The plaintiffs bring this summary procedure by way of complaint and order to show cause pursuant to N.J.S. 2 A:24-7 to vacate and set aside an arbitration award. The defendants have counterclaimed seeking the confirmation of such award. The pertinent facts hereinafter set forth are not in dispute.
The plaintiffs are employees of the defendant Hall's Motor Transit Company, a corporation (hereinafter referred to as Hall's), and are members of the defendant Local 641, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America (hereinafter referred to as the union), the collective bargaining agent representing Hall's employees.
The defendant union, together with other unions located in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, have repeatedly negotiated and entered into collective bargaining contracts with Hall's and other companies in the area. Contracts between the union and Hall's of two years' duration were entered into effective on September 1, 1958 and September 1, 1960. Such contracts were ratified by the members of the union at union meetings called for such purpose. The contracts require union membership of all truck drivers, helpers and other employees engaged in such trucking business as a condition of employment.
In May 1960 the defendant Hall's notified the union that it had entered into an agreement with Buch Express Company to merge the two companies and requested the union to advise as to the method of establishing seniority rights of the employees. Buch Express Company (hereinafter referred to as Buch) was another trucking concern, whose employees were likewise represented by the union, Local 641, which had a similar collective bargaining contract with said company.
On August 8, 1960 the Interstate Commerce Commission granted authority to Hall's and Buch to merge effective August 22, 1960.
On August 19, 1960 the union received notice that Hall's and Buch were merged, and the president of Local 641 conferred with employees of both companies. The employees of Buch demanded that their seniority rights should be "dovetailed" with Hall's employees pursuant to the terms of article 5, section 5(d) of the collective bargaining contract, since there had been a merger between Hall's and Buch. The employees of Hall's demanded that their seniority rights were paramount to the seniority rights of the Buch employees and that such rights were governed by article 5, section 5(e) of the contract in that the transaction was not a " merger " but was an " acquisition " by Hall's of Buch's business.
The subsections referred to are as follows:
When two or more companies merge their operations then the employees of the respective companies shall all be placed on one seniority roster in the order of the earliest date of hire of each of the employees with their respective employer.
5(e) Acquisition or Purchase
When one company acquires or purchases control of the business of another company then the employees of the company so acquired or purchased shall be placed at the bottom of the acquiring or purchasing company's seniority roster in the order of their payroll or company seniority with the former company."
Upon investigation of the circumstances, the president of Local 641, acting for the union concluded that the transaction was a merger and advised Hall's that seniority rights were based upon the contract clause relating to a merger, article 5, section 5(d), which provided for "dovetailing."
On September 2, 1960 counsel for the plaintiffs, stating that he represented a committee of teamsters employed by Hall's, notified both Hall's and the union that the employees' seniority rights were ...