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BUILDING SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION v. SCHLESINGER ET AL. (10/09/70)

decided: October 9, 1970.

BUILDING SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION, LOCAL 252,
v.
SCHLESINGER ET AL., APPELLANTS



Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas No. 7, of Philadelphia County, Sept. T., 1962, No. 675, in case of Building Service Employees International Union, Local 252 et al. v. Beatrice Schlesinger et al.

COUNSEL

Geoffrey J. Cunniff, with him James J. Binns, for appellants.

Richard H. Markowitz, with him Richard Kirschner, and Wilderman, Markowitz & Kirschner, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy.

Author: Pomeroy

[ 440 Pa. Page 449]

This equity action was brought by Local 252 of the Building Service Employees International Union (Union) against the operators of 19 private nursing and convalescent homes in the Philadelphia area (the Employers)*fn1 to compel them to comply with certain provisions of a collective bargaining agreement in effect between the parties. While admitting that they had not complied with the relevant provisions of the agreement,

[ 440 Pa. Page 450]

    the Employers in their answer alleged that the agreement was invalid and hence gave rise to no obligations on their part. The Chancellor found the agreement to be valid and entered a decree nisi in favor of the Union, ordering the Employers to comply with the terms of the contract. After their exceptions were overruled by the court en banc and the decree was made final, the Employers brought this appeal.

The agreement which the Union sought to enforce was executed January 23, 1962 and was, in effect, an extension of a prior collective bargaining agreement entered into in 1959. The Employers contend that at the time this original agreement was executed by them, the Union did not represent a majority of the employees of each nursing home. From this they conclude that the execution of the 1959 agreement, which recognized the Union as exclusive bargaining agent for the employees of all the nursing homes, constituted an unfair labor practice under Section 6 of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act, Act of June 1, 1937, P. L. 1168, § 6, as amended, 43 P.S. § 211.6, and that the 1962 agreement, as an extension of the earlier one, is invalid and unenforceable because it violates the public policy of the Commonwealth as expressed in the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act.*fn2

[ 440 Pa. Page 451]

The Employers' defense is principally grounded upon the holding of the Supreme Court of the United States in International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, AFL-CIO v. National Labor Relations Board, 366 U.S. 731 (1961), affirming 280 F. 2d 616 (D.C. Cir. 1960) (popularly known as the Bernhard-Altmann case). The Supreme Court there found, as had the National Labor Relations Board, that recognition by an employer of a union as an exclusive bargaining agent of certain of its employees, although in fact the union represented only a minority of those employees, was an unfair labor practice, and that this was so even though the recognition was extended in the good faith belief that the union had the consent of a majority of the employees in the appropriate bargaining unit. In addition, the Court approved the Board's order that the employer withhold recognition from the union and cease giving effect to agreements entered into with it, and that the union cease acting as bargaining representative until its majority status was established by a Board-conducted election, and refrain from seeking to enforce agreements previously entered into. It is apparent that the posture of the Bernhard-Altmann case was quite different from that of the case at bar. The former was a proceeding brought before the NLRB to rectify an alleged unfair labor practice; the Board

[ 440 Pa. Page 452]

    found that an unfair practice existed, and entered a remedial order. In the case before us there has been no such determination by either the ...


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