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Twin City B. & T. Co. v. Protective Ass'n

MARCH 30, 1964.




Interlocutory appeal from the Superior Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOHN LUPE, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.


This is an interlocutory appeal from a Superior Court order granting a temporary injunction upon the Master's recommendation restraining Licensed Tugmen's and Pilots' Protective Association of America, an unincorporated association, Patrick J. Cullnan, Jr., and Jerry Williams, defendants, from any manner of picketing or inducing the picketing of plaintiff's customers or the latter's customers or plaintiff's vessels, barges, towboats, and from threatening or coercing persons, firms or corporations from doing business with the plaintiff or with plaintiff's customers.

For the purposes of this appeal no issue was made by Tugmen's concerning any findings of fact made by the Master in Chancery or by the court. It is Tugmen's theory that assuming the actual facts to be as found by the Master, the complaint should have been dismissed because the Superior Court lacked jurisdiction over the subject matter and the complaint failed to state an actionable cause.

Prior to July of 1961, Twin City operated a small harbor towing company in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota areas. In July of 1961, Twin City purchased from Chicago Towing Company, some of their equipment, to wit: 2 tugboats, 3 liquid tank barges and certain spare parts that went with the equipment. They did not purchase other assets from Chicago Towing nor its stock, nor did any stockholder of Chicago Towing acquire stock in Twin City. Upon the consummation of the sale, Chicago Towing discharged its personnel and went out of business. The officers, captains and engineers who formerly manned the equipment of Chicago Towing, were members of Tugmen's, and had entered into collective bargaining agreements with them covering their wages, hours and other conditions of employment. Twin City entered the Chicago Area for the first time after purchasing Chicago Towing and operated the vessels with crews who were members of the International Order of Masters, Mates and Pilots, Local 28 and the National Maintenance Union. The present dispute began when Twin City discontinued employing captains and engineers who were members of Tugmen's as officers on its tugboats. In its other operations, Twin City maintained collective bargaining agreements covering its officer personnel with unions other than Tugmen's, and it extended application of these agreements to its new operations in Chicago.

Tugmen's first contends that a State Court has no jurisdiction to act upon a subject within the regulatory scope of the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947, as amended, regardless of the fact that the action is grounded on alleged tort. The defense, that of a lack of jurisdiction in the trial court due to Federal preemption in the field, raises problems of an admittedly "Delphic nature" (Machinists v. Gonzales, 356 U.S. 617). We will first review the facts which brought this controversy before us.

The essential facts are not in dispute. The controversy between the parties began shortly after Twin City commenced operations in Chicago. The actions of the defendant association and the other named defendants consisted, in the main, of contacting and threatening or coercing not only Twin City and its customers, but those with whom its customers did business as well as its bank upon whom it relied for financial support. They were warned of "labor trouble" or given outright threats of picketing at their places of business if they did not cease using the services of Twin City or permitted Twin City's barges to tie up at their terminals. On occasion barges belonging to Twin City were subject to picketing and as a consequence were not unloaded. These facts will be set out in greater detail later in the opinion.

In August, 1961, Twin City filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the foregoing conduct engaged in by Tugmen's constituted an unfair labor practice under the Act and requested relief. On October 23, 1961, the Regional Director of the N.L.R.B. issued a complaint against the Tugmen's setting forth that the activities of the Tugmen's such as picketing and the conversations between Tugmen's representatives and the customers of Twin City, constituted violations of the Act. Thereafter, a hearing was held before a trial examiner of the N.L.R.B. who issued his Intermediate Report in which he found that the operations of Twin City and the customers of Twin City involved in the allegations of the complaint were enterprises engaged in interstate commerce within the jurisdiction of the N.L.R.B. However, the examiner, in addition, found that since the evidence showed that Tugmen's membership was comprised of persons who were supervisors, the General Counsel had "failed to prove that the Tugmen's is a labor organization within the meaning of the act." He thus recommended that the complaint be dismissed and under those circumstances did "not find it necessary to discuss the alleged unfair labor practices." Twin City and the General Counsel of the N.L.R.B. appealed the recommended order of the trial examiner to the Board itself, and on August 22, 1962, the N.L.R.B. adopted the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the trial examiner and issued the order dismissing the complaint.

When the proceedings commenced before the Board, Tugmen's entered into a stipulation to refrain from further acts against Twin City. Shortly after the complaint was dismissed Tugmen's again commenced the activities complained of and Twin City filed the instant complaint in the Superior Court.

The cause came on to be heard before Judge Lupe who referred the matter to Master Seymour S. Price for the taking of testimony and the preparation of a preliminary report. Master Price found from the evidence that the above conduct of defendants had as its object:

"to prevent, by one method or another, plaintiff's customers, actual or prospective, who had no labor dispute with defendant union, from engaging the services of the plaintiff company; that from the evidence presented, there was coercion . . ., although no actual physical threats or violence . . ."

and that,

"a continuation of the acts complained of . . . could cause an irreparable injury to the plaintiff company."

Judge Lupe at a hearing held on January 11, 1963, approved and confirmed the findings of the Master and ordered that a writ of injunction be issued. This appeal is taken from that temporary injunction decree.

It is true, as Tugmen's points out, that when the exercise of state power over a particular area of activity has threatened interference with a clearly indicated policy of industrial relations, the Supreme Court in numerous decisions has precluded the state courts from acting. Guss v. Utah Labor Relations Board, 353 U.S. 1; Youngdahl v. Rainfair, Inc., 355 U.S. 131; Teamsters Union v. New York, N.H. & H.R. Co., 350 U.S. ...

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