328 U.S. 275 (1946), 970, Fishgold v. Sullivan Drydock & Repair Corp.

Docket Nº:No. 970
Citation:328 U.S. 275, 66 S.Ct. 1105, 90 L.Ed. 1230
Party Name:Fishgold v. Sullivan Drydock & Repair Corp.
Case Date:May 27, 1946
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 275

328 U.S. 275 (1946)

66 S.Ct. 1105, 90 L.Ed. 1230

Fishgold

v.

Sullivan Drydock & Repair Corp.

No. 970

United States Supreme Court

May 27, 1946

Argued May 6, 1946

CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

Syllabus

After serving in the Army and receiving an honorable discharge, petitioner was reinstated in his former position pursuant to § 8(a) of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. Subsequently, when there was not enough work to keep all employees busy, he was laid off temporarily on nine days while nonveterans with higher shop seniorities were permitted to work, but he was given work when enough became available. He sued for a declaratory judgment as to his rights under the Act, and to obtain compensation for the days that he was laid off. The union intervened and alleged in its answer that the employer's action was in accordance with the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement,

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and was not a violation of the Act. The District Court held that petitioner was laid off in violation of the Act, and gave him a money judgment for the loss of wages. Only the union appealed.

Held:

1. The Circuit Court of Appeals had jurisdiction of the appeal, since the union's answer put in issue the question whether there was a conflict between the collective bargaining agreement and the Act and, if so, which one prevailed. That issue, being adjudicated with the union and the employer as parties, would have been res judicata as to the union had it not appealed. Pp. 281-284.

2. The temporary "lay-off" of petitioner while other employees with higher shop seniorities were permitted to work did not violate § 8 of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. Pp. 284-291.

(a) Sections 8(b) and (c) do not grant a veteran an increase in seniority over what he would have had if he had never entered the armed services. P. 285.

(b) An employee who has been laid off in accordance with a seniority system and put on a waiting list for reassignment has not been "discharged" within the meaning of § 8(c), which forbids the discharge of a reemployed veteran without cause within one year. Pp. 286-287.

(c) Nothing in the legislative history of the Act indicates a purpose to accord a veteran the right to work when, by operation of the seniority system, there is none available for him. P. 289.

(d) The fact that, when Congress amended § 8 of the Act in 1944 and extended the Act in 1945 without any change in § 8, it was apprised of an administrative interpretation by the Director of Selective Service that a veteran was entitled to his job regardless of seniority is not controlling -- especially when the National War Labor Board has given § 8(c) a different construction in handling disputes arising out of the negotiation of collective bargaining agreements. Pp. 289-291.

3. Administrative interpretations of the Act by the Director of Selective Service may be resorted to for guidance, but, not being made in adversary proceedings, they are not entitled to the weight which is accorded administrative interpretations by administrative agencies entrusted with the responsibility of making inter partes decisions. P. 290.

154 F.2d 785, affirmed.

Petitioner sued under 8(e) of the Selective Training and Service Act to obtain a declaratory judgment as to his

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rights under the Act and compensation for the days he was laid off from work. The District Court refused the declaratory judgment, but gave petitioner a money judgment for the loss of wages. 62 F.Supp. 25. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. 154 F.2d 785. This Court granted certiorari. 327 U.S. 775. Affirmed, p. 291.

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner is an employee of the Sullivan Drydock & Repair Corporation. He entered its employ in 1942, and

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worked for it at a shipyard until he was inducted into the Army in 1943. He served in the Army a little over a year, and was honorably discharged and received a certificate to that effect. He had worked for the corporation as a welder, and, after his tour of duty in the Army ended, he was still qualified to perform the duties of a welder. Within forty days of his discharge, he applied to the corporation, as was his right under the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, 54 Stat. 885, 50 U.S.C.Appendix, § 301 et seq., for restoration to his former position,1 He was reemployed as a welder on August [66 S.Ct. 1108] 25, 1944.

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The Corporation and Local 13 of the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America had a collective bargaining agreement which provided:2

Promotions and reclassifications and increases or decreases in the working force shall be based upon length of service and ability to do the job. Wherever, between two or more men, ability is fairly equal, length of service shall be the controlling factor.

As work at the shipyard decreased, men would be laid off. The men selected by the foremen, on the basis of ability and seniority, to be laid off would report to a department head for reassignment on the basis of their relative seniority when work became available. On each of nine days in the spring of 1945, petitioner was laid off although other welders, not veterans of the recent war, possessing the same or similar skill as petitioner, were given work on those days. These men were preferred because they had a higher shop seniority than petitioner. The decision to lay off petitioner followed a decision of an arbitrator who ruled that the seniority provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, which we have quoted, required it, and

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that they were not inconsistent with the provisions of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940.

Thereupon, petitioner brought this suit pursuant to § 8(e) of the Act3 to obtain a declaratory judgment as to his rights under the Act and to obtain compensation for the days he was not allowed to work. The corporation answered, justifying its action by the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement and the decision of the arbitrator. The union was permitted to intervene.4 It alleged in its answer that the action of the corporation was warranted by the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, and was not in violation of the Act. The District Court refused the declaratory judgment requested,

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but entered a money judgment for petitioner for the loss of wages during the nine days in question. 62 F.Supp. 25. It held that petitioner was laid off in violation of the Act. It was also of the view that the collective bargaining agreement was not inconsistent with the Act. Only the union appealed. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, one judge dissenting. 154 F.2d 785. It held that the Act did not give petitioner the preference which he claimed, and that the terms of the collective bargaining agreement justified the corporation's action. The case is here on a petition for a writ of certiorari which we granted because of the importance of the question presented.

I. We are met at the outset with the claim that the union had no appealable interest in the judgment entered by the District Court, and accordingly that the Circuit Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction to entertain it. It is pointed out that a money judgment was entered only against the corporation, and that no relief was granted against the union. It is therefore argued that the judgment did not affect any substantive right of the union, and that, at most, the union had merely an interest in the outcome of litigation which might establish a precedent adverse to it. Boston Tow Boat Co. v. United States, 321 U.S. 632. It is also pointed out that the statutory guarantee against discharge without cause for one year5 had

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expired at the time of the District Court's judgment, that therefore no declaratory relief was granted, and that petitioner's rights for the future were not adjudicated. It is contended that the dispute between petitioner and the union has thus become moot.

But that argument misses the point. The answer of the corporation and the union put in issue the question whether there was a conflict between the collective bargaining agreement and the Act, and, if so, which one prevailed. The parties to the collective bargaining agreement -- the union and the corporation -- were before the court. A decision on the merits of petitioner's [66 S.Ct. 1110] claim necessarily involved a reconciliation between the Act and the collective bargaining agreement, or, if it appeared that they conflicted, an adjudication that one superseded the other. As we have noted, the District Court was of the view that the collective bargaining agreement was not inconsistent with the Act. But, however the result might be rationalized, a decision for or against petitioner necessarily involved a construction of the collective bargaining agreement. That issue was adjudicated, with the union as a party. Hence, if the union had thereafter instituted a separate suit for an interpretation of the agreement, it would...

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