McCarroll v. Los Angeles County District Council of Carpenters

Decision Date13 September 1957
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 40 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2709, 33 Lab.Cas. P 70,959 Johny E. McCARROLL, Willie J. McCarroll and Thomas L. Hall, a partnership doing business as McCarroll & Hall Construction Co., also known as McCarroll & Hall, Plaintiffs and Respondents, v. LOS ANGELES COUNTY DISTRICT COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS (an unincorporated association) et al., Defendants and Appellants. L. A. 24470

Arthur Garrett, Los Angeles, and James M. Nicoson, Playa Del Rey, for appellants.

Hill, Farrer & Burrill and Ray L. Johnson, Jr., Los Angeles, for respondents.

Roth & Bahrs and George O. Bahrs, San Francisco, as amici curiae on behalf of respondents.

TRAYNOR, Justice.

Plaintiffs are engaged in the contracting business in the Los Angeles are. They brought the present action against defendant labor unions and their officers for damages and injunctive relief against strikes allegedly called by defendants.

In their second amended complaint plaintiffs allege that plaintiffs and defendants are parties to a collective bargaining agreement known as the BCA-AF of L Master Labor Agreement. This agreement provides that a contractor shall have complete freedom in hiring workmen, except that he must first call on the local union having jurisdiction over the area in which the contracting work is to be done to satisfy his need for labor. The local union must immediately furnish the required number of competent and skilled workmen, and if after forty-eight hours notice it has failed to do so, the contractor is free to obtain workmen from any available source. Furthermore, the contractor is permitted to transfer workmen up to ten per cent of his current requirements in any craft from the jurisdiction of one local union to the jurisdiction of another local union. He may transfer more than ten per cent if permitted by the constitution and by-laws of the craft at the time the collective bargaining agreement was entered into. The bylaws of the Los Angeles County District Council of Carpenters permit such a transfer up to fifty per cent of a contractor's requirements, and also require a local union to honor a contractor's request for specific workmen. The agreement also provides that the unions will not call a strike against a contractor during the life of the agreement, but that all grievances or disputes over the interpretation or application of the terms of the agreement will be settled by a specified grievance procedure and by arbitration.

The complaint further alleges that plaintiffs entered into contracts to do the carpentry work on various construction projects in the Los Angeles area. Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, plaintiffs called on defendant local unions to supply them with workmen. The workmen sent to plaintiffs were, however, unskilled and incompetent, and furthermore defendants informed plaintiffs that they would not be permitted to transfer workmen from the jurisdiction of one local union to the jurisdiction of another local union in excess of ten per cent of their current requirements. Defendants also refused to honor plaintiffs' requests for named workmen or to permit plaintiffs to transfer their regular workmen from different parts of Los Angeles County to specific construction projects. Defendants ordered strikes of plaintiffs' employees on specific construction projects, and finally brought about a strike of all plaintiffs' employees.

The complaint alleges that the only reasons defendants gave for their conduct were that plaintiffs are labor contractors and are violating state safety regulations; that in fact plaintiffs are not labor contractors since they undertake to do complete carpentry jobs and not merely to furnish workmen, and that in any event labor contracting is prohibited neither by law nor by the collective bargaining agreement; that a state safety inspector found that plaintiffs were not violating any state safety regulations; and that defendants' purpose in calling strikes was to harass plaintiffs and totally destroy their business. Plaintiffs seek to state three causes of action: breach of the collective bargaining agreement through a violation of the no-strike clause, a tortious attempt to destroy plaintiffs' business without any legitimate labor objective, and a violation of the Cartwright Act (Bus. & Prof.Code, §§ 16700-16758) by restraining trade without any legitimate labor objective. On the basis of the complaint, testimony, and numerous affidavits, the trial court issued a preliminary injunction against defendants' calling or continuing a strike against plaintiffs, and its is from this order that defendants appeal. In view of our conclusion that the issuance of the injunction was justified by the breach of the collective bargaining agreement, we do not find it necessary to consider the second and third causes of action stated in the complaint.

