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Be-mac Transport Co. v. Grabiec

JUNE 3, 1974.

BE-MAC TRANSPORT COMPANY, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

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



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD J. EGAN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE GOLDBERG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Barney J. Grabiec, Director of Illinois Department of Labor, Bureau of Employment Security, Division of Unemployment Compensation (Director) and a group of employees (claimants) of Be-Mac Transport Company, Inc. (plaintiff) have appealed from an administrative review decision by the circuit court which held claimants ineligible for unemployment compensation. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 48, par. 434.) Certain of the claimants were employed by plaintiff as truck drivers in the city only, as distinguished from interstate or over-the-road drivers. They are represented by Local 705 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The remaining claimants are employed by plaintiff as dockhands and office workers. They are all members of Local 710 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

It is undisputed that all of these described employees were employed by plaintiff prior to the commencement of this litigation at plaintiff's transportation and freight facility in Chicago Ridge, Illinois. On March 31, 1970, the collective bargaining agreements between plaintiff and Teamsters Locals 705 and 710 expired. On April 1, 1970, plaintiff sent a certified letter to each of the 10 percent of its employees who were lowest on the seniority list. This letter advised: "Due to labor problems in some of our terminals and a reduction in the flow of freight, it is necessary to place you on a temporary lay-off status effective immediately." The reduction in the flow of freight to which this letter referred took place because of labor problems in other terminals maintained by plaintiff in Illinois and outside of the state. On April 3, 1970, plaintiff sent a letter by certified mail to each and all of the remaining 90 percent of its employees containing the identical language. However, on April 4, 1970, by a series of telephone calls, plaintiff recalled to work 10 percent of all of its employees with the highest seniority rank.

On April 10, 1970, plaintiff sent a certified letter to all of its employees, except only certain mechanics whose rights are not pertinent here. These letters advised that they superseded the notices of lay-off dated April 3, 1970. These letters also stated, "We are sorry to inform you that effective 6:00 A.M. April 10, 1970, we must lock you out until further notice to protect our bargaining position with your union." It is agreed that this lockout notice remained in full force and effect until new collective bargaining agreements had been reached by plaintiff with the representatives of Teamsters Locals 705 and 710, which took place on or about July 3, 1970.

The issues between the parties hereto concern claims for unemployment compensation for the period from April 10, 1970 through July 4, 1970. It is undisputed that a national master freight labor agreement had been entered into as of April 1, 1970. The new agreement between plaintiff and Local Unions 705 and 710, effective July 3, 1970, gave employees of these local unions wages over and above those provided in the national agreement, retroactive to April 1, 1970, the date of the national contract. Those of plaintiff's employees who were recalled to work by telephone on April 4, 1970, and who were thus employed at the time of the lockout, whose claims for compensation were denied, have not appealed.

Upon processing of claims for unemployment compensation filed by the claimants, a deputy of the Division of Unemployment Compensation ruled these claimants ineligible because their unemployment after April 10, 1970, was due to a labor dispute at their last place of employment which condition persisted through July 4, 1970. An appeal was taken and a hearing was held before a representative of the Director. Upon analysis of the evidence, this officer held the claimants "not ineligible" for unemployment benefits. He made the following specific findings of fact:

"1. There was a stoppage of work at the Chicago terminal of the employer during the period from April 10, 1970 through July 4, 1970.

2. The stoppage of work was due to a labor dispute which existed at the Chicago terminal of the employer during the aforesaid period.

3. The unemployment of the claimants herein, either as parties respondent or as appellant was not due to the said stoppage of work because of the said labor dispute.

4. The unemployment of the claimants herein was due directly to a lack of available work at the employer's Chicago terminal."

Plaintiff sought further review of this ruling urging, among other contentions, "[t]here can be no doubt in this proceeding that the claimants were unemployed from April 1, 1970, and that such employment [sic] was due solely and exclusively to a labor dispute." In due course, the Director affirmed the determination by the deputy as regards all matters pertinent here and accordingly held that all of the employees were "not ineligible" for benefits.

Plaintiff then filed a complaint for judicial review of this administrative decision. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 110, pars. 264 and following.) After consideration of memoranda of fact and law and hearing lengthy oral arguments, the trial judge filed a memorandum and judgment order. We must point out here the extreme and unusual difficulties imposed upon the trial judge in this matter. He was confronted with four able and forceful lawyers, all of whom did their best to influence his thinking by a plethora of argument and legal citations in the esoteric field of unemployment compensation. In addition, the findings by the Director's representative presented several difficult and perplexing inconsistencies or ambiguities; or at least the appearance thereof. Furthermore, both sides of the controversy shifted their positions on at least one occasion.

• 1 In his memorandum, the trial court pointed out that the initial unemployment suffered by all of the employees here involved, was caused by lack of work at plaintiff's Chicago facility. The trial court properly held that the presence or absence of labor disputes in other separate facilities operated by plaintiff was not material in reaching this determination. (Walgreen Co. v. Murphy, 386 Ill. 32, 53 N.E.2d 390.) The trial court also devoted considerable effort to a determination as to whether or not there was a labor dispute between plaintiff and the employees at the time of the lockout. The court concluded that there was an issue regarding this question which was not properly answered by the findings placed before the court by the Director. The court accordingly directed that the cause be remanded to the Director with instructions that he vacate the previous findings Nos. 2, 3 and 4 (as above noted) and that he proceed to make a factual determination as to "whether the lockout resulted from a labor dispute within the meaning of Section 604" of the Unemployment Compensation Act of Illinois (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 48, par. 434), the statute here involved.

As the trial judge correctly pointed out, the rights of these parties are governed by the language of this ...


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