Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State


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Consumers' Cooperative Societies in New York State

Pricing policy About our prices. We're committed to providing low prices every day, on everything. On February 23, , a meeting of the Co-op's shareholders was held. The shareholders voted out the old Board of Directors in its entirety, voted in a new Board, and voted "to invalidate the contract that was signed by the old Board. Following the February 23, shareholders' meeting, several meetings were held between the Co-op's employees and the Co-op personnel committee at which petitions were presented and grievances were aired.

Local Ex. T A chaotic meeting at which Joseph Overton was present, was held on April 19, No resolution was reached on the various issues about which the employees and the Co-op were in disagreement. Another meeting, chaired by Marjorie Strong, who had been elected to plaintiff's Board of Directors on February 23, , was held on Sunday, April 20, At that meeting Strong told the employees that the Board would take its next step with respect to a contract as soon as it was able to do so.

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She asked the employees to bear with the Board. Strong asked one employee, Vivian Dixon, if the employees were going to strike and Dixon said "No. With the start of the strike, the plaintiff dispatched Mrs. Venus Harris Harris , from her position as a staff worker in the Co-op office to the store to serve as store co-ordinator and do whatever she could to keep the store open.

Harris testified that her principal responsibility in this regard was to get merchandise for the store. According to her testimony, the Co-op still had plenty of customers. Harris testified that in order to obtain merchandise, beginning in May, , she called all of the Co-op's authorized suppliers, including, with one or two exceptions, the supplier-defendants in this action.

This testimony was admitted over the objection of many of the defendants who claimed it was contrary to the information provided by plaintiff through answers to interrogatories and should therefore be excluded, pursuant to Rule 37, Fed.

Consumers' Cooperative Societies In New York State

Telescoped considerably, the essence of Mrs. Harris' testimony and that of Mrs. Sadie Badon Badon , who also worked as co-ordinator for several months during the strike, was that calls were made regularly to each supplier between May of and May of asking for deliveries to the Co-op, or deliveries at some other place such as the Co-op office or to a street corner, or for permission to pick up the merchandise at the supplier's warehouse or plant. In most instances, neither Harris nor Badon could remember to whom she spoke, or how many times she called, or exactly what she said, but each testified that for the most part, the defendant-suppliers did not take orders and that, in those few instances where they did, deliveries were not received.

According to these witnesses, often the suppliers did not even give the caller a chance to place an order, once she had identified herself as calling from the Harlem Co-op. Those witnesses also testified that in an effort to get merchandise, the Co-op had rented a truck which was available to go "anywhere" for supplies, that volunteers used their cars to pick up groceries on street corners at night and bring them to the store, and that throughout this period the store had plenty of customers — there was no consumer boycott of the store.


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  • There was some variation in the testimony with respect to some of the supplier defendants. For the most part, however, the Court does not find that this voluminous testimony warrants detailed treatment. Even ignoring particular "redeeming" factors as regards certain defendants and putting the "worst" light on the behavior of all, the Court finds the plaintiff's proof to be insufficient to meet the legal standards which would have to be satisfied in order to hold these defendants liable as having participated in the alleged conspiracy.

    During this entire period, and indeed through September 23, , while the picket line remained outside the plaintiff's store, the defendant-suppliers continued to sell to other stores which plaintiff describes as its competitors. There is no evidence that any of the suppliers stopped selling to other stores in the Harlem area during this time — though there is also no evidence any other store had a picket line in front of it. The refusal of the various suppliers to sell to the plaintiff continued, despite the Co-op's efforts by means including a newspaper advertisement and a letter to suppliers, to inform the public and the suppliers of the Co-op's urgent need for goods and of the nature of the strike.

    The conduct of the strike deserves some comment. While there is no direct evidence as to how the strike came about, the evidence at the end of the plaintiff's case is such that a jury could reasonably conclude it was called by Joseph Overton. Joseph Overton himself was present at the strike scene about three days a week. Lawrence Overton also walked the line to a certain extent, as least between May, and October, , and possibly through January, The evidence introduced on the plaintiff's case points to an overall picture of a "peaceful" and "harmonious" strike.

