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SMITH v. PITTSBURGH GAGE AND SUPPLY COMPANY. (10/09/63)

October 9, 1963

SMITH, APPELLANT,
v.
PITTSBURGH GAGE AND SUPPLY COMPANY.



Appeal, No. 86, March T., 1963, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1962, No. 723, in case of Karl R. Smith, Janes Reed, Joseph Wachtre et al. v. Pittsburgh Gage and Supply Company, Steamfitters Local Union No. 449 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Danald E. Rohall, for appellants.

John G. Wayman, with him Leonard L. Scheinholtz, and Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for appellee.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'brien and Roberts, JJ.

Author: Jones

[ 412 Pa. Page 172]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BENJAMIN R. JONES

On this appeal the issue is narrow; whether a state court has jurisdiction to entertain this action of trespass wherein discharged employees, alleging that they were discharged from their employment by reason of a conspiracy between their union and employer, seek of the union and the employer reinstatement to employment and pecuniary damages.

[ 412 Pa. Page 173]

Karl Smith, James Reed, Joseph Wachtre and Ed Owens (Employees), instituted a trespass action, in the nature of a trespass on the case for conspiracy, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County against Pittsburgh Gage and Supply Company (Employer), and Steam Fitters Local Union No. 449 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada (Union). The Employees' complaint alleged that: (1) they had been Employees of the Employer and members of the Union, the collective bargaining agent; (2) in February, 1960, the Employer and the Union demanded that they withdraw from the Union; (3) upon their refusal to withdraw from the Union, both the Employer and the Union threatened them with reprisals; (4) as a result of a conspiracy between the Employer and the Union, they were discharged from employment; (5) the assigned ground for their discharge was the lack of available work, although at or about the same time the Employer hired other persons to do the identical work the Employees had previously performed; (6) that, by reason of the wrongful discharge pecuniary damages were suffered. Threefold relief was sought: (a) reinstatement to their jobs, (b) the actual damages suffered and (c) punitive damages.

By way of preliminary objections, the Employer challenged the jurisdiction of the state court to entertain this action upon the ground that, assuming the verity of the facts set forth in the complaint, such facts arguably constituted unfair labor practices under the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act*fn1 (Act), and that the exclusive jurisdiction of the cause of action was vested in the National Labor Relations Board

[ 412 Pa. Page 174]

(Board).*fn2 In preliminary objections, the Union requested a more specific complaint. The court sustained the Employer's preliminary objections and dismissed the complaint as to both the Union and Employer. From that order this appeal was taken.

In support of their position, the Employees contend: (1) that, since this action is based upon a tortious interference with a contractual relationship, the state court, not the Board, has jurisdiction; (2) that, since the existence of the conspiracy was not discovered until after six months had elapsed, by which time the Employees' right to go to the Board had expired,*fn3 the Employees will be without a remedy if the state court has no jurisdiction. In support of its position, the Employer contends: (1) that the gravamen of the charges embodied in the complaint arguably, at least, constitutes an activity subject to the protections of Section 7 or to the prohibitions of Section 8 of the Act and, therefore, only ...


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