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WILKES-BARRE INDEPENDENT COMPANY v. NEWSPAPER GUILD (01/24/74)

decided: January 24, 1974.

WILKES-BARRE INDEPENDENT COMPANY, APPELLANT,
v.
NEWSPAPER GUILD, LOCAL 120 ET AL.



Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, No. 102 of 1973, in case of Wilkes-Barre Independent Company v. Newspaper Guild, Local No. 120, John J. Wallace, Ralph Bennett, Carl J. Pesavanto and Victor Luksic.

COUNSEL

Richard M. Goldberg, with him Allan M. Kluger, and Hourigan, Kluger & Spohrer Associates, for appellant.

Sol Lubin, with him William J. McCall, and Winkler, Danoff, Lubin and Toole, for appellees.

Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice O'Brien. Mr. Chief Justice Jones took no part in the consideration or decision of this case. Concurring and Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Manderino joins in this concurring and dissenting opinion.

Author: O'brien

[ 455 Pa. Page 288]

On November 12, 1973, Local No. 120 of the Newspaper Guild and its agents (appellees herein) went on strike and began picketing the plant and offices of its employer, Wilkes-Barre Independent Company (appellant). Appellant, a corporation engaged in the publication

[ 455 Pa. Page 289]

    of a weekly newspaper, brought an action in equity seeking to enjoin preliminarily the union, which was the certified bargaining unit for eighteen of the newspaper's sixty-one employees, from engaging in what the employer alleged to be unlawful "mass picketing." The employer asked the court to limit the number of pickets and the distances which they must remain from each other. After the union filed preliminary objections, and the employer filed an amended complaint, a hearing was held on November 16, 1973. On November 20, 1973, the chancellor issued a decree denying the employer's application for the preliminary injunction and ordered the employer to pay reasonable costs and expenses in defending the suit, and counsel fees in the amount of $1,000 to appellees' counsel.*fn1

On appeal from the grant or refusal of a preliminary injunction, our scope of review is clear. As we stated in Minit-Man C. W. Corp. v. B. & C. T. Council, 411 Pa. 585, 192 A.2d 378 (1963), at 589: "Our uniform rule is that, on an appeal from a decree which refuses, [or] grants . . . a preliminary injunction, we will look only to see if there were any apparently reasonable grounds for the action of the court below, and we will not further consider the merits of the case or pass upon the reasons for or against such action, unless it is plain that no such grounds existed or that the rules of law relied on are palpably wrong or clearly inapplicable. . . ."

In his opinion, the chancellor stated alternative reasons for his decision to refuse the preliminary injunction. First, he stated that he had no jurisdiction to grant a preliminary injunction because the mandatory requirements of § 206(i) of Pennsylvania's Labor Anti-Injunction Act had not been satisfied. 43 P.S. § 206(i). In reaching that conclusion, we believe that the chancellor

[ 455 Pa. Page 290]

    was in error. By the provisions of subsection (d) of § 206d of the Act, the act does not apply in any case: "(d) Where in the course of a labor dispute as herein defined, an employe, or employes acting in concert, or a labor organization, or the members, officers, agents or representatives of a labor organization or anyone acting for such organization, seize, hold, damage, or destroy the plant, equipment, machinery, or other property of the employer with the intention of compelling the employer to accede to any demands, conditions, or terms of employment, or for collective bargaining." Act of June 2, 1937, P. L. 1198, § 4; 1939 June 9, P. L. 302, § 1.

The record in the instant case clearly shows that large numbers of pickets blocked the South Washington Street entrance and the State Street entrance of the employer's plant in the morning from approximately 7:45 a.m., to 8:00 a.m., and in the evening from 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Although the numbers of pickets at those two entrances did not exceed five or six at all other times of the day, and there were never large numbers of pickets at any of the plant's eight other entrances, we decided in the case of Carnegie Ill. Steel v. U. S. W. of A., 353 Pa. 420, 45 A.2d 857 (1946), that the holding of even one gateway to a plant constituted a seizure under § 206d of the Pennsylvania Labor Anti-Injunction Act so that a court of equity was not precluded from issuing an injunction if the circumstances warranted it. See also Westinghouse v. United E. R. & M. W. of A., 383 Pa. 297, 118 A.2d 180 (1955), where an injunction was also issued despite the fact that picketing in large numbers only occurred ...


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