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Public Utility Construction and Gas Appliance Workers v. Public Service Electric and Gas Co.

Decided: March 15, 1957.

THE PUBLIC UTILITY CONSTRUCTION AND GAS APPLIANCE WORKERS OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, LOCAL NO. 274, OF THE UNITED ASSOCIATION OF JOURNEYMEN AND APPRENTICES OF THE PLUMBING AND PIPE FITTING INDUSTRY, A.F.L., AN UNINCORPORATED ASSOCIATION, AND THOMAS MOORE, EDWARD SMITH AND GEORGE MOORE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
PUBLIC SERVICE ELECTRIC AND GAS COMPANY, A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, DEFENDANT



Civil action. On order to show cause.

Duffy, J.c.c. (temporarily assigned).

Duffy

The plaintiffs, a labor union and three members thereof, by order to show cause, seek an order from this court directing that the subject matter of a dispute between the named individual plaintiffs and the defendant company be remanded to an arbitration board for settlement pursuant to the rules of the State Board of Mediation and the contract of employment between the parties. This action is brought under the provisions of N.J.S. 2 A:24-3.

The pleadings and exhibits indicate that a contract of employment previously executed between the union plaintiff and the defendant company terminated on July 1, 1953. While negotiations for a new agreement went on between the parties, the members of Local No. 274 fulfilled and continued working in the various jobs and assignments of their employment with defendant.

The negotiations for a new contract proved unsuccessful. On November 28, 1953 the union called a strike. All members of the union, including the three individual plaintiffs, immediately ceased work in answer to the call.

On December 23, 1953 Thomas Moore, Edward Smith and George Moore, plaintiffs in this proceeding, were arrested by the Palisades Park police on a criminal charge. They were thereupon suspended from their jobs by defendant

company. An indictment was returned against them by the Bergen County grand jury on May 13, 1954 in two counts, one, charging breaking and entering, and the other, burglary. They were tried on January 25 and 26, 1955, and the jury returned a verdict of not guilty of both counts in favor of the three defendants (in the Criminal Division), Thomas Moore, Edward Smith and George Moore.

Meantime, on December 29, 1953, the strike between the union and defendant company was amicably settled. Part of the strike settlement agreement provided that the propriety of the suspension of the individual plaintiffs be submitted to arbitration in accordance with the rules of arbitration of the New Jersey State Board of Mediation.

Pursuant to the above proviso a hearing was afforded the three named plaintiffs before an arbitration board, May 3, 1955, to determine the merits of their suspensions. On May 11, 1955 the board made its findings that the suspension of the three named was just and proper. However, at the close of the hearing on May 3 certain representatives of the defendant company verbally advised the named individual plaintiffs that their conduct, the subject matter of the criminal proceedings, justified their discharge by the company; that from that moment on they could and should consider themselves discharged by the company.

The dismissal was confirmed by letters to each of the individual plaintiffs, dated May 4, 1955. The language of each letter was verbatimly similar. I quote the letter to Thomas Moore:

"Dear Sir:

This letter is in reply to your application for reinstatement in our employ made again on May 3, 1955.

Your representative previously has been informed that in our opinion your actions of December 23, 1953 were such as to disqualify you for employment with this Company. We advised him that under no circumstances would we reinstate you. Your recent application does not change the situation, and our decision not to reinstate you stands.

Very truly yours,

(s) H. W. Nicholson

General Superintendent of Distribution

Gas Department."

Under date of May 6, 1955, on the stationery of the labor union, the following reply was ...


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