In April of 1968, two African-American workers at the Emporium department store in San Francisco, California were fired after they picketed and urged a customer boycott of the store. The employees had claims that the Company had discriminated against them and hoped their actions would put pressure on the store because of what they claimed was a pattern of discrimination in denying better job assignments to minority workers. They claimed that for years the minority workers had been employed mostly in the stockroom area, and had difficulty getting higher commission paying jobs. Two of the employees argued that this was improper, and gathered other employees to create a campaign to change the store's practices, leading to the picketing and eventually the discharge of their employment.
The picketers had filed a complaint with the company labor relations director and the director agreed to “look into the matter”. Unsatisfied with the response the employees met with their Union and concluded that the company was discriminated and that they would begin a grievance process. However James Joseph Hollins and Torn Hawkins did not agree with the process and procedure or its time schedule. The picketers felt the Union’s response had been inadequate because they believed that the union's efforts were too slow and too narrow in their focus. They felt the Union contract could not handle a systematic grievance of this sort and demanded to deal with the company president.
A few weeks later in November 1968, the workers announced that they would picket the store to advocate a customer boycott. When the picketing and boycott began, leaflets were distributed and public statements were made asking customers not to be patrons of the Emporium. Soon after the pickets appeared, the employees were warned by the company that they would be dismissed if the picketing continued. Union representatives also urged that the employees stop their protest actions in order to keep their jobs. A week later, after the picketing resumed, the two employees were fired. Had they abided by their union contract they would have still had their employment and continued with their discrimination case.
2. In becoming members of the union, which had a contract that included an antidiscrimination clause along with a no-strike clause and a no-lockout clause, did the protesting employees waive all right to pursue discrimination claims in court?
The employees who were fired did not waive their rights to pursue discrimination claims in court when they became members of the union. They had filed a complaint against Emporium for discrimination in which the union responded with an investigation, which confirmed discriminatory actions by the employer. However the employees themselves did not agree with the correct and legal process to take corrective action.
The union had negotiated a collective bargaining agreement regulating key terms and conditions of employment. The agreement included a provision barring discrimination against employees on the basis of race. The agreement also included a grievance procedure that permitted the union to challenge violations of the agreement. Under this provision, if a grievance was not resolved by the parties, it could be presented to an…