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Clarence BRADLEY et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. BRUCE CHURCH, INC., et al., Defendants and Respondents.
The 35 named plaintiffs, represented by counsel for the United Farm Workers of America AFL–CIO (hereafter ‘United Farm Workers'), ‘as individuals and on behalf of a class consisting of all those similarly situated,’ commenced this action for ‘damages, injunctive and declaratory relief,’ against Western Conference of Teamsters, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemem and Helpers of America (hereafter ‘Teamsters Union’), two officials of that organization, and approximately 200 farm labor employers (hereafter the ‘Growers').
The amended complaint (hereafter the ‘complaint’), as paraphrased by plaintiffs in their briefs, alleged:
‘(1) Plaintiffs and a substantial majority of the other farm workers employed by the defendant employers have at all times material desired to be represented in collective bargaining with such employers by the United Farm Workers Union, AFL–CIO, a labor organization.
‘(2) On or about July 15, 1970 defendant employers entered into a conspiracy to deprive plaintiffs of their statutory right, under Section 923 of the Labor Code, to ‘full freedom of association . . . and designation of representatives' in that plaintiffs desired ‘to select and be represented by the UNITED FARM WORKERS UNION, AFL–CIO, as the bargaining agent of their own choosing . . ..’
‘(3) Defendant employers, acting pursuant to such conspiracy, approached the defendant Western Conference of Teamsters and ‘. . . solicited from that labor organization an agreement whereby it would be recognized as the exclusive bargaining agent for their agricultural employees' . . ..
‘(4) In return for such recognition, the defendant Western Conference of Teamsters, which has ‘never at any time represented any substantial number of farm workers in California or elsewhere, agreed to grant to defendant EMPLOYERS labor contract terms more favorable than those demanded by the aforesaid United Farm Workers Union, AFL–CIO . . ..’
‘(5) Pursuant to the above-described agreement between defendant employers and defendant Western Conference of Teamsters, such defendants have entered into ‘five-year collective bargaining agreements” which recognize that union as the ‘sole and exclusive bargaining agent’ for covered farm workers and contain ‘union security’ provisions requiring that such workers become and remain Teamster members as a condition of employment . . .
‘(6) At the time of the execution of such collective bargaining agreements, the defendant Western Conference of Teamsters ‘had not been authorized to bargain on behalf of a majority or any substantial number of the farm workers covered thereby, . . .’
‘(7) Such farm workers ‘were given no notice of the negotiation of the agreements or opportunity to ratify or reject them before they went into effect.’ . . .
‘(8) Pursuant to the aforesaid ‘union security’ agreements, which have been renegotiated and will not expire until July 15, 1975, defendants have engaged in the following conduct:
(a) threatening plaintiffs and other farm workers similarly situated with ‘discharge or other economic reprisal in the event they refused to abandon their support for the UNITED FARM WORKERS UNION, AFL–CIO, and become and remain dues-paying members of defendant WESTERN CONFERENCE. . . .’
(b) coercing such farm workers, by ‘threat of discharge or other economic reprisal, into becoming dues-paying members of defendant WESTERN CONFERENCE . . .’
(c) discharging or taking other economic reprisals against farm workers who have continued to support the United Farm Workers Union, AFL–CIO, and ‘. . . refused to become members of defendant WESTERN CONFERENCE.”
The ‘union security’ provisions adverted to were those of a ‘union shop.’ Such a union ship is: “An establishment in which the employer by agreement is free to hire nonmembers as well as members of the union but retains nonmembers on the payroll only on condition of their becoming members of the union within a specified time.' (Webster's New Internat. Dict. (2d ed., 1958); . . .' (See Chavez v. Sargent, 52 Cal.2d 162, 178, 339 P.2d 801, 810, fn. 4 [disapproved on another ground in Petri Cleaners, Inc. v. Automotive Employees, etc., Local No. 88, 53 Cal.2d 455, 473–475, 2 Cal.Rptr. 470, 349 P.2d 76.].)
Among other things the complaint sought a permanent injunction restraining defendants from ‘enforcing or attempting to enforce, or in any other manner giving effect to, the ‘union security’ provisions of the aforesaid collective bargaining agreements.'
The defendants demurred to the complaint contending, among other things,(1) that it did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action, and (2) that the persons who filed the complaint did not have the legal capacity to bring such a class action.
