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K-T Marine Inc. v. Dockbuilders Local Union 1456 of NY and NJ

Decided: July 3, 1991.

K-T MARINE, INC., A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
DOCKBUILDERS LOCAL UNION 1456 OF NY AND NJ, OR OTHER PERSONS ACTING IN CONCERT WITH OR OTHERWISE PARTICIPATING IN AND AIDING THE DOCKBUILDERS LOCAL UNION 1456 OF NY AND NJ, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Monmouth County, reported at N.J. Super. .

J.h. Coleman and Dreier. The opinion of the court was delivered by Dreier, J.A.D.

Dreier

Defendant, Dockbuilders Local Union 1456 of New York and New Jersey, appeals from an order of Judge McGann enjoining the Union's picketing of the private residence of plaintiff's president and principal stockholder. 251 N.J. Super. 153, 597 A.2d 563.

Plaintiff, K.T. Marine, Inc., is a marine construction company having offices in Perth Amboy and employing non-union workers. It had been awarded a public contract to repair and construct 70 feet of steel bulkhead for a County bridge in Sea Bright. The contract required that plaintiff pay its employees

prevailing rates, i.e., area-standard wages and benefits as filed with the New Jersey Department of Labor. There was an anticipated completion date of September 1990.

On May 22, 1990 defendant heard from an unnamed individual that plaintiff was failing to pay the prevailing rates, and, without examining plaintiff's wage records on file with the Department of Labor, the Union began picketing plaintiff's job site in Sea Bright. According to the record, plaintiff was paying prevailing wages, but may not have been paying the full prevailing fringe benefits. After some problem at the job site, plaintiff obtained a temporary restraining order regulating the picketing.

On June 4, 1990, defendant began picketing the home of plaintiff's president, located in Middletown, 30 to 40 miles from plaintiff's job site. The president had visited the job site approximately six times. His wife testified that on June 4, 1990, when her four children were leaving to go to school, 15 men walked down the street carrying signs, and although she did not read their text, she was able to see that the signs contained the names of her husband and the Corporation. Since the picketers did not walk back and forth in front of the property, but milled around the driveway and interfered with pedestrians along the sidewalk, she was twice forced to call the police. When she would back her car from the driveway, the picketers blocked her view of the busy street. The children were frightened, and the president was continually questioned by the children and neighbors why protesters were picketing his house.

The Union president testified that the home was picketed because of the injunction regulating the picketing on the job site, and the purpose of the picketing was to "[l]et the neighbors and the neighborhood know that we [the Union] have a gripe with . . . [the] president of K-T Marine."

Judge McGann determined that in the usual case, informational picketing was a matter of constitutional right. While

such picketing cannot be enjoined, a court could impose reasonable limitations on its exercise for the public's health and welfare. As to the question whether informational picketing can be established "in a residential area far removed from the job site and in front of the home of a principal of the target corporation," the judge held that it could not. He stated that the purpose of such activity is "not informational; it is simply coercive." The purpose of this picketing was to force the president to make decisions "stemming solely from the apprehensions of his wife and children." Judge McGann was satisfied that tortious activity in the nature of such obstructive conduct had taken place and would continue unless the court interceded. He balanced these rights against the minimal limitations on the exercise of defendant's constitutional rights and enjoined further picketing at the residence.

Judge McGann further determined that the Anti-Injunction Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:15-51 et seq., did not apply to informational picketing in this case because the facts did not give rise to a "labor dispute" as defined in N.J.S.A. 2A:15-58c. The Union's desire to inform the public that plaintiff hired non-union employees and did not pay prevailing rates did not constitute a controversy which could be classified as a labor dispute. The president was not a "person" involved in the labor dispute as defined by the Act. The judge also determined that even if the Anti-Injunction Act were applicable, it would not justify the picketing at the president's residence. The only appropriate place to spread the informational message, other than the job site, would be at plaintiff's office in Perth Amboy.

The judge rejected defendant's argument that the court had no jurisdiction because the subject matter had been preempted by the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 141 et seq., specifically 29 U.S.C.A. § 158 (unfair labor practices). We agree with the trial judge that the State court's jurisdiction is not preempted as noted in ...


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