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RONALD AND FRANCES GAJKOWSKI v. INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD TEAMSTERS (08/31/87)

decided: August 31, 1987.

RONALD AND FRANCES GAJKOWSKI, ROBERT SCHIPSKE, AND WILLIAM AND JEAN ABATE, APPELLANTS,
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA AND HIGHWAY TRUCK DRIVERS AND HELPERS LOCAL UNION NO. 107, APPELLEES



Appeal from Order of Superior Court of Pennsylvania Dated January 28, 1986 at Nos. 02585, 02586 and 02587, Philadelphia 1984, Reversing the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County Dated September 5, 1984 at Nos. 80-6719-09-2, 80-6720-11-2 and 80-6721-12-2. 350 Pa. Superior Ct. 285, Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Papadakos, J., joins in this opinion and files a concurring opinion. Larsen, J., files a concurring and dissenting opinion. Zappala, J., files a concurring and dissenting opinion in which Nix, C.j., joins.

Author: Hutchinson

[ 515 Pa. Page 518]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Ronald and Frances Gajkowski, Robert Schipske and William and Jean Abate (appellants) appeal by allowance a Superior Court order 350 Pa. Super. 285, 504 A.2d 840 which reversed an order of an en banc panel of Bucks County Common Pleas. Appellants brought suit in Common Pleas against appellees, International Brotherhood of Teamsters,

[ 515 Pa. Page 519]

Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America (IBT) and Highway Truck Drivers and Helpers Local Union No. 107 (Local 107), for damages stemming from a shooting on January 25, 1980 at a plant at which members of Local 107 were on strike and picketing. A jury returned a verdict in favor of appellants. An en banc panel of Bucks County Common Pleas affirmed. Concluding that there was insufficient evidence to warrant holding the appellees liable, Superior Court reversed. Our examination of the record leads us to hold that Superior Court properly exonerated the IBT from liability. However, there is sufficient evidence from which the jury could properly hold Local 107 liable for damages resulting from the shooting. Therefore, we affirm that portion of Superior Court's order relating to IBT and reverse the order relieving Local 107 of liability.

On November 18, 1979, the members of Local 107 employed at the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company's (3M) Bristol plant voted to commence a lawful economic strike after rejecting 3M's final offer for a new collective bargaining agreement. After the strike vote, Local 107 initiated around-the-clock picketing at the entrance to the Bristol facility. The picketing remained uneventful until January 25, 1980, when Robert Ballinger, a member of Local 107, shot Ronald Gajkowski, Robert Schipske and William Abate with a .22 caliber revolver.*fn1 Gajkowski and Schipske were members of Local 107 and Abate was a security guard at the 3M plant. As a result of the shooting, Gajkowski lost his left eye, Schipske suffered injuries to his nose and Abate sustained severe internal injuries.

Appellants filed a complaint in trespass in Bucks County Common Pleas against Local 107 and its parent organization, the IBT. Following a lengthy trial, the jury was instructed on common law negligence principles and the stricter proof requirements incorporated in Pennsylvania's Labor Anti-Injunction Act. Although Common Pleas held that the act's strict limitations on union liability for civil

[ 515 Pa. Page 520]

    damages did not apply to the facts of this case, the jury was presented with special interrogatories on both theories of liability. The jury found in favor of the appellants on both theories and awarded damages totaling approximately 1.3 million dollars.*fn2 Common Pleas, sitting en banc, denied appellees' post-trial motions seeking arrest of judgment, judgment non obstante verdicto or a new trial. Holding that the Labor Anti-Injunction Act applies, Superior Court determined that the appellants offered insufficient evidence to support the verdicts and entered judgment n.o.v. We granted appellants' petition for allowance of appeal because of the important questions raised on union liability under this act for injuries arising out of violence during strikes.

