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July 20, 1950



M. H. Goldstein, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Richard H. Wagner, Associate Counsel, Harrisburgh, William L. Hammond, Special Deputy Attorney General, T. McKeen Chidsey, Attorney General, Chadwick, Curran, Petrikin & Smithers and Malcolm B. Petrikin, all of Chester, for employer intervenor.

Before Rhodes, P. J., and Hirt, Reno, Dithrich, Ross and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Hirt

[ 167 Pa. Super. Page 441]

HIRT, Judge.

On February 6, 1946, claimant, the appellant here, along with 186 other employes of Atlantic Steel Castings Company, in the City of Chester, went out on strike. They did not return to work until about March 18, 1946. The purpose of the strike was to force the employer to pay specific additional wage payments to the employes for the period between August 2, 1944 and November 18, 1945, or to arrange for payment on acceptable terms. On November 19, 1945, the employer acceded to all of the demands of the union as to the future and wages payable since that date are not involved in the present proceeding. The National War Labor Board had issued an order on October 19, 1945, directing that these additional wage payments be made. And it was the contention of appellant's union that the employer had contracted to pay the additional wages in amounts specified by the directive order of the War Labor Board. To the claims for unemployment compensation filed by these employes, both the Bureau and the Referee applied the disqualification period, of from four to five weeks, prescribed by § 402(d) of the then applicable Act of May 29, 1945, P.L. 1145, amending the Unemployment Compensation Law. 43 P.S. § 802(d). The Board of Review in a single opinion and order affirmed the decision of the Referee and disallowed all of the claims for the temporary disqualification period of § 402(d) but without prejudice to their right to unemployment compensation thereafter. This is an appeal by one of the striking employes from the order of the Board. Appellant contends that his unemployment was not 'due to a voluntary suspension of work' within the intent of the above section of the Act.

In the main there is no serious dispute as to the factual background of this appeal. The findings of the

[ 167 Pa. Super. Page 442]

Board reflect these salient facts: An existing collective bargaining agreement between the company and the union had expired on August 21, 1944. During the negotiations for a new contract for the following year there was agreement on many points. On the question of wages, the company and the union in October 1944 agreed that higher wage rate ranges should be established for each job classification in the plant, effective as of August 2, 1944. Under the existing national wage stabilization policy, this agreement on wage rates had to be submitted to the National War Labor Board for approval; this was done by the parties on November 22, 1944, in a document known as 'Form 10'. On January 26, 1945, the Regional War Labor Board, having jurisdiction of the subject matter, approved the new higher wage rate ranges. But attached to the Regional Board's ruling was a statement entitled: 'Use of Salary or Wage Rate Ranges' which immediately raised a dispute between the union and the company as to what they had agreed upon and as to the meaning of the ruling of the War Labor Board as applied to the new wage rate ranges. After several conferences between the parties, without a settlement of the issues in dispute, the union called in a Commissioner of the U. S. Conciliation Service. Further meetings failed to result in agreement whereupon the union submitted the dispute to the National War Labor Board. On May 29, 1945, a panel of that Board handed down a majority decision. The opinion however did not purport to decide the issue as to what the parties had agreed upon as the basis for the submission on Form 10 to the National War Labor Board on November 22, 1944. On the contrary, the opinion recites in effect that the panel was unable to reach any conclusive determination as to whether any alleged agreement was made, but irrespective of any question of previous agreement the opinion recommended adjustments which would result in additional

[ 167 Pa. Super. Page 443]

    increases effective August 2, 1944. On July 18, 1945, the Regional War Labor Board handed down a 'Directive Order' to the effect in substance that the parties be governed by the recommendations of the panel and specifically directing retroactive payments in accordance therewith, beginning with August 2, 1944. The company attempted to appeal from the decision; on October 19, 1945, the National War Labor Board refused the appeal and affirmed the previous directive of its Regional Board.

On October 22, 1945, upon settlement of a previous strike relating to the payment of a night shift differential in wages, not material in the present case, the settlement agreement provided 'that all questions with respect to the retroactive pay on the wage ranges on Form 10 should be postponed until January 15, 1946, at which time the company would reconsider said matter with the union'. In the meantime the company did not comply with the War Labor Board's directive, as to retroactive payments. Prior to January 15, 1946, the union insisted that the company commit itself to the full payment of these back wages as directed. The total amount involved was about $134,000. The company's then financial position was not good and in response to the union's demand, it, on February 2, 1946, proposed to settle the claims on the basis of 50% thereof 'conditioned upon * * * the Company's ability to borrow such sum upon the security of its plant * * *.' The union rejected the offer. On February 6, 1946, the company made its final proposal, that the discussion of settlement be postponed for an additional three months or, in the alternative, that the union ...

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