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Teamsters Local 107 cannot be held liable as a group for the misconduct of a member, even though he was sent to a picket line to maintain order, a Superior Court in Pennsylvania has ruled. The three-judge panel in Overnite Transportation Co. v. Teamsters Local 107 relied on state Supreme Court precedent and the Labor Anti-Injunction Act. Superior Court Judges Joseph Del Sole, Frank Montemuro and John Kelly sat on the panel. However Montemuro did not participate in the decision. Del Sole wrote the opinion. A motion of civil contempt was filed against the Teamsters on April 27, 2000. On May 4, the Teamsters filed several pleadings, including a motion for post-trial relief and a petition for a rule to show cause for reconsideration of the order. The court ordered the filing of a 1925(b) statement of matters complained of on appeal on May 15. In a letter dated May 17, however, the court told the parties — the Teamsters and Overnite Transportation — that they could disregard that request because the matter involved post-trial motions. The Teamsters’ post-trial motions were denied on Sept. 25, and the union appealed on Oct. 18. Overnite argued that the order of civil contempt was final and should have been appealed within 30 days after it was entered. Del Sole said that although that argument is generally true, the Teamsters wrongly believed that the order was subject to post-trial motions under Pa.R.C.P. 227.1. He noted that the Teamsters filed such a motion within 10 days of the contempt order. He said the trial court “accepted and fostered” the Teamsters’ incorrect procedure by revoking its own request for a 1925(b) statement and entering a rule to show cause why the contempt order should not be stayed and vacated on May 19. Del Sole made sure to state that the civil contempt order was final and directly appealable and that post-trial motions were inappropriate. However, he said a party would not be punished when its procedural defects were overlooked by the court. “Thus, because the trial court treated the post-trial motions as proper under Pa.R.C.P. 227.1, we will accept that treatment in this instance and treat the appeal as properly filed within 30 days of the denial of post-trial motions,” Del Sole said, denying the motion to quash the Teamsters’ appeal. The Teamsters then argued that the trial court should have applied the Labor Anti-Injunction Act when it decided to issue the civil contempt order. The state Supreme Court summarized the pertinent provisions of the act in the 1995 case, Phar-Mor Inc. v. United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 1776. The justices said in Phar-Mor that under the act, a court should only issue a restraining order or any injunction in very limited circumstances. In the case before the Superior Court, the trial court issued an injunction preventing unlawful acts on or near the picket line in a labor dispute on Oct. 29, 1999. The injunction was amended Nov. 17 to include a provision imposing a $20,000 fine on the Teamsters for any violation. Both parties agreed to the amendment, Del Sole said. On April 27, 2000, James Milligan, a union agent, assaulted an Overnite employee, prompting the court to hold the agent in civil contempt. Milligan was fined $10,000 and the Teamsters were fined $20,000. On appeal, the Teamsters argued that the trial court should have employed a heightened standard of proof to determine the Teamsters’ liability for the actions of an individual in their organization. But Del Sole said the court first had to deal with whether the trial court had the authority to grant the injunction. The trial court relied on a provision of the act — 43 P.S. Section 206d — that states that the act does not apply in any case in which a labor organization or any of its members damages or destroys any property of the employer with the intention of compelling the employer to concede to demands. But Del Sole said the trial court cited the wrong section. “Nowhere in its orders issuing the injunction and subsequent amendments did the trial court make any finding or holding indicating that the injunction was made pursuant to Section 206d,” he said. Instead, Del Sole said, the trial court’s basis for issuing the injunction mirrored a different section of the act, Section 206i. Therefore, the court was authorized to issue the injunction, but the other sections of the act still applied. “We hold that, without a specific finding at the time of the issuance of the injunction that the injunction was being issued pursuant to 43 P.S. Section 206d, that section does not apply,” he said. “Because there was no such finding in this case and the trial court’s determinations track the considerations set forth in Section 206i, we treat the injunction as having been authorized under Section 206i. Therefore, without the exemption from the act present in Section 206d, it is clear that the other provisions of the act apply in this case.” In particular, the court focused on Section 206h, which provides that a labor organization is not liable in a civil or criminal action for the unlawful acts of individual members unless the organization had actual notice of the acts and participated in, authorized or ratified those acts. The state Supreme Court considered Section 206h in a case analogous to Overnite, Del Sole said. In Gajkowski v. Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters, from 1988, a union was held liable by the trial court for injuries stemming from a shooting at a picket line. The justices reversed, finding that although negotiating agents and a picket line manager were involved in the events leading up to the shooting, there was no evidence their actions were authorized by the 5,000-member union. Del Sole said the same reasoning applied to the Overnite case. “There is no evidence that the membership of [Teamsters Local 107] as a whole authorized Milligan’s actions either de facto or de jure. His position as an agent of [Teamsters Local 107] alone cannot pierce the level of protection afforded to [Teamsters Local 107] by Section 206h.” In addition, the Teamsters took action to investigate and control the misconduct on the picket line. They stipulated to the injunction and they placed a union agent on the line to maintain order. “Although this agent was the individual who committed the assault at issue here, it would be difficult to say, after evaluating [Teamster Local 107's] actions, that it tacitly approved of acts of violence by any member or that it took no action to curb the misconduct,” Del Sole said.

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