321 U.S. 50 (1944), 28, Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Toledo, Peoria & Western Railroad

Docket Nº:No. 28
Citation:321 U.S. 50, 64 S.Ct. 413, 88 L.Ed. 534
Party Name:Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Toledo, Peoria & Western Railroad
Case Date:January 17, 1944
Court:United States Supreme Court

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321 U.S. 50 (1944)

64 S.Ct. 413, 88 L.Ed. 534

Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen


Toledo, Peoria & Western Railroad

No. 28

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 17, 1944

Argued November 9, 10, 1943




1. A railroad company which refused to submit a labor dispute to arbitration in accordance with provisions of the Railway Labor Act -- although it had sought to settle the dispute by negotiation and by mediation -- has not made "every reasonable effort" to settle the dispute within the meaning of § 8 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, and is thereby barred from injunctive relief in the federal courts. P. 56.

2. Section 8 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act extends to railway labor disputes. P. 58.

3. The requirement of § 8 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act that a complainant must make "every reasonable effort" -- "either by negotiation or with the aid of any available governmental machinery of mediation or voluntary arbitration" -- to settle the labor dispute before he may have injunctive relief in the federal courts is not satisfied by his having resorted to one or two of the three prescribed methods of conciliation. P. 60.

4. That, under § 8 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, a complainant may not have injunctive relief if he has not submitted the labor dispute to arbitration does not make arbitration compulsory. P. 62.

5. Failure to satisfy the requirements of § 8 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act does not leave the complainant without legal protection, but deprives him only of one form of remedy which Congress, exercising its plenary control over the jurisdiction of the federal courts, has seen fit to withhold. P. 63.

6. The Court is not concerned with the wisdom of Acts of Congress. P. 64.

7. Where a complainant has steadfastly refused to submit a labor dispute to arbitration, § 8 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act is not necessarily rendered inapplicable by the fact that some violence is involved. P. 65.

132 F.2d 265 reversed.

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Certiorari, 318 U.S. 755, to review the affirmance of an order granting a temporary injunction in a suit arising out of a labor dispute.

RUTLEDGE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE RUTLEDGE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The important question is whether the District Court properly issued an injunction which restrained respondent's employees, conductors, yardmen, enginemen, and firemen from interfering by violence or threats of violence with its property and interstate railroad operations. The sole issues that concern us are the existence of federal jurisdiction and whether the requirements of the Norris-LaGuardia Act (29 U.S.C. §§ 107, 108, 47 Stat. 71, 72) were satisfied.

The case arises out of a long continued labor dispute relating to working conditions and rates of pay. Negotiations between the parties, beginning in October, 1940, failed. A long course of mediation, with the aid of the National Mediation Board, resulted likewise. Accordingly, on November 7, 1941, the mediator proposed arbitration pursuant to the Railway Labor Act's provisions. 45 U.S.C. § 155, First(b), 48 Stat. 1195. Both parties refused. Thereupon, as the Act requires, the Board terminated its services. Ibid. This occurred November 21, 1941. Under the statute, no change in rates of pay, rules, working conditions, or established practices can be made for thirty days, unless in that time the parties agree to arbitration or an emergency [64 S.Ct. 415] board is created under Section 10. Ibid. Anticipating respondent would put into effect its proposed schedules at the end of the period, the employees voted

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to strike. The time for stopping work was set for December 9 at 11:00 a.m. Respondent knew of the voting on or before December 6, but did not receive formal notice of the strike until about noon of December 8.

With the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, the Mediation Board again intervened, strongly urging both sides to settle the dispute in view of the national emergency. At the Board's request, the employees had postponed the strike indefinitely.1 Further conferences failed to bring agreement, and, on December 17, the Board again urged that the disputants agree to arbitration under the statute. This time, the employees accepted.2 But respondent continued its refusal, though it also continued to urge the appointment of an emergency board. And, while the record does not show that respondent was notified formally of the employees' agreement to arbitrate until December 28, neither does it appear that respondent did not know of this fact before that time.

