The opinion of the court was delivered by: NEWCOMER
Sixteen named plaintiffs bring this action under § 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a) alleging breach of a collective bargaining agreement by defendant Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company and breach of the duty of fair representation by their union, Warehouse Employee Union Local No. 169. A & P has moved for summary judgment on all counts of the plaintiffs' complaint. For the reasons set forth below, A & P's motion is granted in part and denied in part.
The suit arose out of A & P's application of the terms of a multi-employer collective bargaining agreement (the "contract") negotiated between Local 169, of which the plaintiffs are members, and a group of Philadelphia area food store chains, which included A & P. A & P operates three food handling facilities in the Philadelphia area. There is a produce handling facility and a separate grocery handling facility in Yeadon, Pennsylvania, and another produce handling plant in Florence, New Jersey. The work history of the sixteen plaintiffs vary as to details, but all were at one time employees in one of A & P's produce facilities, and all allege the same legal wrongs. First, they allege that A & P violated the contract by laying off the plaintiffs from their produce jobs while employees of the grocery facility with lesser seniority were retained. Second, they allege that A & P violated and is violating the contract by hiring and continuing to hire casual employees in the grocery plant without recalling or reinstating the plaintiff produce employees who are on layoff status.
There are two sections of the collective bargaining agreement in issue. Count I of the complaint alleges that A & P has violated Section 28 of the contract, which says, in pertinent part:
Straight seniority shall prevail In each individual warehouse coming within the provisions of this Agreement, particularly as to layoffs and reemployment. (emphasis supplied)
A & P takes the position that "warehouse", as it is used in Section 28, has a definite and long-accepted meaning. According to A & P, the Yeadon grocery facility is one warehouse and the Yeadon and Florence produce facilities together are a separate warehouse. Under A & P's interpretation, the plaintiff producemen were properly laid off, despite having more time in service with A & P than some grocery employees, because each "warehouse" laid off according to its own seniority list.
The plaintiffs, on the other hand, contend that the three Yeadon and Florence facilities together constitute a single warehouse for purposes of Section 28 seniority rights.
Count II alleges that A & P has violated Schedule F of the contract. Schedule F defines workers' employment rights vis-a-vis temporary workers:
No casuals will be hired under the terms of Section 5, paragraph d (procedure for hiring casuals) while regular seniority employees are on layoff status.
A & P urges that "regular seniority employees . . . on layoff status", in this context, refers only to employees laid off from either the grocery or produce warehouse (as warehouse is defined by A & P). Under such an interpretation producemen would not be entitled to be hired in grocery in preference to casuals.
In interpreting a collective bargaining agreement it is necessary first to examine the canons of contract construction and second the " "common law of a particular industry or of a particular plant' ". Ludwig Honold Mfg. Co. v. Fletcher, 405 F.2d 1123, 1131 (3d Cir. 1969), quoting United Steel Workers of America v. Warrior and Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 579, 80 S. Ct. 1347, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1409 (1960).
One rule of contract construction is particularly applicable in the context of a motion for summary judgment:
Where . . . the meaning of a writing is uncertain or ambiguous, and parol evidence is introduced in aid of its interpretation, the question of its meaning should be left to ...