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Sangamo Eletric Co. v. Donnelley

OPINION FILED NOVEMBER 30, 1962.

SANGAMO ELECTRIC COMPANY, APPELLANT AND CROSS APPELLEE,

v.

ROBERT R. DONNELLY ET AL., APPELLEES AND CROSS APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. DEWITT S. CROW, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE HERSHEY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal by Sangamo Electric Company, hereinafter called the Company, from the portion of the judgment of the circuit court of Sangamon County affirming that portion of a decision of the Director of Labor holding that employees of the Company who were members of Selco Union were entitled to unemployment compensation as a result of work stoppage from November 2 to November 30, 1960. Also included is a cross appeal by the employees of the Company who were members of Selco Union from that portion of the judgment of such circuit court affirming the portion of the decision of the Director of Labor holding that such Selco members were ineligible for unemployment compensation from November 30, 1960, when an injunction issued limiting the number of pickets at each picket post, until December 10, 1960, when work resumed. Likewise, a cross appeal is presented by the employees of the Company who were members of the Maintenance Unit of Lodge 628, International Association of Machinists, from the portion of the judgment of said court affirming that portion of the decision of the Director of Labor holding these employees ineligible for unemployment benefits for the entire duration of the strike.

In this type of case, this court has held that the findings and conclusions of the Director of Labor should not be set aside unless contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence or unless there is no substantial evidence to support them. (Outboard Marine & Manufacturing Co. v. Gordon, 403 Ill. 523; Drezner v. Civil Service Com. 398 Ill. 219.) It therefore is necessary to examine the facts of the case as disclosed by the record.

Plaintiff Sangamo Electric Company is a manufacturer of electrical devices and equipment and has one of its plants in Springfield, Illinois. During the time concerned it had 2790 employees of whom 1670 were production employees and members of Selco Union. One hundred thirty-three were tool and die makers (hereinafter called the Tool and Die Unit) who were members of Lodge 628 of the International Association of Machinists, and 85 were maintenance workers (hereinafter called the Maintenance Unit) who also were members of Lodge 628 of the International Association of Machinists. The remaining employees were nonunion supervisory, clerical and miscellaneous employees. The Selco Union employees, employees of the Tool and Die Unit and employees of the Maintenance Unit each were separate bargaining units and each had a separate labor contract with plaintiff.

The Tool and Die Unit's labor contract with the Company expired at midnight November 1, 1960, and negotiations for a new contract having failed, the employees in the Tool and Die Unit struck on November 2, 1960. The contract of the Maintenance Unit and the separate contract of the Selco Union employees had considerable time yet to run, so that these two groups of employees still were under contract and did not strike. The Tool and Die Unit employees set up picket posts around the plant and placed pickets shoulder to shoulder at the gates. The evidence showed many acts of violence on the picket line. This continued until the Company on November 30, 1960, obtained and served an injunction of the circuit court of Sangamon County limiting the number of pickets at each picket post. The strike of the Tool and Die Unit continued until December 10, 1960. During the period of this strike by the Tool and Die Unit employees, the production employees of the Company, members of Selco Union, did not work. Also, the members of the Maintenance Unit did not work, except for 16 employees who, along with 3 matrons and 1 truck-driver, were permitted by preagreement to pass through the picket lines as a skeleton crew for plant protection. Non-union supervisory, clerical and office personnel worked without interruption. Claimants were not on strike nor did they work during the entire period of the strike.

A hearing was had on the claims before a deputy of the Division of Unemployment Compensation. He denied the claims entirely. Thereafter, on review before the Director of Labor's representative, a hearing was held, after which his report was made and adopted by the Director of Labor. The findings of the representative were: "(1) There was a labor dispute between the Sangamo Electric Company of Springfield, Illinois, and the tool and die makers employed by them, represented by Lodge # 628 of the International Association of Machinists from November 2, 1960 to December 10, 1960, inclusive. (2) There was a stoppage of work at the Company's plant at Springfield, Illinois, during said period. (3) The stoppage of work existed because of the said labor dispute. (4) The unemployment of all appellants herein between November 2, 1960 and December 10, 1960, was due to the stoppage of work which existed because of the labor dispute at the premises of the above named employer. (5) Maintenance workers employed by the said employer and members of the said local union had a separate contract and were not directly interested in the labor dispute. (6) The said maintenance workers did not finance the said labor dispute. (7) The said maintenance workers participated in the labor dispute by respecting the picket line of the tool and die makers, thereby withdrawing their services from the employer, or were members of a grade or class of workers some of whom participated in the labor dispute by respecting the picket lines of the tool and die makers. (8) The production workers represented by Selco Union # 1, were not directly interested in the labor dispute and did not finance the said labor dispute. (9) With respect to the period from November 2, 1960, to November 29, 1960, the said Selco Union members did not participate in the labor dispute which caused the stoppage of work at the premises of the employer, since they were prevented from entering the plant by a reasonable fear of bodily harm based on incidents which occurred between their members and the pickets. (10) With respect to the period from November 30, 1960, to December 10, 1960, the members of the Selco Union participated in the labor dispute which caused a stoppage of work at the premises where they were employed since the issuance of an injunction reduced the number of pickets at the premises of the employer and made it possible for them to enter the plant without reasonable fear of bodily harm, and their unemployment for the said period was due to their failure to take advantage of the opportunity thus afforded them."

