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O'Connell v. Erie and Lackawanna Railroad Co.

decided: March 5, 1968.

JOHN P. O'CONNELL ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES AND WAYNE W. DELANEY ET AL., INTERVENORS-PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES
v.
ERIE AND LACKAWANNA RAILROAD COMPANY, DEFENDANT, AND BROTHERHOOD OF RAILROAD TRAINMEN ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Lumbard, Chief Judge, Moore and Friendly, Circuit Judges.

Author: Lumbard

LUMBARD, C. J.:

Defendants appeal from a judgment which found strict union shop clauses in a railroad collective bargaining agreement void and enjoined the appellants from requiring membership in the appellant union as a condition of continued employment. Appellees successfully argued on motion for preliminary injunction before Judge Herlands, 268 F. Supp. 397 (SDNY 1967), and on motion for summary judgment and a permanent injunction before Judge Palmieri, that the union shop clause appellant negotiated with the railroad violates the clear language of Section 2, Eleventh of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. 152, Eleventh, and that the union and railroad could not lawfully condition employment upon membership in appellant union even though the union is the sole bargaining agent for all of the railroad's employees. Jurisdiction is based upon 28 U.S.C. § 1337 and the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201.

Appellants concede that if the words of Section 2, Eleventh of the Railway Labor Act are given their natural meaning, the agreement is invalid.*fn1 However, they ask the court to avoid "the melancholy irrationalism of interpreting subsection (c) literally." We agree with Judge Herlands that there is no compelling indication of legislative intent contrary to the clear words of the statute, nor are the results of construing the words as they were written so absurd as to require the strained construction for which appellants contend. We affirm.

The suit was brought by the Switchmen's Union of North America, AFL-CIO, and three yard service employees of the Erie Lackawanna Railroad Company on behalf of the more than 500 members of the Switchmen's Union employed by the Erie Lackawanna against defendant-appellant Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen and Erie Lackawanna.

Prior to the merger of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western R.R. Co. and the Erie Railroad in 1960, plaintiff Switchmen's Union had been the recognized bargaining representative of the yard foremen, helpers and switch -tenders employed by the Lackawanna Railroad. Appellant Brotherhood represented these same crafts and classes on the Erie Railroad.

Following enactment of the Union Shop Amendment to the Railway Labor Act in January 1951, both unions entered union shop contracts with the railroads with which they had collective bargaining agreements. They incorporated into the contracts the language of Section 2, Eleventh of the Railway Labor Act as amended, 45 U.S.C. 152, Eleventh (1964), and construed the union shop provisions so that membership in either Switchmen's Union or Order of Railway Conductors satisfied the membership requirement of the Brotherhood's contract and membership in the Brotherhood satisfied the membership requirement of the Switchmen's contract.

When the two railroads merged in 1960, the National Mediation Board conducted an election among all the yard service employees of the merged railroads. The Brotherhood won from the Switchmen's Union by 43 votes out of a total of 1943 votes cast. In a representation election in November 1967 the Brotherhood received 941 votes to the Switchmen's Union's 695. From 1960 until March 1967, appellant Union and defendant railroad construed and applied the union shop provisions of the contract so that membership in either the Switchmen's Union or Order of Railway Conductors satisfied the membership requirement.

On March 14, 1967 the Erie Lackawanna and appellant entered a collective bargaining agreement which provided:

"It is agreed, as a condition of continued employment, that within sixty calendar days following the beginning of such employment, all conductors, ticket collectors, baggagemen, and trainmen of the Erie Lackawanna Railroad Company, former DL&W District, yard service employees engaged in yard service in the New York Terminal Yards . . . represented by the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen (Eastern District) shall become and remain members of the said Brotherhood: Provided, that this agreement shall not require such condition of employment with respect to employees to whom membership is not available upon the same terms and conditions as are generally applicable to any other member or with respect to employees to whom membership has been denied or terminated for any reason other than the failure of the employee to tender the periodic dues, initiation fees and assessments (not including fines and penalties) uniformly required as a condition of acquiring or retaining membership in the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen."

On April 4, 1967 the same parties entered a similar contract with respect to employees of the Erie District requiring them to become and remain members of appellant union as a condition of continued employment.

In granting a preliminary injunction against enforcement of this union shop provision, Judge Herlands found that the union shop agreements entered in 1967 violated the Railway Labor Act because they failed to permit employees to satisfy the membership requirements of the contract through membership in any union national in scope admitting to membership employees within the crafts or classes covered by the First Division of the National Railroad Adjustment Board. 268 F. Supp. 397 (SDNY 1967). After the preliminary injunction was granted, the Order of Railway Conductors and Brakemen and four of its members suing on behalf of the more than 225 members of the Order employed by the Erie Lackawanna were granted leave to intervene. On July 25, 1967, Judge Palmieri granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and subsequently issued a permanent injunction. He denied defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment and entered judgment for plaintiff on appellant's counterclaim.

We believe that the legislative history of the section shows that it was meant to permit membership in any union national in scope admitting to membership employees within the crafts or classes covered by the First Division of the National Railroad Adjustment Board to satisfy the union shop requirement of a contract pursuant to section 2, Eleventh of the Railway Labor Act.

The Seventh Circuit recently has reached the same conclusion, Birkholz v. Dirks, 391 F.2d 289 ...


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