    This is not to say that it was not considered important by the Union. The strike, Local 's first in twenty years, was well supported by the Union. The strike was well supplied with pickets, many of whom were not and had not ever been employees of the plaintiff. Rosenblum And, the fact is inescapable that the strike did last for nineteen months. Nevertheless, with the exception of two incidents testified to on cross-examination by Mrs.

    Allison — neither involving a defendant in this action — the plaintiff's evidence shows no violence occurring on the line with respect to either customers or suppliers. Lawrence Overton testified that he never saw a supplier threatened. Negotiations aimed at settling the strike and arriving at an acceptable union contract were conducted during the course of the strike with the plaintiff being represented by Harold Young Young , a labor lawyer retained by the Co-op in June, First a series of seven sessions were held at the Commodore Hotel in June and July of These were followed by three sessions with the Federal Mediation Service, contacted by Young, in August of After these sessions, there was a private meeting between Young and Cora Walker representing the plaintiff and Julius Sum, and Joseph Overton, representing the Union.

    This meeting was followed in turn by the submission by the plaintiff of a final offer to the Union. The Union never responded to this final offer. During these discussions a number of different issues were raised and the positions of the parties were reflected in various written proposals. These issues included the length of the probationary or training period for new employees, the wage scales to be paid, payments by the Co-op to employee benefits programs, overtime pay, issues relating to the circumstances under which plaintiff could fire its employees, and whether or not managers and assistant managers would be covered by the Local contract.

    Y-2; Linwood Joseph Overton Ex.

    G During the course of these negotiations, in which Local was represented by Joseph Overton and its attorney, Arthur Garfinkle, Overton offered to submit the issues to binding arbitration. Young testified that he advised the plaintiff against accepting arbitration since he did not believe in a third party writing a contract for either the union or management.

    Finally, he testified that at the last negotiating session in November of , the first meeting attended by Julius Sum since the beginning of the strike, Sum stated that he could not get Joseph Overton to accept certain terms in the contract; that this was Joe's area and that Joe was the person who was responsible for the negotiations. Nor, is there evidence of any further negotiations after this November, meeting. One year later, plaintiff filed the present lawsuit.

    Consumers' Cooperative Societies In New York State

    Just as there was a background against which plaintiff made its entry into the food industry, there were a number of events which occurred during the alleged conspiracy period to which plaintiff attaches significance in its analysis of the evidence it has presented on its direct case. These can be noted at this point as part of the context in which the liability of the defendants will be measured. One, which occurred in Puerto Rico in March, featured as a part of its program a panel discussion on the subject "Problems in the Changing Communities", chaired by a member of the AGH Board of Directors.

    Also, some of the defendant suppliers were among one hundred or so exhibitors who attended the convention. He testified that the Harlem River Co-op was not discussed at this or any other meeting of the association. Nor, he testified, was there any discussion at the March, convention of an article concerning the Co-op which had appeared in a NYSFMA publication prior to the convention. Overton testified that he wore a button identifying himself as being from CCS and giving his address.

    He also stated that he spoke to suppliers about CCS and tried to learn how conventions of this sort worked. A similar event, another food convention, took place in New York City just prior to the opening of plaintiff's store. Upon receiving notice, Jack in turn notified the CCS clients that it would be in their interest to be at the convention and to have exhibits there. Jack himself attended the convention and visited the booths of the CCS clients.

    In order to prevail in a private antitrust action, a plaintiff must show that a violation of the antitrust laws occurred, that the plaintiff was damaged as a result, and the amount of damages. Since the trial of this action has been bifurcated into liability and damage portions, the last of these concerns is not before the Court with respect to the instant motions.

    In this action, the plaintiff claims that violations of both federal and New York State antitrust laws have occurred as a result of a conspiracy among the defendants, centering around the picket line in front of the plaintiff's store and aimed at driving the plaintiff out of business if it refused to do business in the manner sought to be imposed on it as described hereafter. Plaintiff's complaint does not charge individual defendants with violations of the antitrust laws, other than participation in the alleged conspiracy. In other words, no individual or unilateral antitrust violations are charged.

    Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State
    Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State
    Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State
    Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State
    Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State
    Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State
    Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State
    Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State Consumers Cooperative Societies in New York State

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