No. 123 MARCH TERM, 1979, Appeal from the Order of April 12, 1979, of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh District, at No. 55 April Term, 1978, Reversing the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Clearfield County, Civil Division at No. 77-879-CD, in Trespass.
William Caprio, III, Cogan Station, for appellants.
Stanford A. Segal, Gatz, Cohen, Segal & Koerner, Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Roberts, J., filed a Concurring Opinion in which Nix, J., joins.
The issue on this appeal is whether a state court has subject matter jurisdiction over an action in trespass seeking pecuniary damages for the willful or negligent misconduct of appellee union and its agent for their failure to pursue appellants' claims with the National Labor Relations Board, or whether its jurisdiction is preempted by virtue of federal labor relations law.
Appellants' complaints allege negligence on the part of appellees in not including their names in an action before the NLRB,*fn1 and that by the time appellants realized they had not been included in the action, the statute of limitations
for filing their own action against Treasure Lake, Inc. had run.*fn2
In order to prevail against appellees, appellants would have to prove that, in discharging them, Treasure Lake had committed an unfair labor practice, and that, in an unfair labor practice action against Treasure Lake before the NLRB, the appellants would have been awarded damages. The trial court dismissed appellees' preliminary objections raising the question of jurisdiction, reasoning that since this was not an action to cure an unfair labor practice, the court did have jurisdiction over the issue in an action in trespass. The Superior Court reversed, and we affirm the ruling of the Superior Court.
In so doing, we note agreement with the Superior Court that in deciding whether the jurisdiction of the trial court is preempted, we must examine the action in the context of the federal scheme.
The common law recognized no right of employees to form labor organizations, to deal collectively through such organizations regarding terms and conditions of employment or to engage in concerted activities for other mutual aid or protection. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, concerted employee activities in support of demands for higher wages and better working conditions were met with criminal prosecution as common law conspiracies. In the latter part of the century and in the early years of the twentieth century, unionization was ...