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DANNON CO. v. WHELAN

January 26, 1983

THE DANNON COMPANY, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM ("WILLIE") WHELAN, as President of LOCAL 584, affiliated with the INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA, WALTER HUFF, JOHN LESTINGI, JOHN MAGUIRE, DONALD JARMAN and IBISH NELA as Shop Stewards and Employees, JOHN DOE 1, JOHN DOE 2, etc. (John Does represent names of striking employees), Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONNER

CONNER, D.J.:

 This action involves a labor dispute between plaintiff The Dannon Company, Inc. ("Dannon") and the several defendants (collectively "Local 584"). The matter is currently before the Court on Dannon's alternative requests that Local 584 (a) be adjudged in contempt of a permanent injunction entered by this Court on January 15, 1982 with the consent of the parties, or (b) be preliminarily enjoined from engaging in any job action relating to the discipline of employees or the implementation of a route ticket procedure. Although I conclude that the scope of the permanent injunction previously entered in this matter does not embrace the acts currently complained of, I find, for the reasons stated below, that the entry of an order preliminarily enjoining the current work stoppage is appropriate.

 Background

 In January 1982, defendants commenced a strike against Dannon over a dispute concerning the transfer of certain operations from Dannon's Long Island City, New York facility to its plant in Ridgefield, New Jersey. Because the collective bargaining agreement between the parties contains a "no-strike" provision relating to disputes within the scope of the agreement's arbitration clause, and because that dispute allegedly fell within the clause, Dannon commenced this action on January 8, 1982 and requested relief from any strike "over or in connection with the dispute or grievance relating to plaintiff's transfer of certain operations from Long Island City to Ridgefield, New Jersey." The matter was resolved on January 15, 1982 when the parties, after negotiation, consented to the entry of an order by this Court which provides that:

 
Defendant Local 584, affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, its officers, agents, employees, members and persons acting by, through and for them, and each of them, be and hereby are permanently restrained from authorizing, engaging in, participating in, or sanctioning any strike or picketing of the plaintiff over any dispute or grievance arbitrable under the collective bargaining agreement between the plaintiff and Local 584.

 The dispute concerning the transfer of operations was simply one example of the stormy relationship between the parties. Prior to that dispute, Local 584 had engaged in a series of work stoppages on unrelated issues, all allegedly in violation of its no-strike pledge. In February 1979, there was a strike of approximately three days duration; in January 1981 a work stoppage lasted almost four days; in March 1981 the men were out for a day; in January 1982 there was a two-day strike; and, finally, in the same month, there was the four-day job action that led Dannon to file this action. Since the entry of this Court's order on January 15, 1982, Local 584 staged a two-day walkout in October 1982.

 On January 3, 1983, John Lestingi, a shop steward and Dannon employee, was fired for allegedly stealing products from the company. That same week, Jerry Losasso, another Dannon employee, and Donald Jarman, a Dannon employee, former shop steward and a member of the union's contract negotiating committee, were each suspended for three weeks, effective January 10, 1983, for reasons relating to the performance of their jobs. In response to the timing and nature of these disciplinary actions, and as a result of general discontent with certain new operating procedures implemented by Dannon, the members of Local 584 walked out in the predawn hours of January 7, 1983. As of today, they remain on strike.

 The same day the strike commenced, Dannon discharged two employees for their roles in leading the walkout. One of these workers, Walter Huff, had been employed by Dannon for 32 years, had been a shop steward for twenty years, and was head of the Local 584 contract negotiating committee. The other discharged worker, Manny Torres, was also a shop steward. On January 10, two other workers, Lenny Huff, Walter Huff's son, and Harvey Mason, were fired for allegedly committing acts of vandalism in connection with the walkout.

 On January 10, 1983, Dannon returned to this Court to force Local 584 to comply with the permanent injunction entered on January 15, 1982. The following day, a conference was held with the Court at which time the parties discussed the possibility of amicably and promptly resolving this latest dispute. Local 584 offered to get the men back to work, but on the condition that the status quo as of the time the workers walked out would be maintained. In other words, the workers would go back to work and the union would arbitrate the grievances of Lestingi, Losasso, and Jarman pursuant to the mechanisms set forth in the collective bargaining agreement, but no action would be taken against any of the men who had been fired or disciplined since the strike began. Also, as part of this proposal, Dannon would waive any right to damages resulting from the walkout. Dannon subsequently rejected this proposal, but the following day offered a countersuggestion in which it agreed to submit all of the grievances, including the post-strike firings, to expedited arbitration and to waive all rights to damages as a result of the strike, on the condition that the employees return immediately to work. Dannon's suggestion was rejected by defendants.

 On January 14, Judge Charles Metzner of this Court held an evidentiary hearing on the limited issue of whether the current walkout occurred in violation of the express terms of the permanent injunction. On the basis of the evidence adduced at that hearing, Judge Metzner concluded that Local 584 was responsible for the walkout, that all disputes existing at the time of the walkout were arbitrable under the collective bargaining agreement, and, therefore, that they should have been submitted to arbitration without strike action. Judge Metzner's findings were limited solely to the factual issue before him, and he expressly reserved judgment on the legal issue concerning the permissible scope of the January 15, 1982 permanent injunction.

 On January 19, plaintiff filed, with leave of court, a supplemental complaint setting forth the facts underlying the instant walkout and requesting that defendants be restrained from engaging in any work stoppage "over or in connection with the dispute or grievance relating to the discipline of employees or utilization and implementation of the route ticket." On January 21, another hearing was had before the Court at which time the parties submitted evidence on Dannon's right to new injunctive relief based upon the allegations contained in the supplemental complaint. The parties also presented evidence on the question of their intent in consenting to the broadly worded permanent injunction entered by the Court on January 15, 1982. The record before the Court consists of the evidence adduced at these hearings and legal submissions by both sides. This Opinion and Order incorporates the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Rules 52 and 65, F.R.Civ.P.

 Discussion

 A. The Permanent Injunction

 The anti-injunction provision of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C. ยง 104, creates what was long considered an absolute bar to a federal court's power to enjoin a labor strike, even if that strike was in violation of a valid collective bargaining agreement. In Boys Markets v. Retail Clerks Union, Local 770, 398 U.S. 235, 26 L. Ed. 2d 199, 90 S. Ct. 1583 (1970), the Supreme Court overruled its prior decision in Sinclair Refining Co. v. Atkinson, 370 U.S. 195, 8 L. Ed. 2d 440, 82 S. Ct. 1328 (1962), and created what it conceded to be a "narrow" exception to the literal terms of Norris-LaGuardia's bar. Where a collective bargaining agreement contains a no-strike clause and a provision for the binding arbitration of grievances, a federal court is permitted, but not required, to enjoin a strike over a grievance clearly within the scope of the arbitration provision. See Boys Markets, supra, 398 U.S. at 253-55. In recognizing this limited exception, the Court observed that the worker's no-strike obligation is the quid pro quo for the employer's agreement ...


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