The opinion of the court was delivered by: BIUNNO
This is a suit by various members of defendant Local 843 to recover the amount of wages and other benefits which were lost when Local 843 required its members to honor a picket line despite an agreement with the employer not to do so.
The case was tried to the court without a jury, on the basis of certain facts not in dispute set out in the pretrial order, various exhibits (including pertinent transcript) in a proceeding before the NLRB, and depositions with exhibits taken in this cause. Trial was limited to the issue of liability only, although plaintiffs have included a tabulation outlining the nature and extent of the items claimed. See Exh. D.
The events surrounding this matter have been the subject of at least two other proceedings. One was a suit by Local 843 against the employer, Anheuser-Busch, Inc., filed in Superior Court, Chancery Division, Essex County and removed to this court by the employer on about March 17, 1976, where it became Civ. No. 76-492. The other was a consolidated proceeding on two cases before the NLRB, in which it was determined that the action of Local 843 in imposing fines and suspensions on four members who crossed the picket line invaded rights guaranteed to them by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (29 USC § 157) and was a violation of Section 8(b)(1)(A) of that Act (29 USC § 158) as an unfair labor practice.
The employer, Anheuser-Busch, is a Missouri corporation engaged in the brewing of malt beverages at various locations one of which is a brewery at Newark, N.J., where some 1,340 persons were employed in 1975-1976. Of those represented by a collective bargaining agent, the units involved a total of 5 representatives. Of the 5, two were affiliated with the Teamsters, and these acted for members involved in the main operations. Steamfitters were represented by Local 475, United Association, etc., stationary engineers and oilers by Local 68, Operating Engineers, and laborers by Local 342, Laborers International.
The two representatives for "brewery" personnel were:
. . . Brewery Workers Joint Local Executive Board of New Jersey (Teamsters), hereafter "Joint Board"
. . . Brewery Workers Local 102 (Teamsters).
As the papers on file in Civ. 76-492 make clear,
it is the "Joint Board" which is the certified collective bargaining representative, and not Local 843 or Local 153, whose members are represented by the Joint Board. It also appears in the recitals to the agreement dated January 12, 1976, which is the last page of the excerpts from the contract at Exh. C to plaintiffs' Appendix.
There were collective bargaining agreements in effect for the Newark brewery which ran to the end of February, 1976 for the Joint Board and Local 102, and to April 30, 1976 for the steamfitters and laborers. The date for the operating engineers does not appear.
In any event, the employer decided in early Fall of 1975 to seek negotiation and agreement as long before the contract expiration date as possible. As an incentive it offered to put negotiated increases into effect before the existing contract expired and, in case other employees achieved greater increases later, to grant parity at that time to those who settled early. In exchange, it sought an agreement not to honor or support any picket line whose object it was to exert pressure on the employer to come to agreement on another collective bargaining agreement. This was embodied in a letter dated December 3, 1975 to Mr. Sullivan at the Joint Board, and signed by him after the new agreement, including the letter agreement, had been ratified in late January, 1976, effective January 12, 1976.
Although there was no labor dispute between the employer and the Joint Board or any employee represented by it, those employees engaged in a work stoppage by honoring the picket line of Local 102. In addition, employees represented by the steamfitters and laborers whose contracts ran to April 30, 1976, also did not cross Local 102's picket line and failed to report for work.
Part of the new contract with the Joint Board involved the employer's withdrawal from a pre-existing welfare trust fund and the establishment of a new one on February 1, 1976. When the work stoppage occurred, the employer sent letters to its employees under date of March 3, 1976, informing them that coverage had been suspended temporarily and for the duration of the work stoppage. The coverage included at least hospital, surgical, medical, dental and life insurance, and arrangements were made for the coverage to continue during the temporary suspension at the employees' own expense for the premiums.
That letter triggered the complaint that became Civ. No. 76-492 in this court, by which Local 843 sought a preliminary injunction to compel ...