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JOHNSON & JOHNSON v. TEXTILE WORKERS UNION

June 10, 1960

JOHNSON & JOHNSON, a New Jersey corporation; Ethicon, Inc., a New Jersey corporation; and Chicopee Manufacturing Corporation, a Massachusetts corporation, Plaintiffs,
v.
TEXTILE WORKERS UNION OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, a labor organization, and Local No. 630, Textile Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MEANEY

Plaintiffs herein have applied for issuance of a preliminary and interlocutory injunction against defendants and seek to compel defendants to submit the subject matter of the dispute between the parties to arbitration.

Plaintiffs and defendants entered into almost identical collective bargaining contracts which are presently in effect. Among the provisions of the said contracts are the following two which are the bases of the respective arguments of the contending parties. The three plaintiffs will be treated alike as for all intents and purposes the matters to be adjudicated are the same for each.

 'Article 2

 'Grievance Procedure

 'Section A: Grievance Procedure

 'Any difference of opinion, controversy, or dispute, between the Employer and the Union, or between the Employer and any employee, concerning rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, or other conditions of employment, or concerning the interpretation or application of this Agreement, and which in the instance of difference of opinion, controversy, or dispute between the Employer and any employee, is not settled or adjusted by the Department Supervisor to the satisfaction of the employee concerned and the Union, shall be considered a grievance. No settlement of any grievance shall impose retroactivity beyond the date on which the grievance was filed.

 'The following procedure, which may be initiated by either party, shall be applied and relied upon by both parties, as the sole and exclusive means of seeking adjustment of, and settling grievances.

 'Step 5. By arbitration in accordance with Paragraphs 'B' and 'C' of this Article.

 'Article 15

 'Contract Re-Opener

 'During the May, 1959 Contract Negotiations, a Gentlemen's Agreement was reached to the effect that any issues which cannot be resolved adequately through the grievance and arbitration procedure could be reviewed and discussed on May 15, 1960. Therefore, it was understood and agreed that either party may re-open the Contract sixty (60) days prior to May 15, 1960 for this purpose only. If no agreement is reached by May 15, 1960, then both parties are free to resort to economic pressure, such as a strike or lockout. This does not refer to wage or fringe benefits, for example, or any other items which are provided for in the Contract.'

 On March 11, 1960, defendants notified plaintiffs that they desired to reopen their contract under the terms of Article 15 above cited, insofar as the question of 'pre-job testing' is concerned. It appears that the plaintiffs of late insist on their right to determine the qualifications and abilities of employees to be considered for promotion to certain specific jobs in their plants, before such promotion be made. The particular examination objected to included a written test. It would appear that heretofore the practice has been to place the employee in the job and subject him to scrutiny and observation after he had begun to operate in his new post, as the test for his fitness.

 Previous to the March 11th notice, the parties had discussed their differences all to no avail. The defendants had taken the position that under Article 15 they desired to reopen the contract and bargain anew on the question in dispute. Plaintiffs had countered with the proposition that the machinery for arbitration was the appropriate procedure. Upon failure to reach an agreement on the subject matter of their discussions, the defendants called a strike, with attendant picketing, against all plaintiffs.

 Examination of both provisions of the agreement leads the court to the following conclusions. The arbitration clause is comprehensive and includes the whole sphere of disputes about the subject matter of the agreement which may arise between the parties thereto. Time and time again such agreements, very largely at the insistence of labor organizations, have been construed as thus extensive. Article 15 must be read in conjunction with the inclusive content of Article 2. To give the significance to Article 15, indicated by the defendants, would nullify the effectiveness of the contract. To predetermine, at the will of either party, the inadequacy of arbitration procedure, without trial thereof, would render the contract a ...


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