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Piano and Musical Instrument Workers Union v. W.W. Kimball Co.

June 30, 1964

PIANO AND MUSICAL INSTRUMENT WORKERS UNION, LOCAL 2549, UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS AND JOINERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
W.W. KIMBALL COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Author: Schnackenberg

Before DUFFY, SCHNACKENBERG and KNOCH, Circuit Judges.

SCHNACKENBERG, C.J.:

W.W. Kimball Company, a Delaware corporation, defendant, has appealed from an order of the district court granting summary judgment on count I of a complaint of The Piano and Musical Instrument Workers Union, Local No. 2549 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, AFL-CIO, plaintiff, under 29 U.S.C.A.§ 185, being § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act.

Relevant pleadings and exhibits affirmatively show the following facts.

Defendant was engaged in the business of manufacturing pianos and organs at its plant at Melrose Park, Illinois.*fn1 On October 1, 1960 it entered into a collective bargaining agreement with plaintiff, which by its terms expired October 1, 1961. On August 15, 1961, defendant notified plaintiff by letter that it had decided because of economic necessity to "discontinue operations in Melrose Park immediately" and that it would "begin immediately to lay off the employees".Production operations at Melrose Park ceased on August 17, 1961.

Defendant transferred its manufacturing operations to a plant at French Lick, Indiana. On October 9, 1961, it began hiring employees for the French Lick plant. No operations were carried on in that plant prior to that date.

The 1960 agreement provided for seniority rights for a period of two years following lay-off for those employees who had one or more years' service with the defendant. In the case of lay-off, provision was made for re-employment in the order of seniority, in which case defendant was to give written notice by mail to each employee to report back to work within three days after mailing of the notice, failing which the next employee in seniority might be re-employed. An employee who failed to show good cause for failure to report within three days would lose his seniority standing.

These are the principal seniority provisions upon which plaintiff relies as a contractual basis for its position with respect to the re-employment rights of the employees. The 1960 agreement also provided, in Article VIII, section 1:

"Any difference arising from the interpretation or application of this agreement between the parties hereto, which cannot be settled directly by the parties concerned, will be referred to a board of arbitration . . ."

While defendant's motion for summary judgment was denied, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to count I was granted.*fn2 It prayed for arbitration of the disputed issues as to the rights of laid-off employees to be "recalled" to work at the French Lick plant, also their right to collect damages for lost wages and other benefits, together with costs and attorneys' fees.

On August 15, 1961, vice-president Habig of defendant, notified business agent Kearney of plaintiff, of its decision to discontinue the Melrose Park operation. On September 7, 1961, Habig and A.C. Sermersheim, one of defendant's officers, met with Kearney to discuss what should be done about the employees laid off as a result of the transfer to French Lick. Plaintiff demanded that laid-off employees be re-employed in the new location. As early as September 7, defendant was considering job applicants for French Lick. Kearney said that he had a list of 39 Melrose Park employees who wished to obtain employment at the French Lick plant. Sermersheim requested a copy of this list and Kearney said that he could give him a copy. This Kearney did not do.

On September 15, 1961, Sermersheim and James Loftus, defendant's purchasing agent, met with Kearney and Bennett, general organizer of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, AFL-CIO. It does not appear that anything was then said or done about the copy of the list which Kearney said on September 7 he would give to Sermersheim.

No hiring was undertaken by defendant at French Lick until October 9, 1961.

On November 1, 1961, plaintiff again demanded re-employment for laid-off employees and requested back pay until re-employment. On November 14, 1961, defendant's plant manager Domark of the Melrose Park plant and Sermersheim met with Bennett and Kearney. Bennett stated that defendant could be required to offer employment to the Melrose Park employees at French Lick. When ...


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