The trial court sustained defendants' several demurrers on the above stated grounds, and without leave to amend. (Plaintiffs having apparently pleaded their best case, they do not complain of the denial of leave to amend, at least as to the first of the above stated grounds.) Judgment of dismissal of the action was thereafter entered. Each of the plaintiffs has appealed from that judgment.
We first consider plaintiffs' contention that, contrary to the trial court's ruling, the complaint did state a cause of action for the relief sought.
Binding upon us is the rule that ‘provisionally, and solely for the purpose of testing the question of law raised, all material, issuable facts properly pleaded in the complaint are admitted, however improbable they may be.’ (3 Witkin, Cal. Procedure (2d ed. 1971) Pleading, § 800, p. 2413, and see authority there collected.)
Plaintiffs have conceded that the ‘complaint in this case states only one cause of action, that being for violation of rights secured by Sections 920–923 of the Labor Code.'1 Principal reliance is placed on section 923 which, with supplied emphasis also found in plaintiffs' complaint and briefs, reads as follows:
‘Negotiation of terms and conditions of labor should result from voluntary agreement between employer and employees. Governmental authority has permitted and encouraged employers to organize in the corporate and other forms of capital control. In dealing with such employers, the individual unorganized worker is helpless to exercise actual liberty of contract and to protect his freedom of labor, and thereby to obtain acceptable terms and conditions of employment. Therefore it is necessary that the individual workman have full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of his own choosing, to negotiate the terms and conditions of his employment, and that he shall be free from the interference, restraint, or coercion of employers of labor, or their agents, in the designation of such representatives or in self-organization or in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.’
The special thrust of plaintiffs' appellate contentions is that under the circumstances of this case, as the ‘substantial majority’ of the Growers' workers, they had a right under section 923 not to be compelled to forfeit their employment by the Growers, or in the alternative to join a labor union not of their ‘own choosing.’
The Supreme Court in a 1960 opinion written by Justice Traynor interpreting California's relevant public policy as expressed by section 923 and earlier decisions, commented as follows:
‘An employer's decision whether or not to bargain with a labor organization has long been determined in this state by the free interaction of economic forces. Early cases established the legality of concerted activities for proper labor objectives under common law principles . . .. Sections 920–923 of the Labor Code imposed certain restrictions on the employer only ‘to balance the industrial equation, so far as it is possible to do so, by placing employer and employee on an equal basis.’ . . . Thus, section 921 provides that promises embodied in yellow-dog contracts shall not be enforced. Section 922 provides that any person who coerces another to enter into such a contract as a condition of employment is guilty of a misdemeanor. Section 923 announces it the public policy of this state ‘to uphold the freedom of employees to organize and enter into collective bargaining contracts for their own protection.’ . . . These sections do not preclude promises to join independent labor organizations . . . closed or union shop contracts, or concerted activities to obtain such contracts. . . . Neither do they place on the employer an affirmative duty to bargain, as the opening sentence of section 923 makes clear: ‘Negotiation of terms and conditions of labor should result from voluntary agreement between employer and employees.’ An employer faced with a union's demand for recognition still has ‘the choice of yielding to the union's demands or continuing to endure the interference with its business relations which the (union's) activities caused.’ . . .
‘It is for the Legislature to determine whether voluntary bargaining should now be displaced by a rule compelling the employer to bargain with the representatives of a majority of his employees. Recognizing that trial courts are hardly labor relations boards, defendant requests affirmative relief, avowedly because the record is so clear as to raise only issues of law. But, as the United States Supreme Court observed of a similar argument, ‘we write not only for this case and this day alone, but for this type of case.’ (Carroll v. Lanza, 349 U.S. 408, 413, 75 S.Ct. 804, 99 L.Ed. 1183.) A host of problems attend compulsory bargaining that only the Legislature can resolve. What constitutes an appropriate bargaining unit? See §§ 8(a)(3)(i); 9(b); 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 158, 159. How is the majority's choice to be determined? See § 9(c)(1); 29 U.S.C.A. § 159. Which employees constitute the relevant majority, those presently employed or those employed at the time the employer's refusal to bargain precipitated the strike? . . . This court cannot usurp legislative power by enacting rules of law patterned on the Labor Management Relations Act, and it cannot create the administrative machinery necessary to make such rules workable. . . .
