The opinion of the court was delivered by: MUIR
The Union and the Company have both filed motions for summary judgment pursuant to F.R. Civ. P. 56. Based on the pleadings, depositions, and exhibits presently on file, the Court is of the view that the following are undisputed:
The printing plant, located in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, where Papillon worked, was originally owned by the Hughes family in the early 1930's. In 1934, the Union won bargaining rights for Journeymen Pressmen and Assistant Pressmen. Under the seniority system which was established for the two categories, a particular Pressman's seniority was "plant-wide". Thus, although an individual was assigned to only one particular press within the plant, he was entitled to "bump" a man of lower seniority who worked on another press rather than be laid off if his own letter press was shut down. This movement from press to press was possible because all letter presses within the plant were basically the same.
In 1960, Hughes sold the East Stroudsburg plant to the Printing Corporation of America. This effected no change in the seniority rights of Journeymen Pressmen and Assistants who continued to work in the plant.
In 1967, the Printing Corporation of America sold the East Stroudsburg facility to the American Can Company. Soon after its purchase of the plant, American Can discovered that the limited output capacity of its letter press equipment in the Stroudsburg plant could not compete with the offset printing presses of other companies which printed the same material. Consequently, after a short-lived attempt to upgrade the East Stroudsburg plant, American Can decided to close it down and to lay off permanently the 550 individuals employed there.
Before this decision could be implemented, Mr. Russell Hughes, of the family which originally owned the plant in the 1930's and a large stockholder in the American Can Company, was approached by parties having an interest in averting the closing. Despite being a retired octogenarian, Hughes undertook to investigate the possibility of repurchasing the plant in order to prevent the massive layoff which was imminent. Of primary concern to Hughes was the degree of cooperation which he could obtain from the Union if he undertook this venture and made the investment necessary to convert the plant from letter press to offset. Hughes required a definite commitment from the Union in three areas. Only one of those is pertinent to this case.
The offset printing process is comprised of three distinct phases -- the Web press, the Sheet-fed press, and Plateburning. Several years of training are required in order for an employee to reach a satisfactory level of competency on only one of these phases. Competency in one phase does not qualify an individual to work on any of the other two.
Training at the East Stroudsburg plant was to take place "on the job". Under the plan envisioned by Hughes, employees were to continue to receive their former letter press wages until they attained a level of competency which would entitle them to the higher rates of offset pressmen. The training of an individual in a particular phase of the offset process is expensive. In addition to direct training expenditures, the company bears the costs of each trainee's inferior work product and waste. If the seniority system which obtained in the plant up until the time of the contemplated purchase by Hughes were to have remained in effect, an individual working in, for example, the Web press phase who was about to be laid off could "bump" a Plateburner who had less seniority. The former Web pressman would then have to be completely retrained in Plateburning. Because he believed that the financial consequences of that situation were too severe for the Company, Hughes demanded and the Union acceded to the inclusion of a "one-phase" training restriction in the collective bargaining agreement. Such a provision was ratified by the Union on July 11, 1970 by a 70-to-6 vote of the general membership.
Lists were prepared of those individuals who wished to be trained in each of the three phases. Until an individual was assigned to a specific offset department, he continued to work on the letter presses which were still operating but were being gradually phased out. When an individual was assigned to a particular phase, he took his respective place on the seniority list within that classification.
The operation of the "one-phase" training restriction came into effect whenever a layoff occurred. If the staff in a certain department was to be reduced, the individual with the least seniority in that classification, rather than the individual with the least plant-wide seniority, was laid off. Consequently, it was possible for an employee on the Web press to continue to work while an individual with more years experience was laid off from Plateburning. This is what occurred, although not for the first time, to Marland Papillon on November 8, 1974.
Papillon began working at the East Stroudsburg plant on December 1, 1952 as an Assistant Pressman and has been a member of the Union since that time. By reason of a subsequent promotion his priority seniority date as a Journeyman Pressman became October 19, 1962. Because of a disagreement with the Union, which, however, was not translated into overt animosity between himself and Union officials, Papillon attended no meetings from 1968 until sometime shortly after his layoff in 1974.
In March, 1971, after the purchase of the plant by Hughes and the creation of the one-phase training restriction, Papillon indicated his desire to be trained on the Web press. Soon thereafter, he was offered the opportunity to train in the Plateburning department and accepted. His name was deleted from the Web list.
After he began his training program in the Plateburning department, additional pressmen with both more and less seniority than he began to train ...