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United Telegraph Workers v. Western Union Corp.

August 26, 1985

UNITED TELEGRAPH WORKERS, AFL-CIO, AND COMMUNICATION WORKERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, APPELLEES,
v.
WESTERN UNION CORPORATION, APPELLANT



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, C.A. No. 85-1358.

Author: Adams

Before: ADAMS, HUNTER, and MANSMANN, Circuit Judges

Opinion OF THE COURT

ADAMS, Circuit Judge.

This case involves the disputed interpretation of a contract between an employer and two unions representing its employees. The district court entered a preliminary injunction supporting the unions' position, but because the court failed to follow the procedural requirements of the Norris-LaGuardia Act the order must be vacated and the case remanded for further proceedings.

I.

In late 1984, appellant Western Union Corporation fell upon difficult financial times. As part of its efforts to resurrect its economic fortunes, it attempted to renegotiate its agreements with two unions representing bargaining unit employees of its wholly owned subsidiary, Western Union Telegraph Company.*fn1 The unions, United Telegraph Workers, AFL-CIO, and Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO, had collective bargaining agreements with Western Union covering over 8,000 employees; the latter labor organization represented workers in the New York City metropolitan area and the former covered employees elsewhere in the United States.

The talks resulted in a "Stipulation" between the parties, signed December 14, 1984. It provided for a temporary 10% wage reduction for all bargaining unit employees earning more than $14,000 per year, with no such employee's salary being lowered below $14,000 annually. The wage reduction was to end no later than July 26, 1985.

In return for these labor concessions, Western Union stated its full "support [of] the concept of employee participation in the management and ownership of the Corporation, the details of which will be subjects of negotiations following from this Stipulation." Stip. § 1.8, App. at 19a. A later portion of the agreement expands on this assurance, and forms the basis of the present dispute:

2.1 The parties agree promptly to enter into good faith negotiations with respect to all aspects of the Corporation's financial health, operations and structure, including but not limited to such additional contract modifications and/or supplements as are proposed by the Corporation or the Unions.

2.2 In order to accomplish this goal, any party may retain the necessary consultants to assist it in performing a complete analysis of the aspects of the Corporation mentioned above.

App. at 19a.

Shortly after the Stipulation was signed, the unions began to request access to financial and other company documents, insisting that inspection of such information was mandated by the Stipulation and a necessary prerequisite to the comprehensive negotiations described in that agreement. Western Union, however, took the position that "its commitment to negotiate on employee participation in management was clearly not the functional equivalent of a commitment to give the Unions unrestricted access to the same information given to the highest level of management for performance of management's deliberative and decisional responsibilities." Appellant's Br. at 11. Accordingly, the company denied the unions access to "pre-decisional or deliberative documents." Id. at 28. These included future capital expenditure plans; reports from investment bankers, accountants, and other consultants; and future business plans provided to the Western Union Corporation Board of Directors.

Essentially, the unions argue that without all the information they requested they will be unable "to enter into good faith negotiations with respect to all aspects of the Corporation's financial health, operations and structure," and therefore that the contract requires such disclosure. Western Union, on the other hand, points to § 1.1 of the Stipulation, which provides that all provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreements remain in force except as affected by the temporary wage ...


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