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Donevero v. Jersey City Incinerator Authority

Decided: June 20, 1962.


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


This action was commenced by complaint in lieu of prerogative writs. Since the institution of this suit, six of the nine plaintiffs have discontinued their actions. Two of the remaining plaintiffs, Harry Morse and Andrew J. McAleer, seek reinstatement of their employment with the defendant and back pay. Plaintiff John J. Casserly died July 14, 1961, and his wife seeks back pay from October 8, 1960 to said date.

Based upon a written stipulation and oral testimony, the court finds the following facts. Plaintiffs were honorably discharged veterans having served with the armed forces of the United States. In 1957 plaintiff Morse was employed by the defendant, Jersey City Incinerator Authority (hereinafter referred to as Authority) as a truck driver, and later promoted to a foreman. In June 1961 he returned to work for the Authority "without prejudice to this case." Plaintiff McAleer was employed as a crane operator and plaintiff Casserly as personnel manager. The employment in each instance was for a term not fixed by law. Plaintiffs were members of Local 825, International

Union of Operating Engineers (hereinafter referred to as Local 825).

On February 6, 1960 the majority of "inside" employees of the Authority designated Local 825 as their representative for the purpose of presenting grievances and proposals, pursuant to the provisions of N.J. Const., Art. I, par. 19.

On February 19, 1960 ten employees of the Authority were dismissed for economy. On February 22, 1960 a walkout of all "inside" employees occurred and a picket line was formed. A suit was instituted by the Authority in the Superior Court, Chancery Division, to enjoin the strike. Subsequently, and after a hearing, an injunction was granted, but the ten employees were ordered restored to their employment. During the period from February 11, 1960 through September 1960 the union repeatedly requested an oral hearing with the Authority for the purpose of making known certain grievances and proposals, but the request was denied. Local 825 instituted an action in the Superior Court, Law Division, to compel the Authority to grant an oral hearing for the presentation of the employee's grievances and proposals. On September 30, 1960 the court dismissed the action and an appeal was taken. At the oral argument in the Supreme Court, the Authority agreed to grant an oral hearing as requested by Local 825. On March 16, 1961 the hearing was held.

The "inside" employees of the Authority, including plaintiffs, ceased working on October 8, 1960. The Authority, through proper representatives of the employees, requested that the men return to work on said date, but they failed to respond. The employees formed a picket line outside the plant. There were no threats or intimidation to prevent any employee from returning to work. The picketing was described as a peaceful, uneventful gathering. The reason given for the walkout of the "inside" employees was that they had "information" that an individual who was not a member of the union was to be granted an increase over and above that received by employees performing the

same work who were represented by Local 825. No testimony was presented as to the reliability or truthfulness of the "information" which caused the walkout. Subsequent to October 8, 1960 the court enjoined the strike and directed the striking employees to return to work. The employees who had "walked off the job" on October 8, 1960 stayed out until October 17, 1960. For a period commencing October 8, 1960 and ending three or four weeks later, the Authority was unable to fully and properly perform its functions, which consisted of the collection and disposal of garbage in Jersey City.

The City of Jersey City created the Authority under the Incinerator Authorities Law. Although a municipal agency, the Authority was clothed by the Legislature with the status of "a public body politic and corporate constituting a political subdivision of the State established as an instrumentality exercising public and essential governmental functions." In section 2 of the Incinerator Authorities Law, supra , the Legislature declared it to be

"* * * in the public interest and to be the policy of the State to foster and promote by all reasonable means the health and welfare of the citizens thereof by the proper collection and disposal of garbage and other refuse matter."

The defendant is obviously a public body having corporate form and attributes. The Authority was created to perform a public duty, namely, to provide for collection and disposal of garbage in the City of Jersey City. Under the unequivocal terms of the Incinerator Authorities Law, the Authority is "an agency and instrumentality" of the city. Its work is admittedly public in nature and in furtherance of the municipal welfare. It is a separate entity with statutory power independent of the municipality, ...

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