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Independent Oil Workers at Paulsboro v. Socony Mobil Oil Co.

Decided: January 17, 1964.


Wick, J.s.c.


This is a civil action wherein a union seeks to enjoin a company from carrying out or continuing in operation certain alleged new work rules and adjusted compensation procedures unilaterally instituted and inaugurated by the defendant company on December 2, 1963 and, further, the union seeks to enjoin the company from modifying the terms and conditions of their collective bargaining agreement without the mutual consent of the union.

Plaintiff Independent Oil Workers at Paulsboro, New Jersey, hereinafter referred to as the union, is an incorporated labor organization with its office located in Gloucester County, New Jersey. Defendant Socony Mobil Oil Company, Inc., hereinafter referred to as Socony, is a corporation duly organized and existing under the laws of the State of New York. It is engaged in the business of purchasing, refining and selling petroleum and other products, with one of its many refineries being located in Paulsboro, New Jersey.

The complaint, filed December 14, 1963, makes the following allegations, inter alia: On or about March 17, 1945 the union was duly certified by the National Labor Relations Board as the sole and exclusive bargaining representative for all non-supervisory production and maintenance employees, employed by Socony at its Paulsboro refinery, totalling upwards of 2,000 employees. On April 13, 1960 the union and Socony entered into a collective bargaining agreement which

by the terms thereof became effective on April 13, 1960 and extended to April 13, 1962. By amendatory agreements the term thereof was extended in full force and effect to March 1, 1964. The said collective bargaining agreement, admitted in evidence as a joint exhibit, provides, inter alia:


The Company hereby recognizes the Union as the sole and exclusive Bargaining Representative with respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, and other conditions of employment * * *


Adjustment of Wage Rates

13. There will be no adjustment of wage rates for employees eligible to representation by the Union during the life of this Agreement, unless mutually agreed to by both the Company and the Union.


Joint Conference

1. The Company will meet with the Union not more often than two (2) afternoons per month for the consideration of questions of general importance concerning rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, and other conditions of employment.

3. Either the Company or the Union may call a meeting of the joint conference, which shall be held within one (1) week of the date such request is served upon the other party, unless postponed by mutual agreement. Such notice shall be served on the Company by delivery to the Manager, or in his absence his authorized representative, and shall be served on the Union by delivery to the Chairman of Representatives or in his absence to the Deputy Chairman. Each notice and request shall state the question or questions to be considered at the meeting.

5. The joint conference shall endeavor to agree upon questions at issue and shall avoid delay in the investigation, consideration and adjustment of these matters.


Term of Agreement

This Agreement may be modified at any time during its life by mutual consent of the Company and the Union."

It is alleged that for upwards of 20 years prior to December 2, 1963 it was the uninterrupted established practice and condition of employment for maintenance employees of

Socony, whose number at the time of the complaint approximated 700, to change from their street clothing into work clothing in the "change house" located within the refinery, preparatory to walking or otherwise traveling to their preassigned work sites, and to wait in the said "change house" until the plant whistle would blow signaling the 8 A.M. commencement of their daily work shift schedule (as agreed to under the collective bargaining agreement), whereupon the maintenance employees would then leave the "change house" to travel to and report at their respective job sites. At five minutes prior to the 4:30 P.M. termination of their respective daily work shift schedule, the plant whistle would again blow, signaling the time at which the maintenance employees were authorized and expected to leave their respective work sites and to return to the said "change house" for the purpose of again changing their clothing.

The period of time necessary to travel to and from the "change house" from and to the maintenance employees' respective work sites -- would consume anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes' travel time each way, dependent upon the distance each employee would be required to travel to reach his work site destination.

Those employees whose work sites were more than five minutes walking or traveling distance from the "change house" were permitted and authorized to leave their respective work sufficiently in advance of the normal 4:25 P.M. plant whistle to enable them to return to and arrive at the "change house" immediately prior to the 4:30 P.M. termination of their respective daily work shift schedule.

During the entire uninterrupted period this established practice and condition of employment was in effect, the represented maintenance employees were compensated at their respective wage rates of pay for the entire daily work shift period, commencing from the time the plant whistle blew at 8 A.M., and their departure from the "change house" to travel to their respective job sites, until their return to the "change house" at 4:30 P.M. (except for their respective intervening

meal periods of one half hour), without any deduction being made therefrom for the described travel time.

It is alleged that notwithstanding the foregoing uninterrupted established practice and working condition, on or about October 24, 1963 defendant Socony, acting through one Agnes, the supervisor of Socony's maintenance department, notified Messrs. Black and Leone, respectively president and chairman of representatives of the union, that Socony had decided to institute and to continue indefinitely in the future a new work rule and adjusted compensation procedure applicable to the maintenance personnel represented by the union.

After one postponement Socony notified the union on October 31, 1963 that the new work rules and time recording procedures would be placed into effect. Socony imposed the new rules and procedures upon the maintenance employees on December 2, 1963. They are alleged to be of the following nature:

1. Each maintenance employee would be directed and required to leave the "change house" sufficiently in advance so as to be at his respective preassigned work site at or prior to the time the 8 A.M. plant whistle signal would blow.

2. Each maintenance employee would be directed and required to remain at his respective work site until the customary 4:25 P.M. plant whistle signal would blow (except for the established lunch periods), whereupon it would become the duty of each employee to locate his respective foreman and to deliver to him a certain card which would theretofore be delivered to each employee by Socony, for appropriate notations and entries to be made thereon, and only after location of and delivery to the foreman of the time card would each employee be authorized to return to the "change house."

3. Instead of being compensated from the time each employee left the "change house" at 8 A.M., as theretofore had been the practice, each employee would be compensated from the time commencing when he physically reported to his respective work site, at 8 A.M.

The union avers that at no time did it acquiesce in or consent to the discontinuance of the established practice and condition of employment, or in the unilateral modification thereof by Socony, but on the contrary has offered to enter into good faith negotiations with Socony and Socony has persistently refused to so act. It is further alleged that said acts by Socony amount to a modification of the collective bargaining agreement and a readjustment of wage rates in violation of the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and the law.

Socony admits that it did not furnish any governmental agency with notice of its intended changes, ...

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