‘We conclude that employers are not required by law to engage in collective bargaining and that closed or union shop agreements and concerted activities to achieve them are lawful in this state whether or not a majority of the employees directly involved wish such agreements. If a contrary rule is to be established, the Legislature, not this court, must enact it.’ (Fns. omitted.) (Petri Cleaners, Inc. v. Automotive Employees, etc., Local No. 88, supra, 53 Cal.2d 455, 469–475, 2 Cal.Rptr. 470, 479, 349 P.2d 76, 85, and see the authority there collected.)
The rationale of Petri Cleaners, Inc. was recently reiterated in Englund v. Chavez, 8 Cal.3d 572, 105 Cal.Rptr. 521, 504, P.2d 457. Summarizing the rule it was held that ‘California's policy in the labor field has been one of laissez-faire’ (i. e., ‘a doctrine opposing governmental interference . . . in economic affairs'—Webster's New Internat. Dict. (3d ed. 1965)). More specifically, the court again held that ‘union shop agreements between a nonrepresentative union and an employer are not ‘illegal’ . . . and will not be enjoined by the state, . . .' (P. 596, 105 Cal.Rptr. p. 538, 504 P.2d p. 538.)
The Englund v. Chavez court further stated (p. 584, 105 Cal.Rptr. p. 529, 504 P.2d p. 465):
‘Unlike the federal government and a substantial number of our sister states, California has never adopted a comprehensive, administrative regulatory system for resolving labor disputes. Although such a thorough regulatory system has had many advocates . . . and the bitter hardships that regularly accompany the nonregulated status of labor-management relations have been frequently noted . . . to date our Legislature has rejected all attempts to establish an administrative apparatus comparable to that of the National Labor Relations Board. Instead of comprehensive state regulation, California's policy in the labor field has been one of laissez-faire, a posture which has generally left the resolution of labor disputes to ‘the free interaction of economic forces.’‘
The plaintiffs insist that the ‘statement in Englund v. Chavez, supra, that contracts between employers and non-representative unions are legal and will not be enjoined . . . constituted mere gratuitous dictum which would conflict with the overall structure of the labor law of this state . . ..’ We do not find it so. Instead it is a restatement of principles consistently adhered to by the courts of this state.
It will be seen that the ‘host of problems' envisioned by Justice Traynor in Petri Cleaners, Inc., which would confront the courts were they generally to resolve such labor disputes, would be existent in the case before us. For, as questioned in that case, how would plaintiffs or the court, without appropriate legislatively contrived machinery, establish that the United Farm Workers was the ‘appropriate bargaining unit’? ‘How is the majority's choice to be determined?’ And ‘Which employees constitute the relevant majority, those presently employed or those employed at the time’ of the Teamsters Union agreement?
The rule of laissez-faire announced in Petri Cleaners, Inc., and reiterated in Englund v. Chavez—‘that employers are not required by law to engage in collective bargaining and that closed or union shop agreements and concerted activities to achieve them are lawful in this state whether or not a majority of the employees directly involved wish such agreements' (see Petri Cleaners, Inc., 53 Cal.2d pp. 474–475, 2 Cal.Rptr. p. 482, 349 P.2d p. 88)—disposes of plaintiffs' principal argument adversely to them.
We now consider the special ‘circumstances' of this case as they appear from plaintiffs' complaint.
Heavy emphasis is placed by plaintiffs on the contention that the Growers' alleged ‘solicitation’ of the Teamsters Union for a union shop agreement amounted to employer ‘interference’ with a labor union, rendering the agreement illegal under California law.
The argument is based upon the so-called Jurisdictional Strike Act (Lab.Code, §§ 1115–1120, 1122). That act is one of the few instances where the state has legislated in the field of labor relations. The act declares the ‘jurisdictional strike’ to be contrary to ‘public policy’ and unlawful (§ 1115), and it authorizes ‘injunctive relief’ against such a strike ‘in a proper case’ (§ 1116). It ‘was designed, not to diminish free competition between labor and industry, but to release an innocent employer caught between the rival claims of two or more labor organizations.’ (Petri Cleaners, Inc. v. Automotive Employees, etc., Local No. 88, supra, 53 Cal.2d 455, 471–472, 2 Cal.Rptr. 470, 480, 349 P.2d 76, 86.)
