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FRANK D. MICELI v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (12/17/85)

decided: December 17, 1985.

FRANK D. MICELI, CHARLES MINNICH AND LEANDER KRIST, TOKEN CLAIMANTS, PETITIONERS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in case of Frank D. Miceli, Token Claimant, No. B-183655-B.

COUNSEL

Paul J. Dellasega, with him, Ira H. Weinstock, Ira H. Weinstock, P.C., for petitioners.

Charles G. Hasson, Acting Deputy Chief Counsel, for respondent.

Michael T. Welch, with him, C. Grainger Bowman, McNees, Wallace & Nurick, for intervenor, Quaker Oats Company.

Judges Craig and Doyle, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Craig

[ 93 Pa. Commw. Page 506]

This appeal follows an order by the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review denying benefits to Frank D. Miceli, Charles J. Minnich and Leander D.

[ 93 Pa. Commw. Page 507]

Krist, token claimants on behalf of similarly situated employees of the Quaker Oats Company, all of whom are members of Cereal Workers Directly Affiliated Local Union No. 221, AFL-CIO. The board vacated its earlier decision in favor of the claimants pursuant to a remand by this court for additional findings of fact. Quaker Oats Co. v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 65 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 72, 442 A.2d 369 (1982). Consistent with its new findings, the board concluded that the claimants' unemployment resulted from a work stoppage caused by a labor dispute other than a lockout within the meaning of section 402(d) of the Unemployment Compensation Law,*fn1 thus precluding recovery of benefits.

In Quaker Oats, 65 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. at 73-74, 442 A.2d at 370, this court stated the circumstances leading to the work stoppage at the Quaker Oats plant. A brief review follows.

On April 1, 1979, the collective bargaining agreement between the company and claimants' union expired after extensive negotiations between the parties failed to produce a new agreement. The following day the parties entered into an interim agreement providing that the union would not strike and the company would not institute a lockout without either party first giving the other 24 hours written notice.

During the next few weeks, company officials noted that production efficiency levels at the plant were steadily decreasing. At several meetings, employer officials asserted to the union's committee that

[ 93 Pa. Commw. Page 508]

    this decline resulted from incidents of employee sabotage of machinery within the plant, a concerted work slowdown, and a widespread refusal by employees to work overtime shifts.

On April 26, 1979, the company announced that the plant would be shut down at five p.m. that day and rejected an offer by employees to return unconditionally to work. The company, claiming that the impasse in collective bargaining had precipitated the recent employee actions, construed those actions as an inplant strike.

1. The Legal Principles

The claimants' eligibility for benefits is contingent upon a determination of whether the employees, either through alleged acts of sabotage, a concerted work slowdown or refusal to work overtime, or the company, through the plant shutdown, caused the work stoppage. Philco Corp. v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 430 Pa. 101, 242 A.2d 454 (1968). In Philco, the Supreme Court articulated the test for determining whether a work stoppage, pursuant to a labor dispute, is the result of an employer-initiated lockout or an employee-initiated strike. The court stated:

Since the purpose of our unemployment compensation system is to compensate an individual when work has been denied him through no fault of his own, logically the test of whether a work stoppage resulted from a strike or a lockout requires us to determine which side, union or management, first refused to continue operations under the status quo after the contract had technically expired, but while negotiations were continuing.

Philco, 430 Pa. at 103-04, 242 A.2d at 455 (emphasis added).

[ 93 Pa. Commw. Page 509]

Under this standard, the board has made new findings of fact to support its decision denying ...


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