I. INTRODUCTION

Section 8 of Pennsylvania's Labor Anti-Injunction Act, Act of June 2, 1937, P.L. 1198, No. 308, 43 P.S. § 206h (Anti-Injunction Act), sets out both the kind and degree of proof necessary to hold a labor organization liable for the acts of officers, members or agents:

No officer or member of any association or organization, and no association or organization participating or interested in a labor dispute as herein defined, shall be held responsible or liable in any civil action at law or suit in equity or in any criminal prosecution for the unlawful acts of individual officers, members or agents, except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases, and by the weight of evidence in other cases, and without the aid of any presumptions of law or fact, both of -- (a) the doing of such acts by persons who are officers, members or agents of any such association or organization; and (b) actual participation in, or actual authorization of, such acts, or of ratification of such acts after actual knowledge thereof by such association or organization.

[ 515 Pa. Page 52143]

P.S. § 206h. Arising from the troubled labor history which precedes the Great Depression, the act reflects a legislative decision that crippling judgments against labor organizations in unfriendly forums threaten workers' rights to collective bargaining. Anti-Injunction Act, supra, § 2, 43 P.S. § 206b(a). See also Western Pennsylvania Hospital v. Lichliter, 340 Pa. 382, 387, 17 A.2d 206, 209 (1941). The Pennsylvania statute closely parallels the language of Section 6 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C. § 106 (1982), which reflects the same concern.*fn3 In Philadelphia Marine Trade Ass'n v. International Longshoremen's Ass'n, 453 Pa. 43, 308 A.2d 98 (1973), noting the similarities in the two statutes, we stated that the United States Supreme Court's interpretation of Section 6 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act offers guidance in our construction of Section 8 of the Anti-Injunction Act. Examination of the myriad of opinions of other state and federal courts in this area also offers insight into the competing policy considerations in this area of labor relations.*fn4

The background of Section 6 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act was explored in United Brotherhood of Carpenters v. United States, 330 U.S. 395, 67 S.Ct. 775, 91 L.Ed. 973 (1947). There, the Court held that the unique language of the Norris-LaGuardia Act precludes the employment of either standard agency or respondeat superior analysis to hold a union vicariously liable for the torts of its officers, members and agents:

[ 515 Pa. Page 522]

We hold, therefore, that "authorization" as used in § 6 means something different from corporate criminal responsibility for the acts of officers and agents in the course or scope of employment. We are of the opinion that the requirement of "authorization" restricts the responsibility or liability in labor disputes of employer or employee associations, organizations or their members for unlawful acts of the officers or members of those associations or organizations, although such officers or members are acting within the scope of their general authority as such officers or members, to those associations, organizations or their officers or members who actually participate in the unlawful acts, except upon clear proof that the particular act charged, or acts generally of that type and quality, had been expressly authorized, or necessarily followed from a granted authority, by the association or non-participating member sought to be charged or was subsequently ratified by such association, organization or member after actual knowledge of its occurrence.

Id. at 406-407, 67 S.Ct. at 781 (footnote omitted). Following United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Congress provided a right of action for money damages in certain labor disputes in Section 303(b) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 187(b) (1982).*fn5 In United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 16 L.Ed.2d 218 (1966), the Court compared Section 303(b) of the Labor Management Relations Act with Section 6 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act and stated that "the responsibility of a union for the acts of its members and officers [under § 303] is to be measured by reference to ordinary doctrines of agency,

[ 515 Pa. Page 523]

    rather than the more stringent standards of § 6 [of the Norris-LaGuardia Act]." Id. at 736, 86 S.Ct. at 1144. Thus, it is clear that both Section 6 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act and Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Anti-Injunction Act require a higher showing than the common law rules of agency. See Dow Chemical Co. v. International Union of Elec., Radio & Mach. Workers, 480 F.2d 433, 437 (5th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 932, 94 S.Ct. 1444, 39 L.Ed.2d 490 (1974); Note, Union Responsibility for Acts of Officers and Members, 63 Harv.L.Rev. 1035, 1039 (1950).*fn6

In an effort to avoid the difficult proof requirements of Section 8, appellants proffer two arguments, neither of which is persuasive. First, appellants contend, and Common Pleas agreed, that the legislature, through the adoption of Section 8, did not intend to supplant common law agency principles in personal injury matters. They argue that the statute was designed to protect unions solely from suits for economic damages stemming from a labor dispute.

