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12/28/77 LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION v. BOSTON

December 28, 1977

LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION
v.
BOSTON TEACHERS UNION, LOCAL 66, & OTHERS



Suffolk. Civil action commenced in the Superior Court on September 18, 1975. A petition for contempt was heard by Adams, J. After review was sought in the Appeals Court, the Supreme Judicial Court, on its own initiative, ordered direct appellate review.

Hennessey, C.j., Braucher, Wilkins, Liacos, & Abrams, JJ.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Contempt. Public Employment, Labor dispute. Voluntary Association, Labor union.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Liacos

A contempt petition alleging that the named union officials "authorized and ratified" a strike and other conduct proscribed by G. L. c. 150E, § 9A (a), and that such conduct was in violation of outstanding court orders was insufficiently specific to give the defendants notice that their conduct in failing to disavow a sanction sheet distributed to union members formed the basis of the contempt citation. [87-88]

A contempt petition alleging that the named union officials "authorized and ratified" a strike and other conduct proscribed by G. L. c. 150E, § 9A (a), was sufficiently specific to give the defendants notice that their conduct in condoning or encouraging a strike formed the basis of the contempt citation. [88]

In a contempt proceeding for alleged violation of a restraining order prohibiting the defendant union and named union officials from striking in violation of G. L. c. 150E, § 9A (a), or "instigating, ratifying or threatening" to strike, evidence that the union officials, having knowledge of the membership's vote to strike unless an acceptable offer was made by its employer prior to a certain date, and of a notice in a "fact sheet" issued over the defendants' signatures proclaiming that a strike would commence on a certain date if the offer were rejected, as well as knowledge of the terms of the injunction, took no action to inform the union membership of the injunction nor any other action to dissipate the effect of prior events supported a finding that the union officials had clearly disobeyed the injunction. [88-91]

In a contempt proceeding for violation of an injunction prohibiting a union from striking in violation of G. L. c. 150E, § 9A (a), the record did not support the defendants' contention that on a particular date there was no strike activity and that the fines assessed including that date were therefore excessive. [92]

The provisions of G. L. c. 150E, § 15, establishing certain penalties for strikes by public employees, did not preclude the assessment of fines in a contempt proceeding against defendants who had been enjoined from striking in violation of c. 150E, § 9 (a). [92-93]

An unincorporated association of public employees was given entity status by the provisions of G. L. c. 150E and could, therefore, be a party to a contempt proceeding and have fines assessed against it. [93-96]

This is an appeal from a series of judgments entered in the Superior Court, Suffolk County, in which the Boston Teachers Union, Local 66 (union), and five individual defendants, as representatives of a class of defendants, were found to be in civil contempt of certain orders of the court. Those orders concerned labor negotiations between the union and the School Committee of Boston (committee). The court assessed fines against both the union and the individual defendants. In addition, the court assessed costs to the union under Mass. R. Civ. P. 54, 365 Mass. 820 (1974). The union and five of the named defendants, Henry Robinson, Joan Buckley, Philip Pirrone, Thomas Gosnell, and Charles McGowan, appealed from these judgments to the Appeals Court. We transferred the case here on our own motion.

We affirm the judgments of contempt as to the union and as to the individual defendant, McGowan. As to the individual defendants Robinson, Buckley, and Gosnell, we affirm the judgments of contempt except as to those judgments based on a finding of violation of a temporary restraining order (described below) relating to the distribution of so called "sanction" sheets. We reverse the judgment of contempt as to Pirrone, it being based solely on a finding of violation of the temporary restraining order (paragraph C) dealing with the "sanction" sheets, and similarly reverse the judgments based on alleged violations of paragraph C by the defendants Robinson, Buckley, and Gosnell.

1. This case is an outgrowth of apparently difficult negotiations between the union and the committee for a collective bargaining agreement to cover the 1975-1976 school term. Before negotiations were concluded the union struck the city school system.

At a meeting of the union membership held on September 2, 1975, the membership voted to commence a strike on September 22, 1975, unless the committee made an acceptable contract offer prior to that time. At that same meeting the membership also authorized the union's executive board to draw up a list of sanctions that would be taken against union members who failed to abide by the majority decision to strike the school system should the negotiations be unsuccessful.

As a result of the action taken at the meeting, the committee filed a petition on September 12 with the Labor Relations Commission (commission) for a strike investigation under G. L. c. 150E, § 9A (b). Such an investigation was conducted. The commission, on September 17, issued an interim order which contained findings that a strike was threatened and that union representatives had "encouraged and condoned" such action. The commission ordered, inter alia, that the union "cease and desist from encouraging or condoning the threatened strike." The order was later modified in portions not relevant on this appeal.

During the pendency of the commission's investigation, Robinson and Buckley caused to be distributed on September 16 and 17 so called "fact sheets" detailing the progress or lack thereof in the negotiations. These "fact sheets" contained a notice of a membership meeting for September 21, at which time the last offer of the committee was to be presented for either ratification or rejection. The notice then stated that, if the offer was rejected, the union would strike beginning Monday, September 22. On September 18, the union distributed the ...


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