This chancery action involves the right of a labor union to recognition by an employer, the majority of whose employees have joined it, to both recognition and to collective bargaining. The facts as developed are quite simple but must be laid out in chronological sequence:
1. On August 9, 1985, plaintiff union, Comite Organizador De Trabajadores Agricolas (herein designated COTA), also known as the Agricultural Workers' Organizing Committee, and fifteen (15) individuals, employees of defendant Saul Levin, a farmer in Rosenhayn, Cumberland County, New Jersey, filed the complaint in this action and obtained from this Court an order to show cause why the relief requested should not be granted. The relief requested included a court order requiring defendants to recognize COTA as the duly authorized and exclusive bargaining agent of defendants' employees, or, in the alternative, directing an election to be held by the New Jersey State Board of Mediation. The complaint also sought an injunction requiring defendants to "bargain and negotiate in good
faith" with plaintiffs and for a protective order enjoining defendants not to harass or interfere with the employees or their employment. The complaint was filed on behalf of plaintiffs by the Division of Public Interest Advocacy and the Department of the Public Advocate.
Defendant Saul Levin and his father, Isaac Levin, appeared, pursuant to notice required by R. 4:52-1. Upon conversation in chambers with the parties, it became apparent that no consent was to be granted so the Court forthwith took the bench and conducted further proceedings on the record. The Court issued an order to show cause restraining defendants from interfering with or harassing the employees during the pendency of the action, made the matter returnable on short notice, and advised defendants that they immediately needed counsel. As a matter of fact, defendants indicated that Harry Adler, a former judge of this Court, was their attorney and the Court immediately caused an associate of Harry Adler to be present in court and advised defendants upon the record that it was important that they conduct their business through an attorney and that the associate was there in order that he might be properly briefed.
On the return day of the order to show cause, August 16, 1985, defendants appeared without an attorney. Upon the Court querying Isaac Levin as to an attorney, Levin indicated that they did not have an attorney. The Court then heard the representations of the Public Advocate who was accompanied by all of the fifteen employees. The Court caused the employees to be sworn and they all indicated that they wanted the union to represent them. The Court then indicated that it was incumbent upon defendants to recognize the union and bargain with them, to which Isaac Levin then stated:
"My dear Judge, Your Honor, as much as I love you and as much as I love this Honorable Court, there will be -- never be a union on my land."
The Court thereby issued an order directing defendants to recognize the union and upon their refusal, ordered them to be committed to the Cumberland County Jail until such time as they did sign a recognition agreement. Such an action is
neither punitive nor arbitrary, but is one of the time-honored remedies available both in general equity proceedings and those in lieu of the prerogative writ mandamus.
Because the Court was that day to go on vacation and since it was apparent that no useful purpose would be served by continuing the confinement of defendants, the Court that same day ordered defendants released, strongly urged their obtaining counsel, and again directed them to recognize COTA.
On August 22, 1985, plaintiffs, upon refusal of defendants to recognize COTA, filed a new order to show cause why defendants should not be held in contempt of the order of August 16. This order was returnable before Judge Samuel G. ...