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PATTERSON v. NEWSPAPER & MAIL DELIVERERS' UNION

September 19, 1974

JOHN R. PATTERSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
NEWSPAPER AND MAIL DELIVERERS' UNION OF NEW YORK AND VICINITY, et al., Defendants. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff, v. NEWSPAPER AND MAIL DELIVERERS' UNION OF NEW YORK AND VICINITY, et al., Defendants. JAMES LARKIN, DOMINICK VENTRE, FRANK CHILLEMI, GERALD KATZ, et al., Intervenors



The opinion of the court was delivered by: PIERCE

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

 LAWRENCE W. PIERCE, D.J.

 This memorandum approves a settlement reached by all of the parties after a four-week trial on the merits of two consolidated actions charging employment discrimination in the newspaper and publications delivery industry in the New York City area. The provisions of the agreement are intended to achieve a 25% minority *fn1" employment goal in the industry within five years. At the present time, minority employment in the industry is less than 2%; the comparable percentage of minorities in the relevant labor force in the New York City area is approximately 30%. The agreement also provides for supervision of hiring practices and employment opportunities in the industry to the benefit of both minority and non-minority workers.

 One of the actions has been brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and names as defendants the Newspaper and Mail Deliverers Union of New York and Vicinity (the Union), the New York Times (Times), the New York Daily News (News), the New York Post (Post) and some fifty other publishers and news distributors within the Union's jurisdiction. The other action is a private class action on behalf of minority persons. Both actions charge that the Union, with the acquiescence of the publishers and distributors, has historically discriminated against minorities; and that the present structure of the collective bargaining agreement, combined with nepotism and cronyism and other abuses in employment and referral practices, have perpetuated the effects of the past discrimination, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Title VII). Each lawsuit sought an affirmative action program designed to achieve for minorities the status they would have had in this industry but for the alleged discriminatory practices.

 Both actions were filed in 1973. After months of negotiation, the parties reached a settlement agreement in early 1974, but it was rejected by vote of the Union's membership. Following another abortive attempt to obtain ratification from the membership, the two actions were consolidated with each other for a hearing on motions for preliminary relief before this Court. The hearing commenced May 14, 1974. At its conclusion on June 12, 1974, the Court ordered the hearing consolidated with trial on the merits, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(a)(2), giving the parties the opportunity to present further evidentiary submissions or testimony. No further evidence was presented. Instead, the parties having once again entered into settlement discussions, brought before this Court for approval a Settlement Agreement dated June 27, 1974, entered into by all the plaintiffs and all the defendants, and ratified by the Union membership.

 A hearing on the fairness, adequacy and reasonableness of the Settlement with respect to the plaintiffs' class was held on August 27, 1974, after due notice to that class. On the same date the Court also held a separate hearing on the legality of the relief provided in the Settlement and its impact on a group of non-minority workers who had, prior to trial, been permitted to intervene in the consolidated actions for the purpose of challenging any affirmative relief which might have affected their interests.

 The Standards

 As a general proposition, when a settlement agreement is presented to the Court for approval, the Court's role is limited to the exercise of its equitable powers. The Court is not to substitute its judgment for that of the parties. See, e.g., Glicken v. Bradford, 35 F.R.D. 144, 151 (S.D.N.Y. 1964); United States v. Carter Products, Inc., 211 F. Supp. 144, 148 (S.D.N.Y. 1962). Instead, its role is to assure that the settlement is fair to the class and the parties, and represents a reasonable resolution of the dispute. See, e.g., State of West Virginia v. Chas. Pfizer & Co., 314 F. Supp. 710 (S.D.N.Y. 1970), aff'd, 440 F.2d 1079 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 404 U.S. 871, 92 S. Ct. 81, 30 L. Ed. 2d 115 (1971). Ordinarily, the Court is not expected to examine conclusively into the underlying facts or legal merits of the action. See, e.g., Newman v. Stein, 464 F.2d 689, 691-93 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 409 U.S. 1039, 93 S. Ct. 521, 34 L. Ed. 2d 488 (1972); United States v. Carter Products, Inc., supra, 211 F. Supp. at 148.

