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Patterson v. Newspaper and Mail Deliverers' Union of New York and Vicinity

decided: March 20, 1975.


Appeal by an intervenor, a white non-union employee, from an order of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Lawrence W. Pierce, Judge, approving, in an action brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., a settlement agreement which provides among other things for an affirmative action program setting goals and establishing procedures for minority access to union jobs, and providing compensatory back pay to minority workers. Affirmed.

Feinberg, Mansfield and Oakes, Circuit Judges. Feinberg, Circuit Judge (concurring).

Author: Mansfield

MANSFIELD, Circuit Judge:

At issue on this appeal is the appropriateness of relief against discrimination in the employment of news deliverers. In the past we have been called upon to review relief granted in cases where discrimination has been established under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., including the use of minority percentage goals and affirmative hiring and promotion programs. See, e.g., Rios v. Enterprise Assn. Steamfitters, Local 638, 501 F.2d 622 (2d Cir. 1974); Bridgeport Guardians, Inc. v. Bridgeport Civil Serv. Comm., 482 F.2d 1333 (2d Cir. 1973); United States v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 446 F.2d 652 (2d Cir. 1971). The present appeal presents several variations on the theme. Unlike previous cases the affirmative relief under attack here does not result from an order of the district court entered after a determination of the merits of the action but from a settlement agreement between the plaintiffs, who are minority persons seeking employment as news deliverers, the defendant Newspaper and Mail Deliverers of New York and Vicinity ("the Union" herein), and the Government. The settlement was reached after a four-week trial in the Southern District of New York before Lawrence W. Pierce, Judge, who approved the agreement. The person challenging the relief is not an aggrieved minority employee but a white non-union worker, James V. Larkin, who, having been permitted to intervene, seeks to set aside the agreement as unlawful on the ground that it affords benefits to minority workers*fn1 not given to similarly situated white workers, retarding the advancement rate and diluting the work opportunities of these white workers.

Because he had heard a four-week trial in this case and because of the public interest involved in a Title VII action, Judge Pierce considered in a thorough opinion the merits of the plaintiffs' action and the conformity of the settlement to the goals of Title VII and the rights of the parties. See 384 F. Supp. 585 (S.D.N.Y. 1974). We find no abuse of discretion in Judge Pierce's approval of the settlement and therefore affirm.

This appeal arises out of two consolidated actions. One was brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Union, the New York Times ("Times" herein), the New York Daily News ("News" herein), the New York Post ("Post" herein), and about 50 other news distributors and publishers within the Union's jurisdiction. The other is a private class action on behalf of minority persons. Both complaints allege historic discrimination by the Union against minorities, and charge that the present structure of the Union's collective bargaining agreement and the manner of its administration by the Union perpetuate the effects of past discrimination in a manner that violates Title VII. The defendant publishers are alleged to have acquiesced in these practices. Appellant Larkin is one of approximately 100 white non-union "Group III" workers at the News who were given permission to intervene under F.R. C.P. 24(a)(2) because of their potential interest in the relief to be fashioned.

The Union is the exclusive bargaining agent for the collective bargaining unit which embraces all workers in the delivery departments of newspaper publishers and of publications distributors in the general vicinity of New York City, including, in addition to the city proper, all of Long Island, northeastern New Jersey counties, and north to Fairfield County, Connecticut. Of 4,200 current Union members, 99% are white.

Due to variations in the size and quantity of publications to be distributed, the needs of distributors for delivery personnel vary from day to day and from shift to shift. For that reason the work force in the industry is separated by the Union agreement into (1) those holding permanently assigned jobs ("Regular Situations") and (2) those called "shapers," who show up each day to do whatever extra work may be required on that day. The work performed by persons in both categories is unskilled. Shapers are divided into four classifications, Groups I-IV. The order in which shapers are chosen for extra work on each shift is determined according to Group number and by shop seniority of members within each group.

Group I, the highest priority group, consists solely of persons who once held Regular Situations in the industry. Each employer maintains his own Group I list, which is comprised of persons who have been laid off from Regular Situations at other employers, or who have voluntarily transferred from Regular Situations or from classifications as Group I shapers at another employer. When a Regular Situation becomes available, the highest seniority person on the employer's Group I list is offered the position.

Group II is an aggregate list compiled from the entire industry and consists of all Regular Situation holders and Group I members. Taking priority after Group I is exhausted, it enables regulars and Group I members to obtain extra daily work at employers other than their own.

Major employers maintain a Group III list, which consists of persons who have never held a Regular Situation in the industry. Members of Group III are given daily work priority after Group II. To maintain Group III status, workers are required to report for a certain number of "shapes" each week. Prior to the settlement agreement under review Group III members were theoretically entitled by shop seniority to any Regular Situation that became available if the Group I list had been exhausted. Group IV shapers are last in priority and are required to appear for a shape far less frequently than Group III shapers.

Although the Union represents all delivery workers, membership is limited to Regular Situation holders and Group I members. Historically the Union has excluded minorities and has limited its membership to the first born son of a member. Aside from the chilling effect which restriction of Union membership to whites might by itself have upon minority persons seeking delivery work, there is evidence that minorities were also discouraged from gaining entrance to Group III lists, even though Group III shapers are not members of the Union. Of 2,855 persons now actively seeking work in the industry (which includes 2,460 Regular Situation holders, 123 Group I shapers, and 273 Group III shapers) only 70, or 2.45%, are minority persons.

While the current Group Structure, which was adopted in 1952, appears on its face to open Union membership to anyone in the labor force, Union membership, because of lax administration of the contract provisions, has largely remained attainable only by the family and friends of a Union member. Due to artificial inflation of the Group I lists, no person has in practice made the theoretically possible jump from Group III to a Regular Situation since 1963. The evidence suggests that this expansion of the Group I lists has been accomplished primarily by use of voluntary transfers of Group I or Regular Situation holders from the lists of smaller distributors to the Group I lists of more desirable, larger employers, and ultimately to Regular Situations there. Other devices include fictitious lay-offs, enabling the Union member to transfer to Group I of a different employer, and outright false assertions of Group I status by persons who have obtained Union membership cards, the validity of which have not been challenged by employers.

On the basis of this evidence, which was largely uncontroverted, Judge Pierce, in approving the settlement, had no difficulty concluding that the Union's practices amounted to a violation of Title VII, since they served to "'lock-in' minorities at the non-union level of entry in the industry, and thereby to perpetuate the impact of past discrimination . . ..," conclusions that appear fully justified by the record and are not challenged here. See Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 28 L. Ed. 2d 158, 91 S. Ct. 849 (1971); Rios v. Enterprise Assn. Steamfitters, Local 638, supra ; United States v. Wood, Wire & Lathers, Intl. ...

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