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BILLIE G. MURDOCA ET AL. v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (12/22/88)

decided: December 22, 1988.

BILLIE G. MURDOCA ET AL., PETITIONERS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Orders of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in the case of In Re: Claim of Billie Murdoca, et al., No. B-252006 and in the case of In Re: Claim of Lorraine D. Mitman, et al., No. B-252007.

COUNSEL

James A. Diamond, with him, Elliot A. Strokoff, Handler, Gerber, Johnston, Strokoff & Cowden, for petitioners.

John Herzog, Assistant Counsel, with him, James K. Bradley, Assistant Counsel, and Clifford F. Blaze, Deputy Chief Counsel, for respondent.

Judges Barry and Colins, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Colins.

Author: Colins

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 304]

Billie G. Murdoca, lead token claimant,*fn1 appeals from a decision of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board) which affirmed the decision of the referee denying her and other similarly situated employees of Beverly Blouse Company (Beverly) benefits for the period November 5, 1985 through December 3, 1985. During the period at issue, Beverly and the employees' bargaining representative, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, Local 234 (Union), were engaged in a labor dispute.

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 305]

A collective bargaining agreement (agreement) between Beverly and the Union was in force during the period at issue, this agreement having become effective as of June 1, 1985 and having an expiration date of May 31, 1988. The agreement which was entered into evidence before the referee is contained in the record. Article Seventeenth of the agreement provides for a minimum wage of $4.90 per hour for certain union employees. Article Seventeenth, Section 5*fn2 sets out the procedure for handling employees whom Beverly believes to be performing substandard work.

About a month and a half prior to the work stoppage Beverly was, with knowledge of the Union engineer, in the process of preparing a list of those employees whom it believed to be performing substandard work. At the close of work on November 20, 1985, Beverly's manager, Glen Miller, called the workers on the list aside, without Union representation present, and attempted to get those employees to sign agreements accepting a reduced wage of $4.20 per hour. The employees refused to sign and notified the Union on the following day. The Union, in turn, immediately notified Beverly's collective bargaining representative Arnold Delin (Delin), Executive Director, Atlantic Apparel Contractors Association, Inc. (AACA)*fn3 informing him of Beverly's action. Delin

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 306]

    agreed that the attempt by Beverly to unilaterally reduce wages was improper and clearly in violation of the agreement.

Notwithstanding the above, when the workers on the list received their pay checks on Friday, November 22, 1985, they discovered a reduction in their pay from $4.90 per hour to $4.20 per hour retroactively to the week ending Friday, November 15, 1985. At this point the record becomes unclear as to the sequence of events that followed. Additionally, the Board never made specific findings of fact concerning the actual events of the work stoppage. As evidenced in the record, Delin testified that two meetings were held prior to the November 25 work stoppage for the purpose of averting a stoppage, at which he was present along with the principals of Beverly, the Union's officials and the two shop chair ladies. Notes of Testimony pp. 13, 15. However, Earl Laub (Laub), Union District Manager, testified that the above-referenced meetings were held subsequent to the work stoppage specifically on the evening of Monday, November 25, and on the following Monday, December 2. Notes of Testimony pp. 20-21. Either way, it is clear in the record that Beverly unilaterally and retroactively changed the terms and conditions of the agreement. As a result, all but "one or two" of the workforce failed to report for work on Monday, November 25, 1985 and did not begin returning to work until December 3, 1985.

It appears from Laub's testimony that an offer was made at the Monday, November 25th meeting whereby the employees agreed to return to work if Beverly agreed to reinstate the minimum wage provided for under the agreement.

CL: With respect to returning to work, was there any offer made by the workers concerning under what conditions they would return to work?

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 307]

CU1: Yes they would return to work if the wages were put back to $4.90 an hour and that was really ...


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