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Soricelli v. Board of Review

Decided: September 20, 1957.


Goldmann, Freund and Conford. The opinion of the court was delivered by Goldmann, S.j.a.d.


[46 NJSuper Page 302] This is an appeal by claimant Soricelli, pro se , from a denial of unemployment compensation benefits under the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law, R.S. 43:21-1 et seq.


Soricelli initially filed an interstate claim for New Jersey unemployment benefits through the Pennsylvania Bureau of Employment Security. Our Division of Employment Security made a determination disqualifying claimant under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(d) from receiving benefits for the period November 21, 1955 to February 28, 1956, for the reason that his unemployment during that time was due to a work stoppage caused by a labor dispute at the employer's premises. Claimant then appealed to the Appeal Tribunal of the Division, and at its request a hearing was held before a referee of the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Board of Review. At that hearing it was stipulated that pertinent parts of testimony previously taken in Pennsylvania in a test case brought by claimant's coworker, Hugh Oliver, be made part of the Soricelli record. The Pennsylvania referee then sent the transcript of testimony in both cases to the Appeal Tribunal for determination of Soricelli's claim. The Appeal Tribunal found that claimant's unemployment was due to a work stoppage which existed because of a labor dispute at his employer's premises. To avoid disqualification he would have to show he did not participate in that dispute; by contributing to the striking union, although in a small amount, he had helped finance the dispute. Accordingly, the Appeal Tribunal held that Soricelli was disqualified for benefits, under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(d), and affirmed the deputy's determination.

Upon further appeal, the Board of Review affirmed this result. Claimant then appealed to this court, which entered an order on November 30, 1956 remanding the matter to the Board for rehearing and additional findings of fact. In requesting the rehearing claimant had said he had "reason to believe there were certain facts misrepresented" by the Pennsylvania referee who had conducted the original hearing. (That hearing, it should be noted, had been recorded electronically and the transcript of testimony prepared by the hearing stenographer direct from the recording.)

At the rehearing, held January 2, 1957, claimant explained that by his charge of "misrepresentation" he meant the "unfair" questions that had been asked of him by the referee, and the improper inferences the referee had drawn from his answers. Claimant was invited to point out the specific portions of the testimony with respect to which he took exception or wished clarification. Soricelli expressed some dissatisfaction with the referee's having included as part of the record the testimony in the Oliver case, although he himself had expressly agreed to such inclusion at the original hearing. In any event, claimant gave no reason for this objection, nor did he show in just what way he had been prejudiced. He also took exception to questions put to him at the original hearing which, he claimed, tended to create the impression he had received strike benefits as a result of his contribution to the strike fund. We observe, in passing, that this was not the ground on which the Board based disqualification.

We need not further detail the several matters with which Soricelli found fault. His reasons for dissatisfaction with the original hearing shifted with the progress of the rehearing. His complaints were vague and elusive. A fair reading of his testimony at the rehearing leaves us with the indelible impression that all he was doing was fencing with the Board as to the meaning of words used and its reasons for questions asked. We find that both the hearing and rehearing were fairly conducted. Soricelli was given every consideration; the fullest opportunity was afforded him for a complete exposition of his version of the facts and to explain why he should not be disqualified for unemployment benefits.

As a result of the rehearing the Board of Review found that Soricelli had voluntarily refused to cross the picket line of a striking union at his employer's plant, and had admitted as much; that a letter he had received from his employer on the morning of the day he failed to return to work, clearly informed him that work was available for him; that of 1,400 workers at the employer's premises, 1,300 continued work after the strike was called, with only members

of the striking union, claimant's union and one other union failing to report; that work in the plant continued except in the composing room where claimant was employed; that during most of the period of the strike there were only two pickets at each of the two plant entrances, and there was no violence or threat of violence; and, finally, that claimant did not receive "strike benefits" as a result of his small contribution to the striking union, but received benefits in accordance with the basic provision of the union constitution and by-laws.


The background facts are these: Claimant was employed as a proofreader in the composing room of Hadden Craftsman, Inc., a subsidiary of International Textbook Company, in Scranton, Pa. He was a member of Scranton Typographical Union, Local 112. There were 12 unions representing various groups of employees at the company's plant. Two of them -- Local 112 and Mailers Union Local 124 -- were affiliated with the International Typographical Union. They and Supplementary Mailers Local 124 each had separate contracts with the company. The Mailers and Supplementary Mailers Locals had the same officers, who had negotiated and signed the contracts on behalf of both. Members of Local 112 worked in the composing room; members of the two Locals 124 worked in the mailing room, attending to incoming and outgoing mail and carrying on packaging and shipping operations.

The contract between Local 112 and the company contained a clause that "no employee covered by this contract shall be required to cross a picket line established because of an authorized strike by any other subordinate union of the International Typographical Union." The contract of Supplementary Mailers Local 124 had a similar clause; it provided that no member would be required to cross a picket line established because of an authorized strike by Mailers Local 124.

On November 21, 1955 the members of the Mailers Local went out on strike because of failure to negotiate a new contract with their employer. The members of Supplementary Mailers Union 124 also failed to report, thereby causing a stoppage of work in the mailing room. The strike continued until February 28, 1956.

At the time the strike was called claimant's union, Local 112, held a meeting and voted not to cross the picket line established by striking Local 124. Thereupon, all its members, including claimant, remained away from work during the entire period of the strike. The result of their action was a complete stoppage of work in the composing room. This had a vital effect upon the operation of the entire plant; the composing room supplied the type and plates for the press room, and the company therefore found itself in a position where it could not accept new work. It had to continue with whatever work was on hand.

There were two employee entrances to the plant, one on each of two intersecting streets. Throughout the strike the maximum number of pickets at each entrance was two. Members of nine other unions, numbering some 1,300 of the 1,400 employees working in the plant, crossed the picket line without any interference and continued to work throughout the strike. The picketing was peaceful; the strike was without violence or threat of ...

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