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Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees v. St. Johnsbury & Lamoille County Railroad/ M.P.S. Associates Inc.

decided: June 30, 1986.

BROTHERHOOD OF MAINTENANCE OF WAY EMPLOYEES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ST. JOHNSBURY & LAMOILLE COUNTY RAILROAD/ M.P.S. ASSOCIATES, INC.; ST. JOHNSBURY AND LAMOILLE COUNTY RAILROAD, INC.; STATE OF VERMONT/VERMONT PUBLIC SERVICE BOARD/VERMONT TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY; WABASH VALLEY RAILROAD COMPANY; AND LAMOILLE VALLEY RAILROAD COMPANY, DEFENDANTS, STATE OF VERMONT/VERMONT PUBLIC SERVICE BOARD/VERMONT TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Appeal from a summary judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont imposing liability on the State for vacation pay owing former employees of a privately owed railroad. Judgment vacated and matter remanded with directions.

Author: Van Graafeiland

Before: VAN GRAAFEILAND, WINTER and MINER, Circuit Judges.

VAN GRAAFEILAND, Circuit Judge:

The State of Vermont appeals from a summary judgment entered against it in the United States District Court for the District of Vermont (Billings, J.) in the amount of $24,427.26. The judgment is for vacation pay to which members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees became entitled while they were working for the St. Johnsbury and Lamoille County Railroad (St. Johnsbury Railroad). For reasons hereafter assigned, we vacate and remand.

At various times between 1967 and 1973, the St. Johnsbury Railroad, a small carrier in northern Vermont, employed twenty-eight Brotherhood members. In 1973 the Interstate Commerce Commission permitted the Railroad to abandon its service, providing that, concurrent with the abandonment, the Railroad be offered "for acquisition and/or operation" under a Commission Emergency Service Order to the Lamoille County Railroad, Inc. and the Vermont Transportation Authority. While the Lamoille County Railroad, Inc. was operating the railroad under the Emergency Service Order, the I.C.C. granted full abandonment authority to the St. Johnsbury Railroad.

In April of 1974, the I.C.C. certified that public convenience and necessity required that the railroad to be acquired by the Transportation Authority be leased to the Lamoille County Railroad, Inc., (subsequently renamed the St. Johnsbury and Lamoille County Railway, Inc. and referred to herein as the St. Johnsbury Railway).*fn1 The St. Johnsbury Railway operated the road under lease from the State until September 1976. In 1975 the Brotherhood won a certification election authorizing it to represent the St. Johnsbury Railway's maintenance of way employees. The Brotherhood then demanded that the St. Johnsbury Railway pay its members vacation pay to which they became entitled while employed by the St. Johnsbury Railroad; and, when this demand was rejected, the matter was submitted to the National Railroad Adjustment Board.

By decision dated May 19, 1977, the Board held that the labor agreement between the Brotherhood and the St. Johnsbury Railroad survived the change in ownership and that the "Carrier [the St. Johnsbury Railway] and the Employees involved in this dispute are respectively Carrier and Employees within the meaning of the Railway Labor Act, as approved June 21, 1934." The Board sustained the claims against the St. Johnsbury Railway.

The correct procedure for the Brotherhood at that point was to petition the district court for enforcement of the award. 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (p). The proper role for the district court then would have been to treat the findings and orders of the Board as conclusive and to enforce the award. Id. If these correct and simple procedures had been followed, the matter would not now be before this Court, some nine years after the award was made. However, for reasons which may only be surmised, the Brotherhood chose not to follow the path well-marked by Congress.

In 1979 the Brotherhood attorneys brought an action in the District Court of Vermont which they describe in their brief before this Court as an action "seeking enforcement of the 1975 NRAB awards." See also 512 F. Supp. 1079, 1085. However, instead of limiting their claim to the St. Johnsbury Railway, against whom the Board's award had been made, the attorneys also named as defendants the St. Johnsbury Railroad, the Wabash Valley Railroad Company (which succeeded the St. Johnsbury Railway as lessee-operator in September 1976 and operated as such for about one year), the Lamoille Valley Railroad Company (which took over from the Wabash Valley Railroad Company), and the State of Vermont. If, in fact, the Brotherhood was seeking relief against these additionally named defendants pursuant to the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, its attorneys must have known that the district court had no jurisdiction to grant such relief, original jurisdiction being exclusive with the Adjustment Board. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers v. Louisville & N.R. Co., 373 U.S. 33, 38-39, 10 L. Ed. 2d 172, 83 S. Ct. 1059 (1963). Nonetheless, through the procedural device of suing everyone, the attorneys persuaded the district court to hold that the award which the Board already had made "does not clearly name the parties against whom it is enforceable and which results from proceedings before the NRAB of which not all interested parties were given notice." 512 F. Supp. at 1087.

