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Kidde Manufacturing Co. v. United Electrical Radio & Machine Workers of America

Decided: August 25, 1953.


Bigelow, J.s.c.


[27 NJSuper Page 184] This is a labor dispute in which the plaintiffs, namely, the employers, move for an interlocutory

injunction restraining the defendant union from hindering or preventing plaintiffs' employees from entering the plaintiffs' plants. The plaintiffs are two corporations, subsidiaries of the same parent company. Their plants are located on opposite sides of Farrand Street in Bloomfield, and are operated in some respects as a single unit. The companies had a contract with the defendant union, dated in July 1952, and to "continue in full force and effect until the first day of July 1953, and from year to year thereafter unless terminated by either party." In April the union gave notice of termination of the contract and negotiations for a new contract began between the parties and continued until after July 1, but without success. On July 27 the men struck. Many of them have gathered daily in Farrand Street and, standing or marching close together, have effectively prevented entrance into the plants. It is, of course, settled law that the employees have a right to go to and from their work without hindrance and that the employer has a corresponding right that his employees be unmolested.

"There is no right more essential or which we more rely upon in our daily living than the right to use the public streets and to enter wherever we are welcome. We count on it not only for our own free movement, but for others who may wish to come to us. The means taken to deprive one of this right are of little importance. What complainants are entitled to is free access to their plants as against any means and tactics whatsoever." Phelps Dodge etc. Corp. v. United Electrical Workers , 138 N.J. Eq. 3 (Ch. 1946); affirmed Westinghouse Electric Corp. v. United Electrical etc. , 139 N.J. Eq. 97 (E. & A. 1946).

The defendants have violated this right of the plaintiffs, and an injunction would go except for the special matters urged in opposition, which I will now consider.

The defendants cite N.J.S. 2 A:15-54, which reads:

"No restraining order or injunctive relief shall be granted to any plaintiff who has failed to comply with any obligation imposed by law which is involved in the labor dispute in question, or who has failed to make every reasonable effort to settle such dispute either by negotiation or with the aid of any available governmental machinery of mediation or voluntary arbitration."

It is established that the statute requires no more than a reasonable effort to settle by any one of the three methods named, -- negotiation, mediation, arbitration. Isolantite v. United Electrical etc. Workers , 130 N.J. Eq. 506 (Ch. 1941); affirmed 132 N.J. Eq. 613 (E. & A. 1942). But yet an employer must make a bona fide effort to settle.

"We say to the complainant, do not bother the court unnecessarily; talk over the matter first with your adversary and you may be able to reach an agreement. * * * It is the duty of an employer to confer, or offer to confer, with the representatives of the union; to listen attentively to what they have to say; to explain to them carefully his own position, and to reconsider that position in the light of all the facts and arguments presented by the union. The employer must be willing to continue this process as long as there is a prospect of a successful outcome, or until he finds himself driven to seek the aid of the court. An employer who has done this has made every reasonable attempt to settle the controversy by negotiation and has complied with the statute." Phelps Dodge, etc., Corp. v. United Electrical, etc., Workers, supra.

The defendants say that the companies have not bargained in good faith.

The companies in the present instance were represented in the bargaining process only by a lawyer who was in general practice but who for several years had taken an active part in the negotiations with the union. Also, during the past year, he had represented the companies in the settlement of grievances. But the committee representing the men in the bargaining process and the agent of the union naturally considered him an outsider, with no personal knowledge by which to assess the reasonableness of their position. And he was allowed little discretion by his clients. The character and powers of the person designated by an employer as bargaining agent should be taken into consideration in order to decide whether the employer's effort to negotiate was made in good faith. Great Southern Trucking Co. v. N.L.R.B. , 127 F.2d ...

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