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In re Newark Teachers Union

Decided: February 8, 1972.

IN THE MATTER OF NEWARK TEACHERS UNION, LOCAL 481 AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS AFL-CIO, AN UNINCORPORATED ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANT CHARGED WITH CONTEMPT OF COURT. CAROLE GRAVES (AND 15 OTHERS), CHARGED WITH CONTEMPT OF COURT


Sullivan, Leonard and Carton.

Per Curiam

During the 1971 Newark teachers strike which commenced February 2, 1971 and lasted until April 8, 1971, defendants were charged with contempt in that they willfully violated a final judgment of the Superior Court entered on February 27, 1970 which permanently enjoined the Newark Teachers Union, Local 481, its members, officers and directors, including certain named individuals, from participating in any strike, work stoppage, picketing, etc., against the Board of Education of Newark.

Hearings were held on the charges of contempt. At the conclusion thereof the trial court found in essence that each defendant had actual knowledge of the terms and conditions of the final judgment of February 27, 1970 but had nevertheless intentionally and deliberately participated in the 1971 strike activities and was guilty of the contempt charged. A fine, which ultimately amounted to $270,000, was imposed on the union. Twelve of the 15 individuals received six-month jail sentences and fines of $500. Defendant Fiorito, who was convicted of two separate contempts during the 1971 strike, was sentenced to two consecutive six-month jail terms and fined a total of $1,000. Defendants Bizzaro and Del Grosso received three-month terms and fines of $250.

We have carefully reviewed the entire record of proceedings de novo , and reach the following independent findings and conclusions as to guilt and punishment.

It is clear that each defendant had actual knowledge of the terms and provisions of the February 27, 1970 final judgment. That judgment in clear language manifested the intention of the court to prohibit participation in future strikes as well as the one then recently in progress. That that interpretation was not inadvertent is evidenced by the colloquy between the court and counsel for defendants at the time it was entered. The entry on February 3, 1971 of the cease and desist order and its subsequent service on the union and various individual defendants further emphasized and brought home to them the fact that the injunction was intended to apply to the 1971 strike. Nevertheless, they continued

to defy its mandate. Thus, each of the defendants willfully and knowingly violated its terms by actually supporting and participating in the 1971 strike and is guilty of contempt. The record also establishes Fiorito's guilt of two separate contempts.

Defendants contend that regardless of their knowledge concerning its scope, the injunction was unconstitutional because (1) it was overbroad in that it barred future strikes, and (2) they were not given a hearing on the enforceability of the injunction where they might present new evidence. Both arguments are without merit.

We recognize that in the sensitive area of labor disputes the scope of the injunction should be carefully tailored to the factual situation from which the litigation sprang. Otherwise such injunctive orders may become overbroad or stale in their application to a later strike. Consequently, the better practice is for the employer to seek fresh relief. Thus, in the present case, when the 1971 strike materialized, it would have been better practice to file a new complaint with supporting affidavits setting forth the new factual situation and on this basis to seek a new injunction. However, we conclude that the 1970 final judgment, entered less than a year before the 1971 strike against the same union and its members, officers and directors, was efficacious in the particular circumstances here presented.

Defendants contend that they were entitled to a hearing on the enforceability of the injunction where they could present evidence that, in the negotiations for a new contract, the board of education was not bargaining in good faith and was using a strategy of forcing the teachers to strike so that they would lose public support.

If this was the board's plan it was reprehensible. However, assuming there was some basis for the teachers' contention, that was no excuse to violate the final judgment of February 27, 1970. The matter was not between private parties where issues of clean hands and good faith would be material. It concerned a public school system, and the continued

public interest in having the schools remain open and the ...


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