The district court erred in so holding. The Brotherhood made its administrative claim for vacation pay only against the St. Johnsbury Railway; the St. Johnsbury Railway was the only party interested and notified; the award clearly named the St. Johnsbury Railway as the party against whom the award was to be enforced. The Adjustment Board gave the Brotherhood exactly what it asked for. The district court should have enforced the unambiguous award and dismissed the claims against all of the other defendants that purported to be based on the award. See Broady v. Illinois Cent. R. Co., 191 F.2d 73, 76-79 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 342 U.S. 897, 72 S. Ct. 231, 96 L. Ed. 672 (1951); Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen v. The New York, N.H. & H. R. Co., 296 F. Supp. 1044, 1049 (D. Conn. 1968); Alabama State Federation of Labor v. Kurn, 46 F. Supp. 385, 386 (N.D. Ala. 1942).

The district court also erred in refusing to enforce the Board's award on the ground that "not all parties necessary for the resolution of the vacation pay dispute received notice of the NRAB proceedings as required by 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (j)." 512 F. Supp. at 1086. That section requires that the Board give notice to "the carrier or carriers involved in any disputes submitted to [the Board]." Although the statute does not define the word "involved", we agree with those courts which have held that the only carriers who are "involved" are those who would be harmed or adversely affected by the outcome of the hearing. See, e.g., Brotherhood of Railway, Airline, and Steamship Clerks v. St. Louis Southwestern Ry. Co., 676 F.2d 132, 135 (5th Cir. 1982); Hunter v. Atchison, T. & S.F. Ry. Co., 188 F.2d 294, 300-01 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 342 U.S. 819, 72 S. Ct. 36, 96 L. Ed. 619 (1951); Estes v. Union Terminal Co., 89 F.2d 768, 770 (5th Cir. 1937). Because we fail to see how any of the defendants in the 1979 action, other than the St. Johnsbury Railway, could have been harmed or adversely affected by the Board's 1977 order, we see no reason why the Board could not have decided the vacation pay issue as it did in 1977 without prior notice to those defendants, one of whom was not even in existence when the 1977 award was made.

As if the complications resulting from the district court's remand were not enough, the Board proceeded in its own way to muddy the waters more. Subdivision First (i) of 45 U.S.C. § 153 provides that disputes between employees and carriers "shall be handled in the usual manner up to and including the chief operating officer of the carrier designated to handle such disputes; but, failing to reach an adjustment in this manner, the disputes may be referred by petition of the parties or by either party to the appropriate division of the Adjustment Board with a full statement of the facts and all supporting data bearing upon the disputes." The Board's own rules provide for submission by means of a joint statement of facts if possible, and, in the event of an inability to agree, "each party shall show separately the facts as they respectively believe them to be." 29 C.F.R. § 301.5(c); see also §§ 301.5(e), 301.7(b). Instead of complying with these well-defined rules, the Board, following remand by the district court, advised each of the newly notified parties that the hearing it intended to hold was "for the purpose of orally reviewing and arguing the evidence already presented" and that the Board was "not disposed to accept evidence not heretofore presented."

We believe that the Board's subsequent determination, based on evidence submitted in a prior proceeding in which none of the newly notified parties had been represented, was such an egregious failure to comply with the basic requirements of due process as to warrant judicial rejection of the result. See Union Pacific R. Co. v. Price, 360 U.S. 601, 616, 3 L. Ed. 2d 1460, 79 S. Ct. 1351 (1959); Nord v. Griffin, 86 F.2d 481, 484 (7th Cir. 1936), cert. denied, 300 U.S. 673, 57 S. Ct. 612, 81 L. Ed. 879 (1937). Accordingly, if the Board had made an award against the St. Johnsbury Railroad, the Wabash Valley Railroad Company, the Lamoille Valley Railroad Company, or the State of Vermont, we would feel compelled to again remand the matter to the Board for a properly conducted hearing.

However, the Board did not make an award against any of these previously unnotified parties. The award in the second proceeding, as in the first, was against the St. Johnsbury Railway, "the railroad for whom the employees worked at the time the claim was made. . . ." What brings the matter to this Court are the following words with which the Board completed the above quoted description: "as owned at the time by the State of Vermont." Although the district judge opined that "the NRAB appears to have taken pains to render the logic of and holding in its opinion as obscure as possible," he ...


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