On December 21, exactly the expiration of the thirty-day period, respondent by letter notified the employees and their representatives that its proposed schedules would become effective at 12:01 a.m., December 29. By letter dated December 27 and received by respondent before noon on December 28, the employees served notice that a strike would take effect December 28 at six o'clock in the evening. By wire which respondent received that day, the Board

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again strongly urged arbitration, pointing out the employees had acceded to the Board's request. Respondent again declined and urged an emergency board be appointed.

The strike took effect at the appointed time. Picket lines were formed. Respondent undertook to continue operations with other employees. It employed "special agents" to protect its trains and property.3 Clashes occurred between them and the working employees, on the one hand, and the striking employees, on the other. Various incidents involving violence or threats of violence took place. Some resulted in personal attacks, others in damage to property and interruption of service. The respondent sought the aid of public authorities, including the sheriffs of counties along its right of way and police authorities in cities and towns which it served. Some assistance was offered, but in some instances the authorities replied they had forces inadequate to supply the aid respondent requested, and in others no reply was given. The parties are at odds concerning the extent of the violence, the need for public protection, and the adequacy of what was supplied or available. But the findings of the District Court are that the violence was substantial and the protection supplied by the public officials was inadequate. These incidents took place through the period extending from December 29, 1941, to January 3, 1942.

On the latter date, respondent filed its complaint, asking for a temporary restraining order and, after hearing, an injunction restraining petitioners from interfering with its operations and property. The restraining order issued ex parte the same day, respondent giving bond as required (29 U.S.C. § 107, 47 Stat. 71, 72) for indemnity against loss occasioned by its improvident or erroneous issuance.

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Hearing on the application for a temporary injunction began January 8 and continued to January 19. Two extensions continued the restraining order in force until the hearing was completed. Petitioners moved to vacate the extensions on January 15 and again at the close of the hearing on January 19, and to dismiss the complaint. These motions were denied, and the [64 S.Ct. 416] court made findings of fact and conclusions of law sustaining respondent's contentions. Thereupon, the temporary injunction issued. In due course, appeal was perfected from the order for its issuance and the previous orders denying petitioners' various motions to vacate the extensions and to dismiss the complaint. The Circuit Court of Appeals, one judge dissenting, affirmed the judgment. 132 F.2d 265. We granted certiorari because of the importance of the issues presented. 318 U.S. 755.4

Three principal issues have been made in the lower courts and here. Stated in the form of petitioners' contentions, they are: (1) the District Court was without jurisdiction, since there is no claim of diversity of citizenship and, it is said, no federal question is involved;5 (2) the

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evidence was not sufficient to show that the public authorities were unwilling or unable to furnish adequate protection for respondent's property;6 and (3) respondent did not make every reasonable effort to settle the dispute as required by the Norris-LaGuardia Act.7 Without passing upon the others, we think the last contention must be sustained.

Section 8 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act (29 U.S.C. § 108, 47 Stat. 72), provides:

No restraining order or injunctive relief shall be granted to any complainant who has failed to comply with any obligation imposed by law which is involved in the labor dispute in question, or who has failed to make every reasonable effort to settle such dispute either by

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negotiation or with the aid of any available governmental machinery of mediation or voluntary arbitration.

The question, broadly stated, is whether respondent made "every reasonable effort" to settle the dispute, as the section requires. On the facts, this narrows to whether its steadfast refusal to agree to [64 S.Ct. 417] arbitration under the Railway Labor Act's provisions made the section operative. We think it did, with the consequence that the federal courts were deprived of the power to afford injunctive relief and respondent was remitted to other forms of legal remedy which remained available.8

Respondent was subject to the Railway Labor Act. Its provisions and machinery for voluntary arbitration were "available." Resort to them would have been a "reasonable effort to settle" the dispute. Clearly arbitration under the Act was a method, both reasonable and available,9 which respondent refused to employ not once, but repeatedly and adamantly. If it had been used, it would have averted the strike, the violence which followed, and the need for an injunction.10

Section 8 demands this method be exhausted before a complainant to whom it is available may have...

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