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Independent Petroleum Workers of New Jersey v. Esso Standard Oil Co.

June 26, 1956

INDEPENDENT PETROLEUM WORKERS OF NEW JERSEY, APPELLANT,
v.
ESSO STANDARD OIL COMPANY, A DELAWARE CORPORATION LICENSED TO DO BUSINESS IN NEW JERSEY, APPELLEE.



Author: Kalodner

Before GOODRICH, KALODNER and STALEY, Circuit Judges.

KALODNER, C.J.: Does a federal district court have jurisdiction, under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (Taft-Hartley Act)*fn1 to decree specific performance of a provision in a collective bargaining agreement between a union and an employer which requires them, when a new job classification is established, to negotiate on the salary rate for such classification?

That is the primary issue presented in this appeal by the plaintiff union from an Order of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissing, for want of jurisdiction, Count 1 of its Complaint against the defendant employer seeking specific performance as above stated. The defendant's alleged refusal to negotiate, the District Court held, was "a refusal to bargain collectively and an unfair labor practice within the meaning of Section 101 of the National Labor Relations Act" and, accordingly, "the dispute and the parties thereto are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board."

The District Court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss Count 2 in the Complaint which demanded money damages for the alleged breach of contract. In doing so it held that it "has jurisdiction of the subject matter of the second count which states a claim for damages."

The plaintiff is an unincorporated labor organization certified by the National Labor Relations Board as the collective bargaining agent of certain of defendant's employees. The defendant is a Delaware corporation engaged in industry affecting interstate commerce.

Plaintiff and defendant entered into a collective bargaining agreement on February 15, 1952. On November 10, 1954, they amended their contract by changing Article V, Section II to read as follows:

"If the Company establishes a new job classification, or if either party proposes a change in the salary, for any step, in any job classification listed on the Automatic Progression Schedules, negotiations on the salary shall be conducted between the Company and a Union Salary Rate Committee consisting of not more than seven (7) members (including the President and Recording Secretary).

"In this negotiation, if either party proposes a specific salary, the other party shall accept or reject the proposal within sixty (60) calendar days.

"Any change in the Automatic Progression Schedules shall become effective as of the date on which the Company and the Union agree to the change."

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint contains the following allegations: In July, 1953, the defendant added certain procedures to the job descriptions sheets defining the duties of its laboratory technicians; at various times between July, 1953 and December, 1954, the parties discussed the problem of pay rates for the expanded job; on December 2, 1954, plaintiff presented a proposal for new pay rates; on January 28 and February 11, 1955, meetings of the parties were held at which the plaintiff elaborated on its new pay rate proposals; at all three of these meetings specific salary proposals as defined in Section II of the contract were made by the plaintiff; despite the passage of 60 days and more the defendant failed and refused to give the answer called for in Section II of the contract.

The contentions of the parties may be stated as follows:

Plaintiff:

Section 301 of the Taft-Hartley Act confers jurisdiction on federal district courts to compel specific performance where there is a breach ...


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