We do not agree. Protecting unions from damage awards which would impinge upon the collective rights of workers is the clear import of Section 8. Supra at 855. The protection is available regardless of the theory that the plaintiff pursues. The purpose of this section's higher standard of proof in civil actions is the protection of the worker's right to collective bargaining without exposing his union to the higher costs engendered by the agency notion of respondeat superior. Since the union generally has no pool of profits with which to withstand the impact of unanticipated and costly damage awards, it could well be destroyed by an inadequately established claim.

[ 515 Pa. Page 524]

Second, appellants argue that Section 4 of the act serves to remove all acts of violence from the strictures of the Anti-Injunction Act. Since their cause of action is predicated upon a series of violent acts, they contend, the unique proof requirements of Section 8 do not apply. Section 4(d) of the act states:

No court of this Commonwealth shall have jurisdiction to issue any restraining order or temporary or permanent injunction in a case included within this act, except in strict conformity with the provisions of this act, nor shall any such restraining order or temporary or permanent injunction be issued contrary to the public policy declared in this act. Exclusive jurisdiction and power to hear and determine all actions and suits coming under the provisions of this act, shall be vested in the courts of common pleas of the several counties of this Commonwealth: Provided, however, That this act shall not apply in any case --

(d) Where in the course of a labor dispute as herein defined, an employe, or employes acting in concert, or a labor organization, or the members, officers, agents, or representatives of a labor organization or anyone acting for such organization, seize, hold, damage, or destroy the plant, equipment, machinery, or other property of the employer with the intention of compelling the employer to accede to any demands, conditions, or terms of employment, or for collective bargaining.

43 P.S. § 206d(d). Appellants argue that the language "this act shall not apply in any case," coupled with the prohibition against violence in Section 4(d), 43 P.S. § 206d(d), prevents the use of Section 8 of the Act in cases involving violent acts. Careful scrutiny of Section 4, 43 P.S. § 206d, reveals that subsections (a) through (d) were added to the Act of June 2, 1937, P.L. 1198, No. 308, by the Act of June 9, 1939, P.L. 302, No. 163. Prior to that amendment, Section 4 concluded with the word "Commonwealth" immediately before the proviso. Subsection (d) was

[ 515 Pa. Page 525]

    added to restore to a chancellor the power to enjoin a violent labor dispute. The subsection does not abrogate the protections afforded in Section 8 which apply to any organization or association "in any civil action at law or suit in equity." Anti-Injunction Act, supra, § 8, 43 P.S. § 206h. It does not apply to actions at law for damages. An injunction poses no threat to the viability of a labor organization whereas damage awards may quickly strangle the entity responsible for bargaining on behalf of workers. Hence, in amending the original act in 1939, the legislature retained the original higher standard of proof for damage actions. The 1939 amendment was intended to insure that an injunction will quickly issue when required to calm a heated and violent labor dispute. Link Belt Co. v. Local 118 American Federation of Technical Eng'rs, 415 Pa. 122, 202 A.2d 314 (1964). Regarding the limited impact of the 1939 amendments, we stated in Link Belt:

Section 4, as originally drafted, deprived our courts of jurisdiction to grant injunctions in labor disputes except as provided elsewhere in the Act. The proper and logical section for amendment to create exceptions to that limitation of jurisdiction is Section 4. The balance of the Act remains in full effect in those situations covered by the jurisdictional section.

Link Belt, supra, 415 Pa. at 128, 202 A.2d at 317 (emphasis added).

This distinction is also sound from the standpoint of policy. A union qua union can have no legitimate interest in preventing an injunction against violence on the picket line, whether or not it participated in fomenting that violence. If it did, it is properly a party. If it did not, it should support an end to the violence as all good citizens are required to do. On the other hand, a civil suit for damages against a union which did not participate or foment unlawful acts by its members can destroy or severely cripple a union which has taken no ...


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