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AIRCO SPEER CARBON-GRAPHITE v. 502

July 23, 1980

AIRCO SPEER CARBON-GRAPHITE, a division of Airco, Inc., Petitioner
v.
502, INTERNATIONAL UNION OF ELECTRICAL, RADIO & MACHINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, Local 502, AFL-CIO, Respondent



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KNOX

MEMORANDUM OPINION

On February 1, 1980, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated the judgment of this court, Airco Speer Carbon-Graphite v. Local 502, etc., 479 F. Supp. 246 (W.D.Pa.1979), and remanded this cause for the following determination:

 
"What impact, if any, does the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the Carbon Fuel ( Co. v. United Mine Workers of America, 444 U.S. 212, 100 S. Ct. 410, 62 L. Ed. 2d 394 (1979)) case have on the decision of this Court which found the local union liable for the unauthorized work stoppage of May 17-25, 1977?"

 A status report and argument on the merits was held on March 26, 1980, the parties subsequently filed briefs and reply briefs, and the matter is now ripe for decision.

 In Carbon Fuel Co. v. United Mine Workers of America, supra, Justice Brennan, writing for a unanimous Court, announced a rule of union liability the responsibility of unions to prevent and terminate unauthorized work stoppages in violation of a collective bargaining agreement is limited to cases when the union may be found liable under the common law of agency and ratification. A review of the procedural history of the case is instructive.

 Carbon Fuel brought suit pursuant to Section 301 of the LMRA against three local unions, the district union, a regional subdivision of the UMWA, and the international union. The complaint alleged that 48 unauthorized strikes were in violation of the applicable collective bargaining agreements. The district court directed verdicts against the locals for 31 of these strikes on the basis of the mass action theory of liability. On appeal, the court affirmed, Carbon Fuel Co. v. United Mine Workers of America, 582 F.2d 1346 (4th Cir. 1978), and review of these judgments was not sought in the Supreme Court. *fn1"

 The district court instructed the jury that the district and international unions must use all reasonable means available to them to prevent work stoppages or strikes from occurring in violation of the contract or to terminate any such work stoppages after they began. Verdicts were returned against the district and the international. On appeal, the court reversed, holding that the district and international had no responsibility for the strikes. The Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting the company's arguments that the obligations of the UMWA and the district to use all reasonable means to prevent and terminate unauthorized strikes in violation of the collective bargaining agreement is either implied in law because the contract contains an arbitration provision or is to be implied from the provision of the agreement that the parties "will maintain the integrity of the contract." Carbon Fuel Co. v. United Mine Workers of America, supra, 444 U.S. at 220, 100 S. Ct. at 415, 62 L. Ed. 2d at 399. The Court expressly overruled Eazor Express v. Teamsters, 520 F.2d 951 (3d Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 424 U.S. 935, 96 S. Ct. 1149, 47 L. Ed. 2d 342 (1976) wherein the Third Circuit held unions liable under a no strike clause for failure to use best efforts to end unauthorized strikes.

 Local 502 contends that Carbon Fuel precludes a finding of union liability in this case. Union liability, defendant asserts, cannot be based upon an implied in law obligation to use all reasonable means to terminate an unlawful strike in violation of a collective bargaining agreement. Airco, on the other hand, argues that the standards of union liability announced in Carbon Fuel are inapplicable in this case and that a local union, by giving its no-strike pledge, must use its best efforts to terminate a wildcat strike.

 This clause is the subject of defendant's second attack upon the judgment of the court. The no strike clause of the agreement provides as follows:

 
"The Union will not cause or officially sanction its members to cause or take part in any strikes (including sit-downs, stay-ins, slowdowns, or any other stoppages of work) and will cooperate with the Company in every way possible to prevent any such stoppages of work and to terminate such stoppages that may occur as soon as possible. The Company agrees not to lock out any of the employes."

 Defendant contends that the union did not breach the express terms of the agreement. Local 502 construes the term, "cooperate," to require no more than union compliance with reasonable company requests for action designed to end the strike. According to the company, "cooperate " means: to associate with another for mutual, often economic benefit. Memorandum of Plaintiff on Remand to District Court, at p. 20. We previously held defendant liable under the express terms of the contract for failing "to take any action during the course of and following the wildcat strike." Airco Speer Carbon-Graphite v. Local 502, etc., supra, 479 F. Supp. at 254. For the additional reasons stated below, we reaffirm our holding that Local 502 breached the cooperation clause, and is therefore, liable to the plaintiff.

 The court should interpret the words in a contract of this nature to give them their ordinary and reasonable meaning. Penn Packing Co. v. Amalgamated Meat Cutters, 497 F.2d 888, 891 (3d Cir. 1974), citing 3 Corbin on Contracts § 535. "(W)ith an express clause the court can determine its meaning by looking to the language of the clause, the structure of the contract, the bargaining history, and any other relevant conduct of the parties that shows their understanding of the contract." Delaware Coca-Cola Bottling Co., Inc. v. General Teamster Local Union 326, 624 F.2d 1182, at 1185 (3d Cir. 1980). A union may agree to ...


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