But the Legislature was concerned that the act not be misused by the employer who might himself, directly or indirectly, create or ‘trigger’ the jurisdictional dispute for his own advantage. It was for this reason, and perhaps others, that sections 1117 and 1122 were placed in the act. Section 1117 defines the labor organizations involved in the proscribed jurisdictional strike as those found not ‘to be or to have been financed in whole or in part, interfered with, dominated or controlled by the employer or any employer association.’ (Emphasis added.) Section 1122 renders any person ‘who organizes an employee group which is financed in whole or in part, interfered with or dominated or controlled by the employer or any employer association’ (emphasis added) liable in damages to any person injured thereby. These provisions, according to Englund v. Chavez, supra, 8 Cal.3d 572, 587, 105 Cal.Rptr. 521, 531, 504 P.2d 457, 467, were ‘intended to prevent the employer from resorting to the Act to thwart legitimate union activities rather than to alleviate himself from the conflicting demands of two rival unions.’
It is of interest that Englund v. Chavez had to do with the same union shop agreements with which we are now concerned. There the Jurisdictional Strike Act alone was at issue. The Growers sought an injunction under section 1116 against the Farm Workers Union, claiming a jurisdictional dispute. The Supreme Court concluded that the Growers' part in the affair amounted to ‘interference’ under the act which mandated denial of the injunction sought by them. But while denying such injunctive relief, the court nevertheless held, as previously indicated, that such ‘union shop agreements between a nonrepresentative union and an employer are not ‘illegal’ . . . and will not be enjoined by the state, . . .'
We observe no purpose of the Legislature or the high court of this state to extend the concept of ‘interference’ of the Jurisdictional Strike Act, to an employer's solicitation of a union shop agreement, thus rendering illegal an otherwise valid document. Were it to be so extended in cases such as this, the courts would become, in effect, labor relations boards with duties they would be ill equipped to handle. It was with such problems in mind that Justice Traynor in Petri Cleaners, Inc. v. Automotive Employees, etc., Local No. 88, supra, 53 Cal.2d 455, 473, 2 Cal.Rptr. 470, 481, 349 P.2d 76, 87, stated: ‘This court cannot usurp legislative power by enacting rules of law patterned on the [federal] Labor Management Relations Act, and it cannot create the administrative machinery necessary to make such rules workable.’
It is next contended that the Growers' ‘solicitation’ of the union shop agreement caused the Teamsters Union to become a ‘company union,’ and that accordingly the agreement was ‘illegal’ under the holding of Shafer v. Registered Pharmacists Union, 16 Cal.2d 379, 384–386, 106 P.2d 403, 406, and other authority. ‘Company unions' are defined by Shafer v. Registered Pharmacists Union, supra, as ‘directly or indirectly sponsored company controlled unions having no members except their own employees'; commenting further the court said, ‘by and large as the investigations of impartial observers have shown, the single shop or company union has inherent weaknesses which prevent it from becoming an effective bargaining unit for the employees which it represents.’ Webster's New International Dictionary (3d ed. 1965) defines a company union as ‘a labor union consisting of the employees of a single, firm, having no affiliation with a larger outside union, and often felt to be dominated by the employer.’
We note that in Englund v. Chavez, supra, 8 Cal.3d 572, 588, 105 Cal.Rptr. 521, 532, 504 P.2d 457, 468, the United Farm Workers conceded ‘that the large and powerful Teamster union cannot be considered a ‘company union’ of any of the Growers in the traditional sense.' And we may properly take judicial notice of this obvious fact, as one of the ‘propositions of generalized knowledge that are so universally known that they cannot reasonably be the subject of dispute.’ (See Evid.Code, § 451, subd. (f); and see Weil v. Barthel, 45 Cal.2d 835, 837, 291 P.2d 30.) Further we observe nothing in the complaint from which it might reasonably be inferred that the Teamsters Union was a company union.
Special emphasis is placed by plaintiffs on the recent case of Knopf v. Producers Guild of America, Inc., 40 Cal.App.3d 233, 114 Cal.Rptr. 782 (petition for cert. filed 43 U.S.L. Week 3319 [U. S. Nov. 25, 1974] [No. 644]). In that case, on the complaint of allegedly prejudiced employees, an agreement between an employer group and a so-called labor organization was found invalid by the appellate court. Of the 13 members of the ‘negotiating committee’ of the ‘labor organization,’ ‘five were the owners of more than 50 per cent of the stock of, and president of, signatory companies; two more were shareholders with less than 50 per cent of the stock of, but holding office as president or vice-president of, signatory production companies; and two others, though not stockholders, were presidents of signatory production companies. . . . only three were without ownership interest or corporate office in a signatory production company.’ For several years each of the successive presidents of the labor organization was also the president and majority shareholder of one of the 64 companies of the employer group. There, unlike the case at bench, the labor organization had the attributes, and effect, of a company union, such as was decried by the court in Shafer v. Registered Pharmacists Union, supra. Knopf v. Producers Guild of America, Inc., supra, is found inapposite to the issue before us. And were we to consider that Knopf extended some aid to plaintiffs' argument, we of course would nevertheless be bound by the uniform contrary holdings of the Supreme Court. (See Auto Equity Sales, Inc. v. Superior Court, 57 Cal.2d 450, 455, 20 Cal.Rptr. 321, 369 P.2d 937.)
