348 U.S. 437 (1955), 51, Association of Westinghouse Salaried Employees v. Westinghouse Electric Corp.

Docket Nº:No. 51
Citation:348 U.S. 437, 75 S.Ct. 489, 99 L.Ed. 510
Party Name:Association of Westinghouse Salaried Employees v. Westinghouse Electric Corp.
Case Date:March 28, 1955
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 437

348 U.S. 437 (1955)

75 S.Ct. 489, 99 L.Ed. 510

Association of Westinghouse Salaried Employees

v.

Westinghouse Electric Corp.

No. 51

United States Supreme Court

March 28, 1955

Argued November 17-18, 1954

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act and the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act, petitioner, an unincorporated labor organization, brought suit in a federal district court in Pennsylvania against respondent, a Pennsylvania corporation engaged in interstate commerce, to enforce a collective bargaining agreement between them. Petitioner alleged that it was the collective bargaining representative of a group of respondent's employees, and that respondent had violated the agreement by refusing to pay 4,000 of them for work on one day when they were absent. It asked the court to interpret the contract, declare the rights of the parties, compel respondent to make an accounting, and enter judgment for the unpaid wages against respondent and in favor of the individual employees, who were not made parties to the suit.

Held: the federal court did not have jurisdiction of the suit. Pp. 439-465.

210 F.2d 623 affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, in an opinion joined by MR. JUSTICE BURTON and MR. JUSTICE MINTON, concluded that:

1. Neither the text of § 301 nor its legislative history implies the existence or the establishment of a body of general federal substantive law for application in suits under it. Pp. 441-449.

2. In the present suit, there is neither diversity of citizenship nor a "federal question" in the traditional sense. Therefore, a serious constitutional question would arise if § 301 were construed to authorize this suit in a federal court. Pp. 449-452.

3. This constitutional problem may not be avoided by judicial creation of federal substantive law. Pp. 452-459.

4. In view of the constitutional problem and in the absence of any positive indication either on the face of the statute or in its

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legislative history that such suits were contemplated, § 301 will not be construed to grant a federal court jurisdiction over this suit. Pp. 459-461.

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MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN, in a concurring opinion joined by MR. JUSTICE CLARK, concluded that the only question involved is one of statutory interpretation, and that the language of § 301 is not sufficiently explicit, nor its legislative history sufficiently clear, to indicate that Congress intended to authorize a union to enforce in a federal court the uniquely personal right of an employee for whom it had bargained to receive compensation for services rendered his employer. P. 461.

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MR. JUSTICE REED, concurring, concluded that:

1. A cause of action for breach of a contract made under the National Labor Relations Act between a union and an employer is a cause of action arising under federal law, and Congress may constitutionally give a federal court jurisdiction over it. Pp. 461-464.

2. In this case, the claim for wages arises from separate hiring contracts between the employer and each employee, not from the collective bargaining agreement between the employer and the union. Therefore, it does not involve such a violation of a contract between an employer and a union as is required to confer jurisdiction under § 301. Pp. 464-465.

A suit brought by petitioner against respondent under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act was dismissed on the merits by the District Court. 107 F.Supp. 692. The Court of Appeals directed a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. 210 F.2d 623. This Court granted certiorari. 347 U.S. 1010. Affirmed, p. 461.

Page 439

FRANKFURTER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER announced the judgment of the Court and an opinion in which MR. JUSTICE BURTON and MR. JUSTICE MINTON join.

Respondent is a Pennsylvania corporation engaged in the manufacture and sale of electrical equipment in interstate commerce. Petitioner, an unincorporated labor organization and the collective bargaining representative of some 5,000 salaried employees at two of respondent's plants, filed this suit against respondent in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to enforce collective bargaining agreements then in effect between it and respondent. The suit was brought under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 61 Stat. 156, 29 U.S.C. § 185, and the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act, 62 Stat. 964, as amended, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, 2202.

