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Abrams v. Carrier Corp.

decided: November 4, 1970.

ERNEST E. ABRAMS ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS
v.
CARRIER CORPORATION ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Waterman and Anderson, Circuit Judges, and Bartels, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Bartels

BARTELS, D. J.:

Plaintiffs appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (Port, J.) dismissing their amended complaint against all the defendants, principally upon the grounds of lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Jurisdiction is alleged under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185, and Section 102 of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 412.*fn1

Appellants are approximately 225 former employees of Carrier Corporation ("Carrier") at its Syracuse, N.Y. plant, who lost their jobs as a result of a labor relations imbroglio which began in the summer of 1959 and lasted beyond November 30, 1961. They lost their jobs as a consequence of a work stoppage (claimed by them to be a lockout) and picketing of the plant in connection with certain proposals made by Local Union No. 5895 of the United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO ("Steelworkers") and the scheduling of overtime work which resulted in, among other things, the suspension of Francis Brewster, the president of Local 5895. They were not reemployed by Carrier after the picketing ended although other employees of lesser seniority, who also picketed, were recalled to work. At various times during this period, three labor unions, Federal Labor Union No. 23983, affiliated with AFL-CIO ("FLU"), Local 5895 of Steelworkers, and Local 527 of Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, AFL-CIO ("Sheet Metal Workers"), represented Carrier's production and maintenance employees.

Upon these basic facts, appellants have for the second time attempted to state one or more claims within the jurisdiction of this court in allegations which are conclusory, vague, overlapping, and often contradictory. The district court, having dismissed the first complaint under Rule 8, Fed. R. Civ. Proc., 28 U.S.C., refused to dismiss the present complaint for the same reason, upon the ground that the allegations were sufficient to enable the defendants to file a responsive pleading. Instead, the court, in the interest of finality, probed the pleadings in a futile effort to ascertain whether the plaintiffs were entitled to relief upon the facts alleged and dismissed the complaint. We believe the interests of judicial economy might have been better served had this complaint also been dismissed as a plain violation of the explicit requirements of Rule 8, with leave to amend.*fn2 See Woody v. Sterling Aluminum Products, Incorporated, 365 F.2d 448 (8th Cir. 1966), cert. denied, 386 U.S. 957, 87 S. Ct. 1026, 18 L. Ed. 2d 105 (1967); Koll v. Wayzata State Bank, 397 F.2d 124 (8th Cir. 1968). In setting aside the district court's disposition of the case, we have been mindful of our obligation, particularly in cases in the labor relations field, to construe the complaint most liberally in favor of the plaintiffs. Desrosiers v. American Cyanamid Company, 377 F.2d 864 (2d Cir. 1967); Local 33, International Hod Carriers Building and Common Laborers' Union of America v. Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York, 291 F.2d 496 (2d Cir. 1961). See also Murray v. City of Milford, Connecticut, 380 F.2d 468 (2d Cir. 1967); Escalera v. New York City Housing Authority, 425 F.2d 853, (2d Cir., 1970).

The complaint is cast in the form of allegations of fact followed by a series of separate claims for wrongdoing against each defendant purportedly predicated upon those facts, which claims require separate treatment. The factual allegations may be briefly summarized as follows:

Facts

In 1956 appellants, former employees of Carrier, were represented by FLU, which entered into a collective bargaining agreement (hereafter referred to as "bargaining agreement") with Carrier, effective September 4, 1956, for a period of three years. By its terms this agreement (Section XXII) was subject to automatic extension for successive periods of three years each "* * * unless either party gives written notice of termination to the other party at least sixty (60) days before the end of such contract period." No such notice was ever given by either party.

