RETAIL CLERKS INTERNAT'L ASS'N v. Lion Dry Goods, Inc.

Decision Date23 February 1965
Docket NumberNo. 15378.,15378.
Citation341 F.2d 715
PartiesRETAIL CLERKS INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION, LOCAL UNIONS NOS. 128 AND 633, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. LION DRY GOODS, INC., and LaSalle's, a Division of R. H. Macy & Co., Defendants-Appellants.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

Merritt W. Green, Toledo, Ohio (Green & Green, Toledo, Ohio, on the brief), for appellants.

Melvin S. Schwarzwald, Cleveland, Ohio (Joseph E. Finley, Metzenbaum, Gaines, Schwartz, Krupansky, Finley & Stern, Cleveland, Ohio, on the brief), for appellees.

Before WEICK, Chief Judge, and MILLER and EDWARDS, Circuit Judges.

SHACKELFORD MILLER, Jr., Circuit Judge.

The plaintiffs, Retail Clerks International Association, Local Unions Nos. 128 and 633, filed this action in the District Court to enjoin the defendants, Lion Dry Goods, Inc., and LaSalle's from violating their agreements of December 24, 1958, with the plaintiffs, by refusing to accept and honor an arbitration award made by a panel of arbitrators pursuant to the terms of said agreement.

The material facts are not in dispute. The defendants are engaged in operating retail department stores in Toledo, Ohio. The plaintiffs are labor organizations representing employees in industries affecting commerce for the purpose of collective bargaining, but were not on December 24, 1958, or subsequent thereto, the recognized majority representatives of the employees of the defendants or either of them. This action was brought pursuant to Sections 301(a) and (b) of Title 29, United States Code, Labor Management Relations Act of 1947.

Plaintiffs were parties to collective bargaining contracts with defendants for many years prior to 1957. In November 1957 negotiations for renewal contracts were unsuccessful. Plaintiffs thereupon went on strike against defendant LaSalle's, which continued until December 24, 1958. The plaintiffs did not go on strike against the defendant Lion Dry Goods, Inc., but continued their dispute with that defendant until December 24, 1958. A few days before December 24, 1958, the Toledo Labor-Management-Citizens Committee, a local mediation and arbitration body (hereinafter referred to as the Committee), proposed a plan for settling the dispute. Discussions ensued between the Committee and the plaintiffs and between the Committee and the defendants, but at no time were direct negotiations carried on between the plaintiffs and the defendants. Each side made known to the Committee the conditions under which it was willing to terminate the dispute and the Committee discussed these conditions with the other side. In this manner a basis for settlement was reached, which was known as a "Statement of Understanding," which was satisfactory to all parties. Each store sent to the Committee its "Statement of Understanding," calling it the basis on which the existing dispute between the locals and the defendants was to be fully and finally resolved. A few days later the locals wrote the Committee "we herewith agree to the conditions and guarantees of the Statement of Understanding." The conditions to be performed by each side were performed and the dispute was terminated.

The Statements contained the unions' acknowledgment that they were not then entitled to recognition as exclusive representatives and would not seek such recognition unless and until certified as so entitled in single store unit elections conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. The stores' agreement continued in effect detailed wage and hour schedules and provisions as to working conditions and other benefits, incorporated as exhibits to the Statement. Although the Statements were not identical in all respects they both contained the following provisions, which give rise to the present controversy. We quote the following from LaSalle's Statement of Understanding.

"6. * * * Nothing herein shall preclude an employee representative from entering areas of the store which are open to customers; or from communicating with employees, provided such communication is on the employee\'s non-working time and in no way interferes with the operating of the business.
"7. Any individual employee who may have a grievance involving an interpretation or application of or arising under the terms of this understanding with L-M-C, and who has presented such grievance to his supervisor and the Personnel Department without reaching a satisfactory solution, may take his case to the chairman of the L-M-C who in turn shall refer the case to a panel of the L-M-C, whose majority decision and order shall be final and binding. The panel shall render its decision and order within fifteen days after the grievance has been submitted to it. The procedure regulating the hearing of the grievance by the L-M-C panel shall be determined by the panel."

