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Rutland Railway Corp. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers

June 18, 1962


Author: Waterman

Before WATERMAN, KAUFMAN, and MARSHALL, Circuit Judges.

WATERMAN, C.J.: The four appellant labor unions, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, and the Order of Railroad Conductors and Brakemen, hereinafter referred to collectively as the defendant brotherhoods, and the five individual appellants, each either a general or local chairman of one of the above-mentioned brotherhoods, appeal from a judgment order of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont, enjoining as of October 27, 1960, the unions, their members, and agents from further striking, picketing, or using any other form of economic coercion in connection with a dispute which the plaintiff Rutland Railway Corporation had submitted to the National Railroad Adjustment Board, the injunction to remain in effect until the Board had disposed of the dispute.

The strike began on September 16, 1960. It continued until the injunction order was effective. Then, obedient thereto, the workers went back to their jobs.

The Rutland Railway operations are divided into three subdivisions. One subdivision runs from the New Hampshire border at Bellows Falls, Vermont, to Rutland, Vermont, and is approximately 52 miles long. The main line subdivision runs northerly from the southwestern corner of the State of Vermont through North Bennington, Rutland, and Burlington, Vermont, to the northern tip of Lake Champlain at Alburg, Vermont, a distance of about 155 miles. At Alburg the road proceeds westerly across northern New York State through Malone and Norwood, New York, to Ogdensburg, New York, a distance of one hundred twenty-two miles.Malone is halfway between Alburg and Ogdensburg. Norwood, between Malone and Ogdensburg, is 35 miles from the former and 25 miles from the latter. The portion of the line from Alburg to Ogdensburg is called the Ogdensburg Subdivision.

On November 2, 1959, the Rutland Railway, which had been in financial difficulty, sent notices to the general chairmen of the four defendant brotherhoods, as the duly recognized representatives of the Rutland's operating employees, to inform the labor organizations that the carrier proposed, among other things, to change all existing agreements and rules which would prevent it from consolidating and abolishing crew terminals, merging seniority districts, and establishing interdivisional runs.*fn1 As part of a concerted country-wide effort to initiate national discussion of railroad problems most of the Class I carriers in the nation also delivered similar notices to brotherhood officers.

The issuance of these notices was required by Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act, 44 Stat. 582 (1926), as amended, 45 U.S.C. § 156 (1958).*fn2 At the time these notices were sent the Rutland Railway had collective bargaining agreements with the brotherhoods.

On November 30, 1959, conferences between representatives of the Rutland and representatives of its employees were commenced in order to consider the proposals contained in the Section 6 notices sent November 2. The parties failed to reach agreement on any of the proposals, and the conferences were soon recessed. The railroad then delegated authority to the Carriers' Eastern Conference Committee to further confer on behalf of the Rutland, and the labor representatives delegated their authority so to do to the National Conference Committee of the four brotherhoods.*fn3

The Rutland's financial plight continued to worsen. In the first eight months of 1960 it was hauling 5300 carloads of freight less than it was hauling in the comparable period of 1959. Its operating revenues were $264,000 less than those of the same period in 1959. Therefore the railroad's board of directors met in the spring and summer of 1960 in order to devise methods for combatting the company's financial problem. A plan was finally agreed upon whereby certain operating expenses would be reduced by the abolition of several freight runs.

On its Ogdensburg Subdivision, which stretched from Alburg, Vermont, to Ogdensburg, New York, the Rutland had operated a total of four freight trains and two yard switchers. From east to west on the Ogdensburg Subdivision, there were terminals at Alburg, Vermont; Malone, New York; Norwood, New York; and Ogdensburg, New York. Two of these trains operated daily in opposite directions between Alburg and Norwood. The two other trains operated out of Malone, one going to Ogdensburg and returning each day, the other going to Alburg and returning each day. Pursuant to the decision of its directors to reduce the number of freight runs, the railroad posted bulletins on September 8, 1960, announcing that beginning September 17 the four existing daily freight runs on the Ogdensburg Subdivision were to be replaced by two, running daily between Alburg and Ogdensburg in opposite directions. This new schedule would reduce the number of jobs on the subdivision by ten and would change the home terminals of some of the trainmen whose jobs were not eliminated.

On September 14 the railroad learned that its employees would strike in an attempt to prevent these new schedules from becoming effective. On the morning of September 15 the brotherhoods, obviously referring to the schedule changes on the Ogdensburg Subdivision, telegraphed the railroad that they would go on strike at 12:01 A.M., September 16 because "carrier cancelling 1957 and 1959 agreements by bulletins and changing home terminals and running thru former terminal for certain local freight crews." The railroad replied in part as follows:

Rutland Railway Corporation effective Sept. 17, 1960 will arrange train assignment to conform to the demands of traffic. The change is not and cannot be shown to have violated any rule or agreement as alleged. No agreement has been violated and the carrier is merely exercising its right to operate in an economical manner. Conferences on this issue have not been held on the property with the brotherhoods.

