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Travis v. Grabiec

DECEMBER 23, 1970.

H.R. TRAVIS ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,

v.

BARNEY J. GRABIEC, DIRECTOR OF LABOR ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. FRED P. SCHUMAN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendants, Barney J. Grabiec, Director of Labor, hereafter called the Director, and Shell Oil Company, hereafter called Shell, appeal from the judgment of the Circuit Court of Madison County reversing the decision of the Director which held certain of Shell's employees ineligible for benefits under the Unemployment Compensation Act.

At its refinery in Wood River, Shell employs approximately 3100 employees. On August 18, 1962, 2070 of its employees, represented by 13 labor unions, commenced a strike which continued until February 3, 1963. A number of the striking employees filed claims for benefits under the Unemployment Compensation Act, and on March 25, 1963, the Director filed his decision holding them ineligible for benefits. The employees sought administrative review and on May 4, 1966, the Circuit Court of Madison County remanded the cause to the Director to take additional evidence on the issue of whether during the strike Shell resumed "substantial normal production" and if so, when.

On June 21, 1967, the Director filed his decision, again holding the employees ineligible for benefits, in which he states, inter alia:

"The Director of Labor submits that he is not certain as to those elements which must be considered in order to make a finding of fact that during the specific period a `substantial resumption of operations' existed at the premises of the Shell Oil Co. during the period here in question. He is able to conclude from the entire record herein, only that there is sufficient evidence to warrant a finding that by December 27, 1962, the company was producing 175,000 barrels of its product, which was substantially the same daily thruput as was achieved prior to the strike and during periods when all workers were at their regular jobs.

The Director of Labor in making this Finding relative to the daily thruput of the company's product does not intend in any way to indicate his concurrence in or acceptance of this standard for determining the cessation of a stoppage of work within the provisions of Section 604 of The Unemployment Compensation Act.

The Director of Labor is of the opinion that the correct standard for determining the cessation of a stoppage of work is as dictated in the three-fold test announced by the Supreme Court as stated hereinabove, and in the Report and Further Report of the Director's Representative."

As authority for his "three-fold test", the Director cites Abbott Publishing Co. v. Annunzio, 414 Ill. 559 and in his decision quotes from page 566 of the Supreme Court's opinion as follows:

"* * * the majority rule holds that where the employer has permanently replaced all the employees whose employment was terminated in the course of a labor dispute, has fully resumed its normal plan of operations and resumed previous production, then the unemployment of its former employees is no longer due to a stoppage of work because of a labor dispute at the employer's plant * * *."

The employees again sought administrative review, the circuit court reversed the decision of the Director, found the employees eligible for benefits for the period commencing with December 27, 1962 and including February 2, 1963, and this appeal followed.

The evidence shows that the production noted in the Director's decision was achieved by approximately 700 non-union and supervisory personnel. During the period in question some laboratory, construction and maintenance activities were curtailed, and not all departments achieved the same levels of production. There was no permanent replacement of striking employees. Several hundred of the union employees terminated their employment by resignation or early retirement, and after the strike the number of permanent personnel was reduced by approximately the same number of employees as there were resignations and retirements.

Shell and the Director contend that the Director's finding that "There was a stoppage of work at the said premises each week from August 18, 1962 to February 2, 1963, both inclusive." is a finding of fact, supported by substantial evidence, is not against the manifest weight of the evidence, and the circuit court erred in reversing it.

• 1 In our opinion, however, the record presents no material controversy as to the facts, and the question of when the work stoppage ceased to exist is one of law.

The statute pertinent to this controvesy is Section 604 of the Unemployment Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 48, ...


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