Paragraph 1 of LaSalle's Statement of Understanding also provided that the striking employees would be reinstated without discrimination because of strike activities and without loss of seniority. Paragraph 2 provided that employees who made the required application for reinstatement would be returned to work "in their former position classifications if vacant or in positions comparable in duties and earning opportunities."

A few months later the following disputes arose. (1) The unions claimed the right of access to the employees' cafeterias in order to communicate with employees during their nonworking time. The defendants refused to allow union organizers this right of access, claiming that Paragraph 6 of the Statement of Understanding gave no right of access to the employees' cafeterias because they were not "areas of the store which are open to customers." It was stipulated between the parties for the purposes of this litigation that the employee cafeterias in the downtown stores of the defendants were located in areas not open to customers. The unions complained to the Committee, charging undue harassment of union organizers and a breach of the defendants' contract obligation; (2) two LaSalle's employees, who were salesladies in the Men's Furnishings Department, were fully reinstated after the strike to sales positions in the Men's Furnishings Department with the exception that the saleslady formerly assigned to sell men's shirts was assigned to sell men's sweaters, and the other saleslady, who was formerly assigned to sell sweaters was assigned to sell shirts. It was stipulated by the parties that the two salesladies were, prior to leaving their employment because of the strike on or about November 23, 1957, employed as salesladies in the Men's Furnishings Department in the highest wage classification provided in the wage schedules then in effect, and that upon their return to work at LaSalle's after December 24, 1958, each was employed as a saleslady in the Men's Furnishings Department in the highest wage classification provided in the wage schedules then in effect. The failure of LaSalle's to assign these employees to their former selling stations brought a complaint from the union to the Committee.

Proceeding under the provisions of Paragraph 7 of LaSalle's Statement of Understanding, the Committee referred these complaints to a panel which held a hearing on March 5, 1959, and handed down its decision on March 12, 1959. Awards went to the unions on both complaints, holding that the unions' right to contact employees applied to employee cafeterias as well as the public cafeterias, and that both the clerks at LaSalle's should be restored to their identical positions which they had before the strike. The stores refused to honor and accept these awards, following which this action was filed to require the stores to comply with the awards.

This is the second time this case has been before this Court. A review of its history is as follows. An amended complaint was filed on June 19, 1959. The defendants filed an answer on June 29, 1959, asserting as their first defense that the Court lacked jurisdiction over the subject matter. In other defenses they denied that there was in existence any contract between the plaintiffs, or either of them, and the defendants, or either of them, or that assurances given by the defendants to the Committee were for the benefit of the plaintiffs-unions. The answer also asserted that there was not in existence any contract between the plaintiffs and the defendants, or either of them, as contemplated by and provided for in the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, and denied the right or authority of the Committee to arbitrate any grievance which the plaintiffs might claim to have. The case was submitted to the Court on the pleadings, a stipulation, briefs and oral argument.

The District Judge made findings of fact that the plaintiffs were not the recognized majority representatives of the employees of the defendants or either of them, that the Statement of Understanding given by each of the defendants to the Committee was a strike settlement statement, that it was not a collective bargaining contract negotiated by or on behalf of the plaintiffs with either of the defendants, and that there was no existing working contract between the plaintiffs and either of the defendants. He ruled as a matter of law that each Statement of Understanding was not a contract as contemplated by Section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 and that the Court was without jurisdiction of the subject matter of the action. The complaint was accordingly dismissed. The opinion of the District Judge is reported at Retail Clerks International Association, Local Unions No. 128 and 633 v. Lion Dry Goods, Inc., and LaSalle's, D.C., 179 F.Supp. 564.

On appeal to the Court of Appeals this Court affirmed the judgment of the District Court. This ruling, in the form of an order, is reported at 286 F.2d 235.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari and on February 26, 1962, reversed the judgment of the District Court. The opinion of the Court is reported at Retail...

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