The operating employees punctually struck at the time indicated by the brotherhoods' telegram that the strike would begin.*fn4

Ten days later, on September 26, the railroad filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Vermont, asking the court to enjoin a further strike, to order the defendants to comply with the procedural requirements of the Railway Labor Act, and to award damages to the plaintiff.

To support its claim for an injunction the railroad, defining the disagreement with its employees to be whether the management of the railroad had the right to rearrange train runs and thereby reduce jobs and change crew terminals without first negotiating the matter with the representatives of its workers, promptly submitted the dispute to the National Railroad Adjustment Board under the "minor dispute" provisions of the Railway Labor Act, §§ 2 Second, Sixth, 3, 44 Stat. 577, 578 (1926), as amended, 45 U.S.C. §§ 152 Second, Sixth, 153 (1958). On October 7 the defendants moved to dismiss the action because of improper venue. This motion was denied on October 10. The defendants then answered, and filed a counterclaim in which they on their part sought an injunction preventing the railroad from putting into effect the schedule of changes set forth in its bulletins of September 8 until at least the relevant procedures provided by the Railway Labor Act should have been exhausted.

After holding hearings on the merits of the respective claims the district court issued an injunction enjoining the strike. A consideration of the railway's prayer for an award of damages was postponed to a later date. In its opinion, reported at 188 F. Supp. 721 (D. Vt. 1960), the court held that the dispute out of which the strike arose was a minor one, subject to the jurisdiction and decision of the National Railroad Adjustment Board and that the Section 6 notice of November 2, 1959, sent out by the Class I railroads on the national level did not alter the minor nature of this particular dispute over the rescheduling of freight runs. The court did not grant the defendants' prayer for an injunction to prevent the railroad from effectuating its rescheduling. The defendants appeal to this court, seeking review of the district court decision adverse to them.

The appellants contend that the venue for this action was not properly located in the District of Vermont; that the controversy out of which this litigation arose was not a "minor dispute" as the court below held, but a "major dispute" under the Railway Labor Act, 44 Stat. 577 (1926), as amended, 45 U.S.C.§ 151-63 (1958), and that the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 47 Stat. 70 (1932), 29 U.S.C. §§ 101-115 (1958), deprived the court of jurisdiction to enjoin the strike. The appellee railroad asserts, on the other hand, that the court below was correct in determining the dispute a minor one which permitted the carrier to proceed with its schedule changes and required that the employees desist from striking.


Three of the defendant brotherhoods, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, and the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, have their headquarters at Cleveland, Ohio. The headquarters of the fourth brotherhood, Order of Railway Conductors and Brakemen, are at Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Inasmuch as this action arises under the laws of the United States, namely, the Railway Labor Act, the relevant venue provision of the Judicial Code is 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b):

"(b) A civil action wherein jurisdiction is not founded solely on diversity of citizenship may be brought only in the judicial district where all defendants reside, except as otherwise provided by law."

The brotherhoods assert that, since they are unincorporated associations, the proper venue for an action against any one of them is only in the judicial district where its principal place of business is situated.

In Sperry Prods., Inc. v. Association of Am. R.Rs ., 132 F.2d 408 (2 Cir. 1942), cert. denied, 319 U.S. 744 (1943), involving the venue provision for patent infringement actions, Judge Learned Hand discussed the concept of venue as it related to unincorporated associations. The venue statute there involved, 35 Stat. 1084 (1909), 28 U.S.C. § 109 (1940) (now 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) (1958)), stated that any suit for patent infringement might be brought "in the district of which the defendant is an inhabitant, or in any district in which the defendant * * * shall have committed acts of infringement and have a regular and established place of business." Judge Hand stated that for venue purposes, as well as for other procedural incidents, an unincorporated association should be considered a jural entity, cf. United Mine Workers v. Coronado Coal Co ., 259 U.S. 344 (1922), and that the only practical approach to the procedural problems created by actions involving unincorporated associations was to assimilate their treatment to that accorded corporations. Therefore, Judge Hand concluded that an unincorporated association should be considered "present" whereever it was continuously carrying on a substantial part of its activities, since this was the standard for the "presence" of corporations. However, he hastened to add that being "present" in a district was not tantamount to being an "inhabitant" of that district. Again assimilating the situation of the unincorporated entity which has no place of incorporation to that of the incorporated entity, Judge Hand announced that the unincorporated entity was an "inhabitant" of the district of its principal place of business.

