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Aurora Steel Products v. United Steelworkers

OPINION FILED MARCH 20, 1981.

AURORA STEEL PRODUCTS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA, A.F.L.-C.I.O., C.L.C., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Kane County; the Hon. JAMES F. QUESTCH, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE REINHARD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant, United Steelworkers of America, A.F.L.-C.I.O., C.L.C. (the Union), appeals from an order of the circuit court of Kane County which adjudged it in contempt of court for violating a preliminary injunction issued by that court at the request of plaintiff, Aurora Steel Products (the Company) and which fined the Union $6,000. The following issues are raised by the Union on appeal: (1) whether the trial court erred in imposing a criminal penalty after a civil contempt trial; (2) whether the evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the Union intentionally and wilfully violated the November 16, 1978, preliminary injunction; (3) whether the trial court was without jurisdiction in the contempt proceedings since no bond had originally been posted; and (4) whether the $6,000 fine was unreasonable, arbitrary or excessive.

The factual and procedural history of this dispute is as follows. On November 8, 1978, the Company filed a complaint for injunction alleging that since October 30, 1978, defendants had engaged in illegal strike activities consisting of interference with ingress and egress to the Company's premises; interference with the performance of duties by non-striking employees by intimidation, threats of force and violence, and property damage inflicted upon vehicles and personal residences; and damage to the Company's business and property. The complaint prayed for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction enjoining such acts. Named as defendants were the Union and a number of persons described as members of the organizing committee thereof, both individually and as representatives of the Union. A temporary restraining order was issued that same day.

On November 16, 1978, the date scheduled for hearing on the petition for preliminary injunction, the parties entered into an agreed order which provided as follows:

"I. The defendants are hereby preliminarily enjoined from:

A. Interfering with ingress and egress to the plant of Aurora Steel Products;

B. Threatening, assaulting or committing any battery against any employee of Aurora Steel Products;

C. Having or permitting more than three pickets at or near the two Aurora Steel Products plant entrances on each of the following streets Lake, Second and Third.

II. The plaintiffs are hereby preliminarily enjoined from interfering with any lawful strike activities of defendants; and

III. The parties are hereby preliminarily enjoined from directing any insult or obscenity against any party or any person acting with, for or on behalf of any party."

On February 27, 1979, the Company filed a petition for rule to show cause requesting the court to issue a rule against the Union and other defendants to show cause why they should not be held in contempt of court for violation of the November 16, 1978, court order. On March 13, 1979, a rule was issued against the Union and defendant Don Thomas and was set for hearing on March 26, 1979.

On that date, the Company introduced the following evidence of alleged violations:

1. On February 5, 1979, six to seven pickets were observed at the Company's gate.

2. On February 13, 1979, Union pickets delayed a Company delivery vehicle approximately ten minutes by ...


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