It is also alleged in the complaint that the Teamsters Union ‘never at any time represented any substantial number of farm workers in California or elsewhere.’ But it has long been held that the closed or union shop is recognized as a proper objective of concerted labor activities ‘even when undertaken by a union that represents none of the employees of the employer against whom the activities are directed.’ (Park & T. I. Corp. v. Int. etc. of Teamsters, 27 Cal.2d 599, 604, 165 P.2d 891, 895.) And we reiterate that the court in Englund v. Chavez, supra, 8 Cal.3d 572, 596, 105 Cal.Rptr. 521, 538, 504 P.2d 457, 474, finding no illegality in the contracts here at issue, held that ‘union shop agreements between a nonrepresentative union and an employer are not ‘illegal’ . . ..' And change in the law, as suggested by Englund v. Chavez, must come from the Legislature.
Plaintiffs suggest that since the Teamsters Union's ‘interest in plaintiffs may be characterized as consolidating its grip on an industry from field to supermarket shelf,’ its union shop agreement with the Growers is contrary to public policy, and invalid. Here again, the argument would more appropriately be addressed to the Congress or to the Legislature.
It is alleged, as indicated, that the agreement between the Growers and the Teamsters Union with its union shop provisions resulted from a ‘conspriacy’ between those parties, to deprive plaintiffs of their Labor Code section 923 rights. But “It is well settled that a conspiracy cannot be made the subject of a civil action unless something is done which without the conspiracy would give a right of action.” (Forte v. Nolfi, 25 Cal.App.3d 656, 685, 102 Cal.Rptr. 455, 474.) “It is the long established rule that a conspiracy, in and of itself however atrocious, does not give rise to a cause of action unless a civil wrong has been committed . . ..” (Chicago Title Ins. Co. v. Great Western Financial Corp., 69 Cal.2d 305, 316, 70 Cal.Rptr. 849, 856, 444 P.2d 481, 488.) Here, as indicated, the agreement for a union shop was not a ‘civil wrong,’ which would have given rise to a cause of action without the alleged ‘conspiracy.’
In addition to that which we have discussed, we have considered the many authorities presented and incidental points raised by plaintiffs. We are unpersuaded that the trial court erred in ruling that the complaint failed to state a cause of action for an injunction or other relief under California law. We concur with that court's recorded comment that: ‘It would be desirable if Labor Code 920–923 did express the labor policy in California, coupled with the necessary machinery to make such policy effective.’ But as has by now so repetitiously been said, such a policy must be effectuated by the Legislature, not the courts. The judgment of dismissal must be affirmed.
It becomes unnecessary to a resolution of the appeal, to pass upon the questions whether the complaint properly stated a class action, and whether plaintiffs had legal capacity to sue.
The judgment of dismissal is affirmed.
1. Labor Code section 920:‘As used in this chapter, unless the context otherwise indicates, ‘promise’ includes promise, undertaking, contract, or agreement, whether written or oral, express or implied.'Labor Code section 921:‘Every promise made after August 21, 1933, between any employee or prospective employee and his employer, prospective employer or any other person is contrary to public policy if either party thereto promises any of the following:(a) To join or to remain a member of a labor organization or to join or remain a member of an employer organization.(b) Not to join or not to remain a member of a labor organization or of an employer organization.(c) To withdraw from an employment relation in the event that he joins or remains a member of a labor organization or of an employer organization.‘Such promise shall not afford any basis for the granting of legal or equitable relief by any court against a party to such promise, or against any other persons who advise, urge. or induce, without fraud or violence or threat thereof, either party thereto to act in disregard of such promise.’Labor Code section 922:‘Any person or agent or officer thereof who coerces or compels any person to enter into an agreement, written or verbal, not to join or become a member of any labor organization, as a condition of securing employment or continuing in the employment of any such person is guilty of a misdemeanor.’
ELKINGTON, Associate Justice.
MOLINARI, P. J., and DEVINE,* J., concur.
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