 But, this is not an ordinary case. It must be recognized that efforts to correct discrimination affect the strongest public sensitivities. The interests involved are far broader than those of the particular parties in a particular lawsuit. Therefore, the parties cannot be permitted to settle for less than, or for more than, the facts of the case and public policy expressed in Title VII mandates. Thus, although the Court is of the opinion that even at this late stage public policy is served by an agreement rather than an adjudication, a more searching discussion of the merits is warranted. In fact, the state of the law in this Circuit may require certain findings of fact to support affirmative action in a Title VII case even when it is resolved by settlement. See, Rios v. Enterprise Association Steamfitters Local 638, 501 F.2d 622 at 628 n.4 (2d Cir. 1974), explaining United States v. Wood, Wire and Metal Lathers International Union, 471 F.2d 408 (2d Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 412 U.S. 939, 37 L. Ed. 2d 398, 93 S. Ct. 2773 (1973). Further, a more conclusive examination of the merits is necessary in this case because the affirmative action program and the minority goal in principle, and the 25% minority goal, are all vigorously disputed by the intervenors.

 Inasmuch as this Court has heard a four-week completed trial in these actions, it is in a unique position to find facts and to set forth conclusions of law. Therefore, what follows shall constitute this Court's findings and conclusions to the extent that they form the necessary legal support for the affirmative action proposed.

 The Background

 Most of the facts are not contested. The Union is the exclusive bargaining agent for a collective bargaining unit encompassing the work performed in the delivery departments of newspaper and publication distributors in the New York area. Its geographic jurisdiction has been variously stated, but it is fair to define it by where the employers in the industry are located: in the metropolitan area of New York City (within a fifty mile radius of Columbus Circle), the New York counties of Nassau and Suffolk, the New Jersey counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic and Union, and the Connecticut county of Fairfield.

 The nature of the delivery industry is such that the employers' needs for delivery department employees vary from day to day, and indeed, shift to shift, depending upon the size and quantity of the (publications) being distributed. Thus, each employer by the terms of the Union contract, maintains a regular work force (Regular Situation holders) for its minimum needs, and depends upon daily shapers to supplement the force. By the terms of the contract, at the major employers the shapers are categorized into groups with descending daily hiring priorities. The Group I list of shapers is restricted, by contract, to persons who have at one time held a Regular Situation in the industry. They have first shaping priority at every shift, in order of their shop seniority. After the Group I is exhausted at any given shift, the contract provides that the next hiring priority shall go to Group II members. Group II consists of all persons in Group I and all persons holding Regular Situations in the industry. Once all of the Group II members who have appeared for the shape are put to work, the contract provides that the remaining open jobs, if any, will go to Group III members who have appeared for the shape, in order of their shop tenure.

 The shaping system is considerably less structured for the smaller publications and distributors, and, in fact at this time, only the News and the Times maintain Group III lists of any significant size.

 All of the jobs in the industry are within the Union's jurisdiction, whether performed by Regular Situation holders or by any of the members of the various groups, or any one who shapes at all. The jobs are essentially the same, regardless of the status of the worker who fills them, and are all relatively unskilled. Most workers drive trucks or do floor work. However, because the contract provides that a Regular Situation is a prerequisite to Union membership, only Regular Situation holders and members of Groups I and II are Union members.

 In theory at least, in addition to structuring the daily hiring priorities, the Group system also represents the priority list for filling Regular Situations as they may become vacant in the newspapers shops.

 The Union was founded in 1901, long before the present Group structured contract was in existence. There is no evidence to indicate that at that time it had any minority members (as that term is defined today). Historically it virtually limited membership to the first born legitimate son of a member. The industry had a closed shop and Union members were consistently hired before non-Union men at all industry shapes. In ...


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