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Summit Airlines Inc. v. Teamsters Local Union No. 295 and Teamsters Local Union No. 851

decided: August 11, 1980.

SUMMIT AIRLINES, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 295 AND TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 851, AFFILIATED WITH INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA; DOES I THROUGH XX, DEFENDANTS, AND TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 851, AFFILIATED WITH INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA; DOES I THROUGH XX, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Henry Bramwell, J ., holding that Teamsters Local 851 violated section 2, Ninth of the Railway Labor Act and enjoining further violations. Affirmed.

Before Feinberg, Chief Judge, and Lumbard and Van Graafeiland, Circuit Judges.

Author: Van Graafeiland

The case presents a novel question under Title I of the Railway Labor Act of 1926 as amended, 45 U.S.C. §§ 151-160.*fn1 It arises from the efforts of Teamsters Local 851 to force Summit Airlines, Inc., to recognize the Teamsters as the bargaining representative of Summit employees who work as cargo handlers at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). Summit refused to extend recognition voluntarily. The question now before us is whether, upon such refusal, the union had to comply with the election and certification procedures of section 2, Ninth of the Act, 45 U.S.C. § 152, Ninth, or whether it was free to ignore section 2, Ninth and attempt to force recognition through picketing and other forms of economic coercion.

Summit Airlines, Inc., is a small all-cargo airline serving twenty-one cities on the East Coast and in the Ohio Valley. It has about two hundred and thirty employees at its twenty-one stations, over ninety of whom are cargo handlers. Before this dispute, Summit had seventeen employees at its JFK station, twelve of whom were cargo handlers. Teamsters Local 851 is an unincorporated labor organization headquartered in Jamaica, New York, which represents cargo handlers in the employ of several freight forwarders and carriers by air doing business at JFK.

In early March of 1979, a group of Summit's JFK employees decided to approach a union. A representative contacted Local 851 and was given a quantity of "authorization cards." The nature of these cards is disputed. It appears, however, and the district court found, that the employees were told that their signatures on the cards authorized a vote on whether Local 851 would be their collective bargaining representative. Summit's JFK employees signed the cards, and they were returned to Local 851. Discussions between the Union and Summit followed, Summit questioning the reliability of the authorization cards and urging a secret-ballot election conducted by the National Mediation Board, the Union urging voluntary recognition or in the alternative an election under the supervision of an impartial observer such as a school teacher.

In April, Summit's management met with the JFK employees and informed them that the company would not recognize Local 851 as their representative. On April 9th, 17th, 24th, and 30th, Local 851 established a picket line at Summit's JFK facility. On each occasion, the picketing lasted from about 10:00 p.m. until 10:00 a.m., the peak hours for Summit's freight handling operations. The picketers held signs identifying Local 851 and stating that "Summit Airlines Does Not Maintain Area Standards and Conditions of Employment For Ground Personnel." Local 851 officials also contacted a number of Summit's customers and requested that they cease doing business with Summit until the union was recognized. Each of these customers had a collective bargaining agreement with the Teamsters. The district court found that a primary purpose of these activities was to force Summit to recognize Local 851 as the collective bargaining representative of the JFK employees.

The district court also found that the Union's activities had a significant impact on Summit's JFK operations. No cargo was picked up or delivered during the actual picketing. Summit's overall volume of business at JFK was reduced by more than half. Eight of the seventeen JFK employees were laid off, and six airline pilots were furloughed. Several scheduled flights were cancelled.

Summit filed this lawsuit on April 20, 1979, seeking damages for alleged violations of the Railway Labor Act and an injunction against further violations. After hearing Summit's application for a preliminary injunction, the district court held that Local 851 had violated the duty it owed under section 2, First of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 152, First, to "exert every reasonable effort . . . to settle all disputes . . . in order to avoid any interruption to commerce or to the operation of any carrier growing out of any dispute between the carrier and the employees thereof." Specifically, Judge Bramwell held that the Union's failure to seek an election conducted by the National Mediation Board under section 2, Ninth was a violation of the duty it owed under section 2, First. The court therefore enjoined the Union from interfering in any way with Summit's JFK operations for the purpose of forcing recognition.

On this appeal from that order, Local 851 does not challenge the district court's findings of fact. Rather, it is the Union's position that Congress did not intend to prohibit recognitional picketing in the circumstances of this case. It argues that, even if the facts are as the district court found, it has violated no command of the Railway Labor Act and therefore the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C. § 104, prohibits the injunction granted herein.

Title I of the Railway Labor Act was adopted in 1926 to replace Title III of the Transportation Act of 1920. The 1926 Act was drafted by a team composed of representatives of both management and labor, and "came on the statute books through agreement between the railroads and the railroad unions . . . ." International Ass'n of Machinists v. Street, 367 U.S. 740, 758, 81 S. Ct. 1784, 1794, 6 L. Ed. 2d 1141 (1961); see Chicago & N. W. Ry. v. United Transportation Union, 402 U.S. 570, 576, 91 S. Ct. 1731, 1735, 29 L. Ed. 2d 187 (1971). The draftsmen set forth in section 2, First the general obligation of both the carriers and their employees to attempt in good faith to resolve all disputes without resort to economic coercion:

"It shall be the duty of all carriers, their officers, agents, and employees to exert every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements concerning rates of pay, rules, and working conditions, and to settle all disputes, whether arising out of the application of such agreements or otherwise, in order to avoid any interruption to commerce or to the operation of any carrier growing out of any dispute between the carrier and the employees thereof."

This duty is "the heart of the Railway Labor Act," Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Jacksonville Terminal Co., 394 U.S. 369, 377-78, 89 S. Ct. 1109, 1115, 22 L. Ed. 2d 344 (1969), and is a legally enforceable obligation, rather than a "mere statement of policy or exhortation," Chicago & N. W. Ry. v. United Transportation Union, supra, 402 U.S. at 577, 91 S. Ct. at 1735.

The Act provided separate procedures for the resolution of "major disputes," which involved "changes in rates of pay, rules, or working conditions," and "minor disputes," which included "grievances or . . . interpretation or application" of existing agreements. Railway Labor Act of 1926, ch. 347, § 5, First (a), (b), 44 Stat. 577, 580 (1926).*fn2 Major disputes were to be resolved through conference (§§ 2, Second, 6), followed, if necessary, by mediation by the newly created United States Board of Mediation (§ 5, First (b)), and, if these steps were unsuccessful, through voluntary arbitration (§ 7). Minor disputes that the parties were unable to adjust in conference (§ 2, Second, Fourth), were to be dealt with by boards of adjustment (§ 3, First), and then, if necessary, through mediation followed by voluntary arbitration (§§ 5, First (a), 7).

The Act did not refer explicitly to the resolution of disputes over the recognition of a union as a collective bargaining agent. It merely stated the following general duty concerning designation of representatives:

"Third. Representatives, for the purposes of this Act, shall be designated by the respective parties in such manner as may be provided in their corporate organization or unincorporated association, or by other means of collective action, without interference, influence, or coercion exercised by either party over the self-organization or designation of ...


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