On June 21, 1959, the membership of FLU voted at a special meeting to affiliate with an AFL-CIO international union, as a result of which a number of Internationals, including Steelworkers and Sheet Metal Workers, attempted to enlist the affiliation of the FLU membership. Thereafter an agreement was entered into among the international unions providing that the other Internationals would not intervene or be a party to any National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") election in such bargaining unit after the FLU membership had voted for affiliation with a particular International. Subsequently, on July 1, 1959, the FLU membership voted to affiliate with Steelworkers and on October 2, 1959 a charter was issued by Steelworkers to FLU designating it as Local Union 5895, which charter appellants claim constituted a contract. Contrary to the agreement, the Sheet Metal Workers agitated for affiliation with the FLU membership, which culminated in Sheet Metal Workers' and Local 527's entrance into a NLRB election held on January 7, 1960, which was won, however, by Local 5895. Accordingly, on January 15, 1960, Local 5895 was certified as "successor collective bargaining representative under the agreement entitled 'Agreement Between Carrier Corporation and AFL, Federal Union No. 23983.'" A disagreement between Carrier and Local 5895 arose in February, 1960, when Carrier entered into some sort of "campaign", pursuant to which "various proposals of the Local Union 5895" were denounced. When an extraordinary amount of overtime work was scheduled, Local 5895 voted to refuse to work overtime and to walk out if any member was disciplined for this refusal, it being claimed that Carrier was preparing for a strike or a lockout. Subsequently, on March 2, 1960, Francis Brewster was reprimanded and suspended by Carrier. On March 3, 1960, Carrier shut down its plants and thus effectuated a "lockout", which resulted in picketing on the same day by Local 5895.*fn3

Later, on March 27, 1960, an agreement was reached between Local 5895 and Carrier to end the work stoppage, but this agreement was torpedoed by another dispute arising out of the announcement by Carrier that Francis Brewster would not be permitted to return to work, whereupon picketing was resumed by Local 5895. Although Carrier announced on March 28, 1960 that it would reemploy all those who wished to return to work, approximately 400-500 members (including appellants) of Local 5895 continued to picket until the middle of May, 1960. Notwithstanding a subsequent announcement by Carrier that the persons still "out on strike" should return to work, Carrier refused to allow appellants to resume employment on an equal footing with other employees and has failed to accord the appellants the rights and privileges enjoyed by them pursuant to the bargaining agreement and, accordingly, appellants have been without work since that date and have been barred from employment at Carrier's Syracuse plant although other employees of Carrier, in the same occupations but of lesser seniority, have been recalled to work.

In the meantime, Sheet Metal Workers campaigned for support among the employees with the assistance of Carrier, which culminated in a certification, on November 30, 1961, by the NLRB of Local 527 of Sheet Metal Workers as the collective bargaining agent of Carrier's employees, whereupon Steelworkers "withdrew" as appellants' representative and refused to intercede on their behalf. Moreover, Local 527 unjustifiably refused appellants membership and seniority rights based upon their employment history and their membership in Local 5895.

The claims of wrongdoing against each defendant are set forth in the complaint as follows:

Claims Against Carrier

(1) Breach of the bargaining agreement under § 301; (2) ousting Local 5895 as the bargaining representative through a campaign of industrial warfare resulting in the withdrawal of Local 5895's charter on November 30, 1961; (3) libel and slander of appellants; (4) violation of appellants' rights under the "Bill of Rights" provisions of the LMRDA; and (5) acting in concert with Sheet Metal Workers and Local 527 to blacklist appellants to thwart their employment from May, 1960 on.

Claims Against Steelworkers

(1) Breach of contract, embodied in the charter and bylaws granted to Local 5895 by Steelworkers, under § 301, in that Steelworkers failed to represent appellants diligently, fairly, and in good faith in proceedings before the court and the NLRB arising out of the industrial strife precipitated by the March 2, 1960 lockout by Carrier, and failed to afford to the Local 5895 membership the benefits of the funds available to the International Union to assist local unions in their industrial problems with management, and abandoned appellants and other members of Local 5895 as the collective bargaining representative of the production and maintenance workers; (2) violation of appellants' rights under the LMRDA; (3) aiding and abetting Carrier in the commission of unfair labor practices within the meaning of § 8 of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 158; and (4) breach of Steelworkers' duty of fair representation.

Claims Against Sheet Metal Workers and Local 527

(1) Breach of the "Agreement Among the Internationals" under § 301; (2) libel and slander of appellants; (3) blacklisting appellants to thwart their employment from May, 1960 on; (4) malicious interference with appellants' property rights in a campaign of industrial warfare in concert with Carrier for appellants' loyalty to Local 5895; and (5) wrongful denial of membership in Local 527 (charged in the chronology of events but not under the heading of "wrongdoing").

Claims Against All Defendants

(1) Conspiracy to commit the above wrongs and interferences with appellants' rights charged substantively against the various defendants, and (2) deliberate ouster of ...


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