Appeal from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in the case of In Re: Claim of Local 730, United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe-Fitting Industry, on behalf of its Members and All Others Similarly Situated; Appeal of Robert Semian et al.; Appeals, Nos. 79-3-F-877 through 996; 79-3-D-134 through 190; B-79-3-A-190 to B-79-3-A-210 v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Unemployment Compensation Board of Review and the Trane Company.
Robert D. Mariani, Mariani and Greco, for petitioners.
No appearance for respondent.
Sheldon Rosenberg, with him Nancy Abrams, Rosenberg & Ufberg, for intervenor.
Judges Blatt, Craig and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Dissenting Opinion by Judge MacPhail.
[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 197]
The petitioner, Local 730 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe-Fitting Industry (Union), appeals, on behalf of 120 of its members, a decision of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board). This decision adopted a Referee's order denying the claims on the basis that the claimants had engaged in a work stoppage other than a lockout and therefore were ineligible for such benefits under Section 402(d) of the Unemployment Compensation Law.*fn1
After a careful examination of the record, we find that the following summary of the Referee's findings of fact was made without a capricious disregard of competent evidence.*fn2 The claimants were last employed
[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 198]
by the Trane Company (Employer) as production and maintenance employees and the terms and conditions of their employment were governed by a collective bargaining agreement entered into between the Employer and the Union which was effective from June 26, 1976 until the expiration date of April 1, 1979. Beginning on February 27, 1979, and up until March 29, 1979, approximately 12 negotiation meetings were conducted between the Union and the Employer but the parties were unable to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement although they reached a tentative agreement as to non-economic issues. At a meeting on March 30, 1979, the chief negotiator for the Union presented a letter to the Employer which formally offered, effective when the existing agreement expired, to continue working for a reasonable time under the pre-existing terms and conditions of employment so as to avert a work stoppage pending final settlement of the contract negotiations. The Employer's negotiator responded to the Union's letter by indicating that the Employer did not agree to the offer to continue working; however, the maintenance and production employees did report for work on April 2, 1979, and they continued to work under the terms and conditions of the expired agreement until June 15, 1979. At a June 15, 1979 negotiation meeting held by the parties, the Employer presented a list of changes to become effective June 18, 1979, which would increase (i.e., improve) the economic terms and conditions of employment for the employees, and also lists of other changes to become effective March 31, 1980 and March 30, 1981. The Employer then requested that the negotiators for the Union present these changes to the Union members for
[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 199]
a vote, but the Union's negotiators declined to do so. On June 18, 1979, the Employer unilaterally implemented its proposed changes in economic terms and conditions of employment and the claimants worked under those terms and conditions until July 20, 1979. On July 21, 1979, the Union decided to honor the Employer's request to submit the proposed changes to the membership for a vote and the membership voted to reject the changes and to strike. A work stoppage then ensued. The parties held a few unproductive negotiation meetings up until October 9, 1979, at which time an agreement was reached and work resumed the following day.
In an unemployment case, the issue of whether a work stoppage results from a strike or from a lockout is a mixed question of law and fact, and the Board's conclusion is, therefore, subject to review by this Court. Aluminum Company of America v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 9 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 368, 305 A.2d 389 (1973). The test to be applied in determining whether a work stoppage was due to a lockout or a strike was enunciated by our ...