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LAKESHORE MOTOR FREIGHT CO. v. INTERNATIONAL BHD.

January 9, 1980

LAKESHORE MOTOR FREIGHT CO., Plaintiff
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA, TEAMSTER' STEELHAULERS LOCAL NO. 800, ET AL., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: TEITELBAUM

This is an action to recover damages for breach of a collective bargaining agreement allegedly arising out of an illegal work stoppage which occurred from May 2, 1976 to May 17, 1976. Jurisdiction is predicated on Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. ยง 185. A non-jury trial was held on August 2 and 3, 1979.

The evidence at trial indicated that the collective bargaining agreement between Lakeshore Motor Freight Company and Teamsters' Steelhaulers Local No. 800 terminated on March 31, 1976, and when no agreement could be reached, there was a work stoppage pursuant to a strike vote which was authorized by the Union's international president. As a result of the strike vote, members of Local 800 and all locals covered by the National Master Freight Agreement went on strike on April 1, 1976.

 The union and the employer continued to engage in efforts to reach a new agreement, and as a result, the negotiating teams reached an understanding on April 8, 1976, on a new contract proposal to be submitted to the union membership working under the National Master Freight Agreement and all of its supplements. The General President and Co-chairman of the Union Negotiating Committee ordered a referendum mail ballot on the employers' April 8, 1976 offer. The General President and Co-chairman of the Union Negotiating Committee further ordered all employees to return to work on April 9, 1976, pending outcome of the results of the mail referendum vote under the same terms as set forth in the contract that terminated on March 31, 1976. The employers' April 8, 1976 offer provided that the employees would return to work pending outcome of the mail referendum vote. All Local Union 800 members returned to work on April 9, 1976.

 On May 3, 1976, the individual defendants, who were employees of the plaintiff, refused to continue to work during the interim period before the mail referendum vote was completed, declared a work stoppage and picketed. Said action was taken in apparent retaliation against the plaintiff for its refusal to adjust a long-pending dispute regarding a fuel surcharge. The action taken by the individual defendants was contrary to the Local Union's order and without the knowledge of the Local Union. The contract was finally approved on May 9, 1976, yet the strike continued for another week.

 Plaintiff seeks to impose liability on either Local Union No. 800 or the 32 individual defendants. There cannot be joint liability between the Union and the individual defendants. Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining Co., 370 U.S. 238, 82 S. Ct. 1318, 8 L. Ed. 2d 462 (1962); Alloy Cast Steel Company v. United Steelworkers of America, 70 F.R.D. 687 (N.D.Ohio 1976); DuQuoin Packing Company v. Local P-156, Amalgamated Meatcutters, 321 F. Supp. 1230 (E.D.Ill.1971).

 Local Union 800 Liability

 Despite the various contentions of defendants to the contrary, this Court finds that an illegal work stoppage occurred between May 2 and May 17, 1976. Plaintiff contends that the illegal work stoppage results in union liability because the defendant, Local Union 800, violated Section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act inasmuch as it did not use every reasonable means to prevent the strike or to bring an end to the illegal activity engaged in by its members. The foundation of plaintiff's contention is the case of Eazor Express Incorporated v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, 520 F.2d 951 (3 Cir. 1975), wherein the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed this Court in holding that necessarily implied in a Union's agreement that there should be no strikes was an obligation on its part to use every reasonable means to bring an end to a strike begun by its members without union authorization. Eazor further held that unions were liable for damages proximately caused by their failure under their no-strike pledge to use all reasonable means to end unauthorized strikes.

 Recently, however, the United States Supreme Court had occasion to review the rationale behind Eazor. In an opinion for a unanimous Court, Justice Brennan wrote that the question was not whether the Union did everything it might have done to prevent the strike or bring about its termination, but whether the Union instigated, supported, ratified, or encouraged the strike. Carbon Fuel Company v. United Mine Workers of America, 444 U.S. 212, 100 S. Ct. 410, 62 L. Ed. 2d 394 (1979). This Court must therefore analyze the evidence in the case sub judice with a view toward determining whether Local Union 800 instigated, supported, ratified, or encouraged the illegal work stoppage. Absent evidence of such affirmative conduct, liability for damages cannot be affixed to Local Union 800.

 While the evidence when measured against the standard of Eazor lends itself to differing interpretations, there can be little doubt that Local Union 800 cannot be held liable for damages under the stricter standard of Carbon Fuel. Evidence of record proliferates that shows Local Union 800 did not instigate, support, ratify, or encourage the illegal work stoppage. When the Local Union was informed of the work stoppage, it took the following action:

 
1. Robert Todd, Local Union President, telephoned the Eastern Conference of Teamsters and requested their assistance to get the defendants back to work.
 
2. The Local Union sent a telegram to the plaintiff company advising it that the local union did not sanction the work stoppage nor have any knowledge that such work stoppage would occur prior to May 3, 1976, and that it was the intent of the Local Union to do whatever was necessary to halt the unauthorized work stoppage.
 
3. President Robert Todd informed the employees on the picket line that if they continued the work stoppage their union books would be lifted.
 
4. Both Mr. Carelli, the Local Union Secretary-Treasurer, and President Todd appeared at the plaintiff company's premises on Monday, May 3, 1976, and informed Mr. John O'Malley that the work stoppage was unauthorized and also informed the employees who were standing by the company's gates unwilling to go to work.
 
5. On May 3, 1976, President Todd instructed Mr. O'Malley to fire all the employees ...

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