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WILLIAMS UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION CASE. (09/20/60)

September 20, 1960

WILLIAMS UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION CASE.


Appeal, No. 45, Feb. T., 1960, by claimant, from decision of Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, No. B-53952, in re claim of William J. Williams. Decision reversed.

COUNSEL

Christopher T. Powell, for appellant.

Sydney Reuben, Assistant Attorney General, with him Anne X. Alpern, Attorney General, for Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, appellee.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Gunther, Wright, Woodside, Ervin, Watkins, and Montgomery, JJ.

Author: Watkins

[ 193 Pa. Super. Page 321]

OPINION BY WATKINS, J.

In this unemployment compensation case the claimant was denied benefits under the provisions of § 402(b) of the Unemployment Compensation Law, 43 PS § 802(b), on the ground that he voluntarily terminated his employment by failure to pay certain union dues.

[ 193 Pa. Super. Page 322]

Benefits were denied by the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation but on appeal, the referee reversed the bureau and awarded benefits. The Unemployment Compensation Board reversed the referee, denying benefits, and this appeal followed.

The claimant, William J. Williams, was last employed by Haddon Craftsman, Inc., Scranton, Pennsylvania. He was laid off for lack of work on March 28, 1958, and placed on a recall list. At that time he was a member in good standing of the Brotherhood of Bookbinders, Local 97, the bargaining agent for the plant. Employes on a non-working status did not have to pay local union dues but were required by the union agreement to pay the $1.05 monthly tax to the International Union which was collected by the local union. The International Union's by-laws provided that failure to pay the $1.05 tax by the tenth of the month would incur suspension, but if the member paid the dues by the thirtieth of the month, automatic reinstatement would follow. The Local Union's by-laws, however, provided for suspension for failure to pay without any grace period; that the suspended member lost his seniority; and in order to obtain reinstatement must pay a fine equal to 50 hours of pay.

The record shows that the claimant offered to pay the per capita international tax after being in default, before the thirtieth of the month, but the local union refused to accept it, demanding the full penalty required by the local by-laws, before permitting reinstatement. The claimant testified he could not afford to pay the penalty amounting to $61.73. Up to the time of the hearing of this case no work was available for this claimant to effect his recall but as the employer refused to rehire him unless he was reinstated, his name was removed from the recall list and his employment terminated as of April 16, 1958.

[ 193 Pa. Super. Page 323]

I think it is necessary to review our decisions in regard to the union dues cases under § 402(b), supra, in the light of the Gianfelice Unemployment Compensation Case, 396 Pa. 545, 153 A.2d 906 (1959), where the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that where a statute of the Commonwealth expresses a public policy designed to alleviate a condition of possible distress among the public or a segment thereof and explicitly proscribes waiver of the benefits of the act, no private agreement, however valid between the parties, can operate as a waiver. In that case, Mr. Justice COHEN in a learned opinion, said at page 552: "Moreover, we believe that the labor-management agreement cannot govern our determination in this case for another reason. The Unemployment Compensation Law was enacted to alleviate the hardships attendant upon unemployment. Act of December 5, 1936, P.L. (1937), 2897, § 3, 43 PS § 752; McFarland v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 158 Pa. Superior Ct. 418, 45 A.2d 423 (1946). It is a remedial statute designed to provide support for workers who are unemployed except for those disqualified by one of the specific provisions of § 402. Sturdevant Unemployment Compensation Case, 158 Pa. Superior Ct. 548, 559, 45 A.2d 898 (1946). In furtherance of this policy, the General Assembly included § 701, 43 PS § 861, in the law.*fn3 This ...


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