The Director of Labor ordered that the members of Selco Union be held eligible for benefits for unemployment from November 2, 1960 to November 29, 1960, inclusive, and ineligible for benefits for unemployment from November 30, 1960, to December 10, 1960, inclusive, and that the claimants who were members of Lodge No. 628 of the International Association of Machinists were ineligible for benefits during the entire period from November 2, 1960, to December 10, 1960, inclusive. Sangamo Electric, Selco and the Maintenance Unit employees filed administrative review actions. These two proceedings were consolidated. Thereafter, the circuit court affirmed the decision of the Director of Labor.

Section 604 of the Illinois Unemployment Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1959, chap. 48, par. 434) provides that an individual shall be ineligible for benefits for any week with respect to which it is found his total or partial unemployment is due to a stoppage of work which exists because of a labor dispute, except where it is shown "that (A) he is not participating in or financing or directly interested in the labor dispute which caused the stoppage of work and (B) he does not belong to a grade or class of workers of which immediately before the commencement of the stoppage there were members employed at the premises at which the stoppage occurs, any of whom are participating in or financing or directly interested in the dispute." It has been consistently held that to relieve the employee of this ineligibility, it is incumbent upon him to prove, not one, but both of these exceptions. Brown Shoe Co. v. Gordon, 405 Ill. 384; Shell Oil Co. v. Cummins, 7 Ill.2d 329.

The questions here appear primarily ones of fact. It is correctly admitted by the Company that as to the Selco Union employee claimants, the question is whether they were "participating in" the strike of the Tool and Die Unit workers.

This court has held that where employees of the same employer, who are members of an entirely different labor organization and have no interest in or connection with the labor dispute, fail to cross a picket line of another labor organization of the employer for the reason of "respect" of that picket line, such employees are not entitled to unemployment benefits. (American Brake Shoe Co. v. Annunzio, 405 Ill. 44.) In that case there was abundant testimony that the picketing was peaceful, there was ample police protection and the claimants were members of an entirely different union and could have, if they had chosen to do so, entered their place of employment without threat of bodily harm. The testimony further showed that the employees did not cross the picket line because they did not care to be classified as "scabs" by fellow employees. In other words, they were unemployed solely because, in accordance with their union principles, they did not choose to work in a plant where certain employees from another plant of their employer were conducting picketing.

This court also has held that failure to cross a picket line by a group of employees belonging to a separate union from the one striking, for the reason that the employees had a reasonable fear they would experience violence or bodily harm, is sufficient reason to cause them to be eligible for unemployment benefits and negates any contention that they were participating in the labor dispute. (Shell Oil Co. v. Cummins, 7 Ill.2d 329.) Further, such fear may arise not only from actual violence itself but also from its potential. Shell Oil Co. v. Cummins.

In the instant case, some 24 witnesses testified in great detail as to acts of violence and threats on the part of the striking tool and die employees. Even the Company itself admitted the violence and threat of bodily harm engendered by the striking employee pickets to those employees who sought to enter the plant to work. The witnesses all agreed that from November 2, 1960, until November 30, 1960, the pickets were massed at gates 1 and 3 of the Company, shoulder to shoulder, so that no Selco employee could go through the gates without body contact with the pickets. Incidents of fist fights, torn clothing, people being shoved and knocked down, women being carried across the street, one picket having a gun, another being intoxicated and a police dog on the picket line, and other acts of misconduct on the part of the pickets were fully related by the witnesses.

Verbal threats made to Selco employees attempting to enter the plant were told by numerous witnesses. A letter from John Patton, industrial relations manager of the Company, to the striking Union complained of intoxicating liquor on the picket line and of the police dog and other acts giving the Selco employees reasonable cause to fear bodily violence. Further, the verified complaint for injunction filed on November 30, 1960, by the Company alleged the violence testified to by the aforesaid witnesses, the massing of pickets and other acts of threatened violence by the pickets to those seeking to enter the plant. All this testimony related to the period prior to the Company's obtaining the injunction on November 30. Further incidents of violence were testified to by the witnesses as well as alleged in the injunction complaint when as many as 600 Selco employees gathered and attempted to enter gates 1 and 3. Also, on November 29, a loaded truck attempting to leave the loading dock in the south parking lot was obstructed by pickets, the driver threatened, and the truck prevented from leaving. Thereafter, on November 30, 1960, an injunction was obtained by the Company limiting the strikers to one picket per picket post. The testimony shows this injunction was obeyed and thereafter the employees of Selco Union generally remained away from the plant.

The evidence is overwhelming that there not only was reasonable fear by Selco Union employees of bodily harm in attempting to cross the picket line, but acts of bodily contact and harm and violent threats occurred. It is the position of the Company that this did not show the Selco workers were involuntarily out of work since there was another entrance to the plant, less heavily ...


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