automobile and shook the car. When Safety Supervisor Green attempted to leave the plant on the same date by the wood yard exit, his car was rocked and damaged by the strikers. When Mr. Goodman, Maintenance and Engineering Manager, was leaving the plant, he was assaulted by one of the strikers.

On May 1, 1967, Masonite filed this bill for injunction in Cause Number 21,703 against the Union and the officers of the Union in the Chancery Court of Jones County. An injunction was issued pursuant to a fiat executed by Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Robertson on May 1, 1967, after Masonite filed a $5,000 bond with the clerk of the Chancery Clerk of Jones County. On May 2, 1967, the writ of injunction was served on all of the original defendants in Masonite Corporation v. International Woodworkers of America, AFL-CIO, etc., 206 So.2d 171 (Miss. 1967), and was posted at two public places in Laurel as well as on the Masonite main gate entrance and at seven other locations around the plant. In spite of the injunction, although signs were taken down, strikers and other persons continued to stand across the street from Masonite and at other entrances to the plant at regular four hour intervals, keeping a surveillance of the property and noting the people who went in and out of the Masonite Corporation grounds. On May 4, 1967, Masonite, through Mr. Paul, its General Manager, filed contempt charges against the International, the Local, the five officers who signed the collective bargaining agreement, and eighty individual defendants of the local union. In the contempt case, Masonite Corporation v. International Woodworkers of America, AFL-CIO, etc., supra, the Mississippi Supreme Court reviewed the acquittal in the lower court of the defendants and upheld the acquittal on charges of criminal contempt; however, we held that the evidence did establish that the Union and its officials who signed the collective bargaining agreement containing 'no strike' provisions were guilty of civil contempt, but that it did not establish that stewards and committeemen were guilty of such contempt. It was held that the constant surveillance of the plant at all gates by silent pickets day and night constituted a violation of the temporary injunction against continuing such picketing.

Although not essential to the determination of the issues involved in the case at bar, it is to be noted that in addition to this cause the appellant on April 25, 1967, filed a suit for damages for breach of contract in the United States District Court, Southern Division, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Civil Action No. 2183, which is now pending.

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In passing, it should also be noted that prior to May 1, 1967, the date of the filing of the bill for injunction by appellant, Masonite Corporation, in the case at bar, a former bill for injunction, Cause No. 21,693, had been filed in the Chancery Court of Jones County. The bill for injunction in Cause No. 21,693 was based upon the prohibiting of ingress and egress of employees to the plant of appellant by the strikers and the violence being perpetrated by the strikers. The chancellor suggested the consolidation of the first bill for injunction and the case at bar, which the appellees opposed. Trial proceeded on Cause No. 21,703, the case at bar.

The present case came on to be heard on the petition of Masonite which would make permanent the temporary injunction that had been issued on May 2. On June 22, 1967, after hearing the evidence and oral arguments which had been presented, the chancellor dismissed with prejudice the petition for the injunction. Appellant then filed a petition for temporary injunction pending an appeal from the Chancery Court of the Second District of Jones County. This petition was overruled by Justice Gillespie, Presiding Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, on July 10, 1967, and subsequent thereto, on July 11, 1967, simultaneously with the filing of Justice Gillespie's denial of a temporary injunction, a petition for writ of supersedeas was filed by appellant in the Chancery Court of Jones County. The chancellor overruled the petition for the writ of supersedeas on July 21, 1967. Thereafter, on July 24, 1967, an application for the issuance of a writ of supersedeas was presented to Justice Ethridge, Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, who granted it conditioned on the execution of a bond in the sum of $25,000. Thus the case at bar is presented to us.

It appears from the record, briefs of counsel and from oral arguments made by counsel, that on May 29, 1967, the appellee, and that subsequently the appellant, filed complaints with the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board of New Orleans. On July 1, 1967, the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board informed the parties that he would not file any complaint based upon the charges made by the Union of unfair labor practices on the part of Masonite Corporation.

The first question which must be decided is: Does a state court have jurisdiction to hear a case where unfair labor practices are alleged to have been committed in violation of a collective bargaining contract or has the field been preempted by either the federal courts, under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 185(a) (1964), or by the National Labor Relations Board, under the National Labor Relations Act?

Section 301 provides:

Suits by and against labor organizations-Venue, amount, and citizenship

(a) Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties. (Emphasis added.)

This section has been interpreted by the United States Supreme Court and by various state courts as giving federal courts only concurrent jurisdiction with state courts over cases involving the violation of labor contracts.

In Charles Dowd Box Company v. Courtney, 368 U.S. 502, 82 S.Ct. 519, 7 L.Ed.2d 483 (1962), the sole question ruled on was whether Section 301 operated to divest a state court of jurisdiction in a suit for violation of a contract between a labor organization and an employer. The United States Supreme Court held that there is

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nothing in Section 301 which tends to deprive a party to a collective bargaining agreement of the right to seek redress in appropriate state courts. Section 301 does not state or even suggest that its purpose is to give federal courts exclusive jurisdiction. State courts may enforce federally created rights, and exclusive federal jurisdiction must be clearly...

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