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11/20/97 CATERPILLAR v. UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

November 20, 1997

CATERPILLAR, INC., APPELLANT
v.
UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW, WILSON HOSTETTER, INTERVENOR, APPELLEE; CATERPILLAR, INC., APPELLANT V. UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW, THOMAS E. HEATH, INTERVENOR, APPELLEE; CATERPILLAR, INC., APPELLANT V. UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW, ROBERT G. HILDEBRAND, JR., INTERVENOR, APPELLEE; CATERPILLAR, INC., APPELLANT V. UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW, DONALD J. CODDINGTON, ET AL., INTERVENORS, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court entered March 18, 1996 at 3104 C.D. 1994 affirming the order entered November 9, 1994 of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review at No. B-329913-B. JUDGE(S) BELOW: UCBR - COMMONWEALTH - SMITH, FRIEDMAN, JJ., SILVESTRI, S.J.

Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court entered March 18, 1996 at 3105 C.D. 1994 affirming the order entered November 9, 1994 of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review at No. B-329914-B. JUDGE(S) BELOW: UCBR - COMMONWEALTH - SMITH, FRIEDMAN, JJ., SILVESTRI, S.J.

Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court entered March 18, 1996 at 3106 C.D. 1994 affirming the order entered November 9, 1994 of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review at No. B-329915-B. JUDGE(S) BELOW: UCBR - COMMONWEALTH - SMITH, FRIEDMAN, JJ., SILVESTRI, S.J.

Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court entered March 18, 1996 at 3107 C.D. 1994 affirming the order entered November 9, 1994 of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review at No. B-329897-B. JUDGE(S) BELOW: UCBR - COMMONWEALTH - SMITH, FRIEDMAN, JJ., SILVESTRI, S.J.

Before: Flaherty, C.j., Zappala, Cappy, Castille, Nigro, Newman, JJ. Mr. Justice Castille files a Dissenting Opinion in which Mr. Justice Nigro joins.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Newman

OPINION OF THE COURT

MADAME JUSTICE NEWMAN

DECIDED:NOVEMBER 20, 1997

Caterpillar, Inc. (Employer) appeals from the award of unemployment compensation benefits to Donald Coddington, et al., Thomas Heath, Robert Hildebrand, Jr., and Wilson Hostetter (collectively, Claimants) *fn1 pursuant to the Unemployment Compensation Law, Act of December 5, 1936, P.L. (1937) 2897, as amended, 43 P.S. § 751, et seq. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the Order of the Commonwealth Court.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

During the spring of 1992, Caterpillar was in the process of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, Local 786 (Union). Claimants are members of the Union. On April 1, 1992, newspapers in York, Pennsylvania and Peoria, Illinois, reported that Donald V. Fites (Fites), Caterpillar's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, had warned that workers on strike in Caterpillar's Midwestern plants would be permanently replaced if they did not return to work. The following day, Ken Myers (Myers), an employee at Caterpillar's York, Pennsylvania plant, wore a T-shirt to work bearing the phrase "PERMANENTLY REPLACE FITES". Caterpillar immediately discharged Myers because it determined that the slogan contravened its policy against personal attacks on fellow employees. Later the same day, Caterpillar reinstated Myers without a loss of pay with the understanding that Caterpillar preferred that he not display that slogan. The Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed an unfair labor practice complaint against Caterpillar for its actions against Myers.

Because of the incident, the Union issued a newsletter to its members explaining the NLRB's complaint. In response, Caterpillar distributed the following letter dated September 30, 1992, to all employees:

Dear Fellow Employee:

A recent UAW News Release, in our judgment, misrepresents the law and we want to make sure our employees understand the Company's position and do not get into trouble in reliance upon the UAW's misrepresentation.

Recently, the Regional Director of the Baltimore office of the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against Caterpillar's York Facility because, among other allegations, Caterpillar prohibited an employee from wearing a T-shirt that made specific reference to Don Fites. The UAW News Release stated that "one effect of the NLRB determination" ...


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