Although Sperry Prods., Inc . involved the venue provision for patent infringement actions, courts have applied Judge Hand's reasoning in that case to the determination of questions that have arisen involving the general venue statute. Until the revision of the Judicial Code in 1948 there was little difficulty in so doing because the general venue statute, 28 U.S.C.§ 112 (1940), provided only that "no civil suit shall be brought in any district court against any person * * * in any other district than that whereof he is an inhabitant * * *" Thus Judge Hand's discussion of where an unincorporated association was an inhabitant was applicable with equal force under the general venue provision as it then existed. See Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen v. Graham, 175 F.2d 802 (D.C. Cir. 1948), rev'd on other grounds, 338 U.S. 232 (1949).Cf. Darby v. Philadelphia Transp. Co ., 73 F. Supp. 522 (E.D. Pa. 1947). But see Thermoid Co. v. United Rubber Workers, 70 F. Supp. 228 (D.N.J. 1947). But in 1948 the general venue statute was redrafted as 28 U.S.C. § 1391; and a subsection (c) was added. This subsection stated:

"(c) A corporation may be sued in any judicial district in which it is incorporated or licensed to do business or is doing business, and such judicial district shall be regarded as the residence of such corporation for venue purposes."*fn5

Under the venue provision drafted in 1948 courts were faced with the question whether they should follow Judge Hand and hold that an unincorporated association resides only at its principal place of business, or whether the process of assimilation which Judge Hand advocated should be extended by assimilating the treatment of unincorporated associations for venue purposes with the newly expanded concept of corporate residence.

The cases are divided on this issue. Some courts have held that for determining venue an unincorporated association resides only at its principal place of business. Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen v. Graham, supra; McNutt v. United Gas Workers, 108 F. Supp. 871, 875 (W.D. Ark. 1952); Griffin v. Illinois Cent. R.R ., 88 F. Supp. 552, 555 (N.D. Ill. 1949); Salvant v. Louisville & N.R.R ., 83 F. Supp. 391, 396 (W.D. Ky. 1949); Cherico v. Brotherhood of R.R. Trainmen, 167 F.Supp. 635 (S.D.N.Y. 1958). Cf. Hadden v. Small, 145 F. Supp. 387 (N.D. Ohio 1951). Other courts have held that an unincorporated association may be sued in any district in which it is doing business. Portsmouth Baseball Corp. v. Frick, 132 F.Supp. 922 (S.D.N.Y. 1955); American Airlines, Inc. v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n, 169 F.Supp. 777 (S.D.N.Y. 1958); Eastern Motor Express, Inc. v. Espenshade, 138 F. Supp. 426 (E.D. Pa. 1956). And the Supreme Court has not yet spoken on the matter.

Venue in the federal courts is not a jurisdictional concept. See 28 U.S.C. § 1406(b) (1958); H.R. Report 308, 80th Cong., 1st Sess. A154 (1947) (Reviser's Notes). We should not think about it in the metaphysical terms which have often been associated with considerations of jurisdiction. Venue is a concept of convenience. See Neirbo v. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp ., 308 U.S. 165, 167-68 (1939); Cohen v. Commodity Credit Corp ., 172 F. Supp. 803 (W.D. Ark 1959); Jacobson v. Indianapolis Power & Light Co ., 163 F.Supp. 218 (N.D. Ind. 1958); The North River, 57 F.Supp. 808 (E.D.N.Y. 1944); Vogel v. Crown Cork & Seal Co ., 36 F.Supp. 74 (D. Md. 1940). It should be treated in practical terms. See Sperry Prods., Inc. v. Ass'n of Am. R. Rs., supra; American Airlines v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n, supra .Congress has stated in § 1391(c) that the residence of a corporation for venue purposes is not only in the state wherein it is incorporated but also in the places where it is licensed to do business and where it is doing business. It is true that we would be reading into 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c) words which are not there if we should assert that that subsection states that it applies to unincorporated associations. See Cherico v. Brotherhood of R.R. Trainmen, supra . But we do not find any manifestation here of a congressional policy of expressio unius est exclusio alterius, and so we follow the reasoning in Sperry Prods . and assimilate the residence of unincorporated associations under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) to that of corporations, 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c). Since the residence of a corporation for venue purposes has been expanded to include all the judicial districts in which the corporation is doing business, the residence of an unincorporated association for venue purposes should likewise be expanded to include all the judicial districts in which the unincorporated entity is doing business. We believe this accords with the practical requirements of litigation involving unincorporated associations. If an unincorporated union is carrying on sufficient activities in a particular judicial district so that it is deemed to be doing business there, it usually will suffer no undue hardship if required to stand suit there. If in certain instances the defense of a suit in a particular district is peculiarly oppressive, the association may always seek a transfer of the action under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) (1958).

Turning to the case before us, we hold that the defendant brotherhoods were doing business in the District of Vermont. They set up and maintained grievance committees and other facilities among the employees of the Rutland Railway in Vermont. They organized a strike of railroad employees in Vermont. They negotiated with the management of the plaintiff railroad in Vermont.

Therefore, we conclude that venue for this action in the District of Vermont was proper and we affirm the order of the court ...

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