Defendants first contend that the trial court was without jurisdiction to issue its injunction because the National Labor Relations Board has exclusive jurisdiction over the conduct alleged in the complaint. It is now well established that if conduct may be reasonably deemed to fall within the provisions of the Labor Management Relations Act defining unfair labor practices (29 U.S.C.A. § 158(a)-(b)), a state court has no jurisdiction to grant injunctive relief under either state or federal law, even if the National Labor Relations Board has declined to exercise jurisdiction over the controversy. Weber v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 348 U.S. 468, 481, 75 S.Ct. 480, 99 L.Ed. 546; Guss v. Utah Labor Relations Bd., 351 U.S. 1, 77 S.Ct. 598, 1 L.Ed.2d 601; Charles H. Benton, Inc., v. Painters Union, 45 Cal.2d 677, 681, 291 P.2d 13. The conduct alleged in the present case, however cannot reasonably be deemed to fall within any of the provisions of section 8(b) of the federal act defining unfair labor practices by unions. 29 U.S.C.A. § 158(b).

Conduct that constitutes a breach of a collective bargaining agreement is not for that reason alone an unfair labor practice. Proposals to make breach of contract an unfair labor practice were before Congress when it enacted the Taft-Hartley law, but were specifically rejected by the conference committee on the ground that once the parties had entered into a collective bargaining agreement, enforcement should be left to the usual processes of the law and not to the National Labor Relations Board. See Association of Westinghouse Salaried Employees v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 348 U.S. 437, 443-444 note 2, 75 S.Ct. 488, 99 L.Ed. 510 (Mr. Justice Frankfurter concurring); Cox and Seidman, Federalism and Labor Relations, 64 Harv.L.Rev. 211, 243-245.

Defendants contend, however, that the conduct alleged falls within the provisions of section 8(b)(4)(A) (29 U.S.C.A. § 158(b)(4)(A)), which make it an unfair labor practice for a labor organization 'to engage in, or to induce or encourage the employees of any employer to engage in, a strike or a concerted refusal in the course of their employment to * * * perform any services, where an object thereof is * * * forcing or requiring * * * any employer or other person * * * to cease doing business with any other person * * *.' This prohibition contemplates the existence of a primary employer and a secondary employer, and action by the union to induce to employees of the secondary employer to cease performing services for him in order to compel him to stop doing business with the primary employer, the ultimate object of the union's displeasure. It has no application to the present case since the conduct alleged consisted in calling strikes only of plaintiffs' employees, and there is no suggestion that employees of other employers, either general contractors or subcontractors, were induced to refuse to perform services. See International Brotherhood of Elec. Workers v. N. L. R. B., 341 U.S. 694, 698-706, 71 S.Ct. 954, 95 L.Ed. 1299; N. L. R. B. v. Denver Bldg. & Constr. Trades Council, 341 U.S. 675, 685-690, 71 S.Ct. 943, 95 L.Ed. 1284; N. L. R. B. v. International Rice Milling Co., 341 U.S. 665, 670-673, 71 S.Ct. 961, 95 L.Ed. 1277; N. L. R. B. v. General Drivers, 5 Cir., 225 F.2d 205, 208-209, certiorari denied, 350 U.S. 914, 76 S.Ct. 198, 100 L.Ed. 801.

The complaint does allege that as a result of defendants' activities plaintiffs will acquire the reputation of being in labor difficulties, and that general contractors will hesitate to do business with them. Such an effect on secondary employers, however, is always possible when there is a strike of the employees of a primary employer, and is not prohibited by section 8(b)(4)(A). One of the usual purposes of any strike is to make it more difficult for an employer to do business by persuading customers not to deal with him. Section 8(b)(4)(A) permits unions to use such persuasion, whether by direct solicitation of the customers or by indirect pressures of the kind alleged in the present case, so long as pressure is not brought on the customers by inducing strikes of their own employees. N. L. R. B. v. Business Machine and Office Appliance Mechanics Bd., 2 Cir., 228 F.2d 553, 556-560, certiorari denied, 351 U.S. 962, 76 S.Ct. 1025, 100 L.Ed. 1483; Rabouin v. N. L. R. B., 2 Cir., 195 F.2d 906, 911-912. Defendants' interpretation of section 8(b)(4)(A) is contrary to the authorities and would change it from a prohibition against secondary strikes and boycotts to a sweeping prohibition against all strikes when an incidental effect is to persuade customers not to deal with an employer.

Sections 8(b)(3) and 8(d) (29 U.S.C.A. §§ 158(b)(3), (d)) furnish more substantial support for defendants' contention that the complaint alleges conduct constituting an unfair labor practice. Section 8(b)(3) provides: 'It shall be an unfair labor practice for a labor organization * * * to refuse to bargain collectively with an employer * * *.' Section 8(d) provides:

'to bargain...

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