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February 6, 1956


Appeal, Nos. 205 and 229, Jan. T., 1955, from decree of Court of Common Pleas No. 1 of Philadelphia County, Dec. T., 1953, No 6298, in case of Grand Lodge of the Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship Clerks et al. v. Girard Lodge No. 100 et al. Decree reversed; reargument refused March 7, 1956.


Walter Biddle Saul and Robert S. Marx, with them Allen S. Olmsted, 2nd and Leonard D. Slutz, for plaintiffs.

Isaiah W. Crippins and Lawrence J. Richette, with them Rufus Scoville Watson and Meehan, O'Brien & Richette, for defendants.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 384 Pa. Page 249]


This lawsuit involves an unfortunate dispute within the international labor union, Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express and Station Employees, made up of 1970 local lodges, and comprising a total membership of 350,000 persons. Each lodge of the Brotherhood elects a president, vice-president, recording secretary, financial secretary and other officers. One of these officers is known as the Chairman of Protective Committee. Where the membership of several lodges is employed within a certain division of a certain railroad, the chairmen of the protective committees of those lodges elect a Division Chairman who speaks for the membership of the Division in matters concerning grievances at division level. The division involved in the instant litigation is the Philadelphia Terminal Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, made up of six lodges. The Division Chairman

[ 384 Pa. Page 250]

    is Joseph P. Zawada, the stormy petrel of this controversy.

The Brotherhood has as many departments as there are railroads and the membership of the individual lodges is restricted to the employees working within the domain of one particular railroad or general carrier. There are some one hundred lodges in the Pennsylvania Railroad System. The union body at the head of these one hundred P.R.R. lodges is known as the Pennsylvania Railroad System board of Adjustment, the chairman of which is S. V. W. Loehr, who is also a principal figure in the events presently to be narrated. The governing body of the entire Brotherhood is the Grand Lodge, with offices in Cincinnati, Ohio. The supreme officer in Grand President George M. Harrison.

In the year 1953 the Pennsylvania Railroad built in Philadelphia a new freight station, known, because of its location, as the Butler Street Station. Freight business theretofore handled at the Willow and Noble Street Stations of the Reading Railroad was now to be moved to the new P.R.R. Station opening January 4, 1954. The shifting of freight activities from the Reading stations to the P.R.R. station created problems with regard to the transferring of Reading employees, as well as employees of the Universal Carloading Company, a carrier also engaged in the operation at the Reading Stations. In addition, some Pennsylvania employees were to be drawn for Butler Street from the Ontario Street, Kensington and other Pennsylvania stations.

Every discontinuance of or reduction of personnel in a railroad enterprise, as indeed every closing of a mine or abandonment of a factory or mill, brings into the arena of perplexity the dilemma of what to do with

[ 384 Pa. Page 251]

    the men thrown out of employment. The men themselves understandably hope to find their vanishing job reappear at some other operation of the firm which shut down the mill, mine or factory or relinquished the railroad terminal. The difficulties at Butler Street were especially complicated because employees of two other companies were involved, namely, the Reading Company and the Universal Carloading Company. These employees, while members of the same Brotherhood, belonged to different lodges with their own individual chains of command. The officials at the head of the Universal and Reading departments of the Brotherhood were naturally anxious to see that their men received proper consideration in the setting up of the plan of reorganization at Butler Street.

Mr. Loehr, speaking for the P.R.R. employees, sought at General Manager level, to obtain the best concessions possible for P.R.R. men. The ranking officers of the Grand Lodge, however, owed a duty to the Universal and Reading employees as much as to the Pennsylvania employees, since all Brotherhood members, regardless of employing carrier, are entitled to equal protection under the aegis of the Brotherhood. Accordingly, in December, 1953, upper echelon officials of the Brotherhood, representing the involved employees of the Pennsylvania, Reading, and Universal companies, met with P.R.R. management to work out suitable arrangements for manning the Butler Street facility. No definitive agreement was reached at these meetings, although a temporary arrangement was approved pending final solution of all problems on the agenda of discussion.

On January 5, 1954, a further meeting was held. This time a representative of the Grand Lodge at the highest level, namely, a Vice Grand President (Mr.

[ 384 Pa. Page 252]

Snedden), attended, in addition to five representatives of the P.R.R. employees, two representatives of Universal employees and one of Reading employees. In truly democratic fashion, proposals were made and debated. As is inevitable at all such negotiations, each side announced a position sufficiently beyond what it expected to attain so that it could then, in bargaining, withdraw some of its claims without loss of essential ground, while still hoping to secure and retain something in the way of a net gain.

In the re-employment of men who, prior to the consolidation at Butler Street, had had different employers, the question of seniority was a particularly thorny one. One's position on the seniority list often decides whether he can enjoy the sweetness of life in the comforting assurance of a permanent tenure or whether there shall hover over his job by day, and over his bed by night, the apprehension of bleak dismissal when work slackens, other consolidations occur, or technological developments eliminate further jobs. Mr. Loehr, upholding the demands of the P.R.R. employees and Mr. Holzhauser speaking for the Universal men were in sharp disagreement on the prerogatives of the men they respectively represented. Mr. Snedden, representing the entire Brotherhood, sought a middle ground on which all parties could stand with fairness, propriety, and honor. This meeting was followed by one on January 20, when, after an all-day discussion, the only possible solution, namely, compromise, was reached.

The following day, January 21, 1954, the P.R.R. management and the representatives of the P.R.R. employees, Universal employees, and Reading employees signed an agreement which provided that the P.R.R. was to employ certain men from Universal and others from the Reading Railroad, their seniority privileges

[ 384 Pa. Page 253]

    to dovetail into those of the P.R.R. men. This agreement (hereinafter to be called the Butler Street Agreement) did not satisfy all the P.R.R. employees because, in the nature of things, some had to be disappointed both as to employment and as to seniority. And from their dashed hopes followed events which finally culminated in this lawsuit.

During all the time that Mr. Loehr was pressing the claims of the P.R.R. employees, tempered somewhat by a realization that in conscience, justice, and fairness, the Universal and Reading employees could not be left out "in the cold," Mr. Zawada was striving toward that very end, namely, the freezing out of the Universal and Reading men. This, of course, he was doing out of what he regarded loyalty to the men he represented in the Brotherhood.

It will be remembered that Zawada's authority was limited to the Philadelphia Terminal Division. On that level, accordingly, on December 30, 1953, he conferred with officials of the P.R.R. and asked for positions, seniority rights and other advantages for the men in the lodges under his limited command. On the following day he wrote a letter to the Railroad's Division Superintendent enumerating the recommendations he had mede. This letter became known among the thwarted P.R.R. employees as the "Zawada Agreement." It was, in fact, no agreement. In his acknowledgment of the letter, Mr. Kruggel, Superintendent of the P.R.R., wrote that the "sole purpose of the meeting of December 30, 1953, was to merely inform you ...

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