More specifically, petitioner alleged that, under the contracts, respondent was obligated to pay the employees represented by petitioner their full salary during April, 1951, regardless of whether they missed a day's work, unless the absence was due to "furlough" or "leave of absence," and that respondent had violated [75 S.Ct. 490] the contracts by deducting from the pay of some 4,000 of those employees their wages for April 3, when they were absent. No reason who given for their absence, but it was alleged that the reason was not furlough or leave of absence. The employees were not named, and were not made parties to the suit. Petitioner requested the court to interpret the contracts, declare the rights of the parties, compel respondent to make an accounting (and name the employees involved and the amounts of unpaid salaries), and enter a judgment against respondent and in favor of the individual employees for the unpaid wages.

Respondent moved to dismiss the complaint on three grounds: the court lacked jurisdiction over the subject matter, petitioner was the wrong party plaintiff under

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Fed.Rules Civ.Proc. 17(a), and the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The district court held that it had jurisdiction over the subject matter and that petitioner was a proper plaintiff, but dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim for relief, without prejudice to petitioner's right to amend. It held that, without affirmative averments as to the cause of the absences from work, it must be assumed the absences were voluntary, and that the bargaining contracts did not obligate respondent to pay wages during voluntary absences. 107 F.Supp. 692.

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, sitting en banc, three judges dissenting, vacated the district court's order dismissing the complaint on the merits and directed a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. After stating that § 301 "is a grant of federal question jurisdiction, and thus creates a federal, substantive right" and reviewing various theories explaining the relationship between union, employer, and employees under a collective bargaining agreement, the court adopted an "eclectic theory," based primarily upon language in J.I. Case Co. v. Labor Board, 321 U.S. 332. The bargaining contract, said the Court, obligates the employer to include in the contracts of hire with each employee the terms and conditions which had been settled between the union and the employer, but the collective contract itself is not a contract of hire. Not until an employee enters into an individual contract of hire and performs services does the employer become bound to pay the particular employee the specified wages. It follows, said the Court, that, if there was a breach in this case, it was a breach of the employment contracts with the individual employees who were not paid. Section 301, on the other hand, grants jurisdiction to federal courts only over cases involving breaches of the collective bargaining contract between the union and the employer. Therefore,

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it was concluded, the district court was without jurisdiction of the suit. 210 F.2d 623.

The dissenting judges agreed that a failure to pay wages might well constitute a breach of the individual hiring contracts as a basis of common law suits by the employees. But they deemed the breach, if any, also a breach of the collective bargaining contracts, and, as such, cognizable in the federal court under § 301. They concluded that Rule 17(a) permitted the union to sue alone, without joinder of the employees, to vindicate the rights of these employees as a class, such employees being beneficiaries of the collective contracts. They agreed with the district court, however, that, on this complaint, the bargaining contracts did not make respondent liable, since the cause of the absences from work was not alleged. 210 F.2d at 630.

The case was brought here for construction of a section of the Taft-Hartley Act which has proved a fertile source of difficulty for the lower courts. 347 U.S. 1010.

1. In dealing with an enactment such as § 301 of the Labor Management Relations [75 S.Ct. 491] Act,1 it is necessary first

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to ascertain its jurisdictional scope, more particularly, whether it extends to the suit at hand. Here, as may not infrequently be the case, this question turns in large measure on what sources a federal court would be required to draw upon in determining the underlying substantive rights of the parties -- in this case, in deciding whether the union has the contract right which it asserts. If Congress has itself defined the law or authorized the federal courts to fashion the judicial rules governing this question, it would be self-defeating to limit the scope of the power of the federal courts to less than is necessary to accomplish this congressional aim. If, on the other hand, Congress merely furnished a federal forum for enforcing the body of contract law which the States provide, a serious constitutional problem would lie at the threshold of jurisdiction. Moreover, if the function of § 301 is merely that of providing a federal forum for state law, there are good reasons...

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