Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

O'CONNELL v. ERIE LACKAWANNA R.R. CO.

April 27, 1967

John P. O'Connell et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Erie Lackawanna Railroad Company et al., Defendants


Herlands, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: HERLANDS

HERLANDS, District Judge.

The instant motion for a preliminary injunction, brought on by an order to show cause, raises important questions as to the proper interpretation of the 1951 amendments to the Railway Labor Act. Plaintiffs are three yard service employees of the defendant Erie Lackawanna Railroad Company [hereinafter referred to as the Erie], who sue individually and on behalf of all members of the Switchmen's Union of North America, AFL-CIO, [hereinafter referred to as the Switchmen's Union] employed by the defendant railroad. The Switchmen's Union is also a party plaintiff. The defendants are the Erie, the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen [hereinafter referred to as the Brotherhood], and two officers of the Brotherhood who are sued in their individual and representative capacities.

 According to the verified complaint, the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western R.R. Co. and the Erie Railroad merged in October, 1960, to form the defendant railroad. For many years prior to the merger the Switchmen's Union had been the duly designated and recognized representative of the craft or class of yard foremen, helpers and switch tenders [hereinafter referred to as yard service employees] of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western R.R. Co., while the Brotherhood similarly represented the yard service employees of the Erie Railroad.

 In March, 1964, the National Mediation Board conducted an election among all of the yard service employees of the merged railroad. The Brotherhood received 43 more votes than the Switchmen's Union, and was designated as their representative. Until March, 1967, the collective bargaining agreement between the Brotherhood and the Erie, like the pre-merger agreements of both the Switchmen's Union and the Brotherhood, contained a union shop clause which was expressly qualified by the language of Section 2, Eleventh (c) of the Railway Labor Act. Under this agreement, more than 500 yard service employees of the Erie maintained membership in the Switchmen's Union without joining the Brotherhood.

 On March 14, 1967, the Brotherhood and the Erie entered into a new collective bargaining agreement, effective immediately, which provided that, as a condition of continued employment, all yard service employees in the New York Terminal Yards of the Erie "shall become and remain members" of the Brotherhood. No alternative membership clause was included in the union shop provision.

 The essence of plaintiffs' claim is that this strict union shop agreement violates the Railway Labor Act in that it fails to provide - in accordance with Section 2, Eleventh (c) (45 U.S.C. § 152 Eleventh (c)) - that the requirement of union membership shall be satisfied if an employee maintains membership in any one of the labor organizations, national in scope, organized in accordance with the Railway Labor Act, and admitting to membership employees in any of the services or capacities covered by the First Division of the National Railroad Adjustment Board.

 The complaint further alleges that the Brotherhood and the Erie "have threatened and are threatening" to discharge the individual plaintiffs and all other members of the Switchmen's Union employed by the Erie, unless they end their membership in the Switchmen's Union and become and remain members of the Brotherhood.

 Each of the plaintiffs and the members of the class they represent have seniority rights and other employment benefits which would be lost in the event of a discharge for failure to join the Brotherhood as required by the new agreement. On the other hand, valuable insurance rights would be lost if they failed to continue membership in the Switchmen's Union. Yet, the constitution of the Brotherhood bars dual membership in a union, such as the Switchmen's Union, which is seeking representation rights on behalf of the same class of employees on the same railroad. Even if they are not discharged for maintaining membership in the Switchmen's Union, they could not afford to pay fees and dues to two unions.

 On the basis of these factual allegations, plaintiffs contend that their rights - protected under Section 2 of the Railway Labor Act - are being infringed, and that the defendants have caused and are threatening to cause irreparable injury to the plaintiff employees for which no remedy in money damages is available. They pray for a preliminary and permanent injunction restraining the defendants from "discharging or threatening to discharge, or attempting to cause the discharge" of any employee who fails to join the Brotherhood, so long as he maintains membership in the Switchmen's Union. They also seek a judgment declaring the union shop agreement null and void. Finally, plaintiff Switchmen's Union asks for money damages in the sum of 100,000 dollars.

 The Brotherhood's verified answer admits that Exhibit A annexed to the complaint is a true copy of the collective bargaining agreement entered into between the Brotherhood and the Erie, but denies its illegality and denies substantially all of the other allegations of the complaint. Of immediate significance on this motion is defendant Brotherhood's denial that this Court has jurisdiction to construe the collective bargaining agreement, because Congress has vested exclusive jurisdiction over such disputes in the National Railroad Adjustment Board, and to system, group or regional Boards of Adjustment. The Brotherhood further denies that this Court has jurisdiction to determine the legality of the agreement under the Railway Labor Act until the plaintiff employees have exhausted the procedures of the contract. The Brotherhood's verified answer also contains a counterclaim for libel.

 The question of jurisdiction may be disposed of summarily. Plaintiffs invoke the power of this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1337 conferring original jurisdiction upon this court of civil actions arising under any Act of Congress regulating Commerce, and under 28 U.S.C. § 2201, creating the remedy of declaratory judgments.

 While the National Railroad Adjustment Board has exclusive and primary jurisdiction over disputes concerning the meaning of collective bargaining agreements in the railroad industry (Slocum v. Delaware, Lackawanna & Western R.R. Co., 339 U.S. 239, 94 L. Ed. 795, 70 S. Ct. 577 (1950)), and the instant agreement expressly provides its own procedure in cases of non-compliance with its provisions, it is well settled that the federal district courts have jurisdiction to grant injunctive and declaratory relief when the legality of such an agreement under the Railway Labor Act is called in question. See e.g., Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Howard, 343 U.S. 768, 774, 96 L. Ed. 1283, 72 S. Ct. 1022 (1952); Graham v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Engineers, 338 U.S. 232, 239, 94 L. Ed. 22, 70 S. Ct. 14 (1949); Tunstall v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Engineers, 323 U.S. 210, 212-213, 89 L. Ed. 187, 65 S. Ct. 235 (1944); Switchmen's Union of North America v. Southern Pacific Co., 253 F.2d 81 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 358 U.S. 818, 79 S. Ct. 29, 3 L. Ed. 2d 60 (1958).

 The present action is governed by the principles expounded by the above decisions. There is here no question as to the proper construction of a collective bargaining agreement or its proper application to specific employees; rather, the issue posed is a straightforward question of statutory interpretation.

 The Brotherhood frankly conceded upon oral argument - as it was obviously compelled to do - that the union shop clause *fn1" of the new collective agreement would violate Section 2, Eleventh (c) of the Railway Labor Act if the latter were construed literally. The Brotherhood contends, however, that the legislative history of the provision in question, and the decisions construing it, unmistakably demonstrate the legality of the disputed agreement in the circumstances here prevailing.

 Resolution of the issue posed necessarily depends upon an understanding of the purpose underlying Section 2, Eleventh (c) and the specific means chosen by Congress to effectuate that purpose.

 Until 1951, union shop agreements were outlawed in the railroad industry. The prohibition had been added to the Railway Labor Act in 1934 at the behest of the unions themselves because such agreements had been used by the railroads to perpetuate company unions. This problem having become dissipated with time, Congress amended the Act in 1951 to permit ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.