363 U.S. 528 (1960), 165, Locomotive Engineers v. Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad Co.

Docket NºNo. 165
Citation363 U.S. 528, 80 S.Ct. 1326, 4 L.Ed.2d 1379
Party NameLocomotive Engineers v. Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad Co.
Case DateJune 20, 1960
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 528

363 U.S. 528 (1960)

80 S.Ct. 1326, 4 L.Ed.2d 1379

Locomotive Engineers

v.

Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad Co.

No. 165

United States Supreme Court

June 20, 1960

Argued April 20, 1960

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

After changing from short-range steam locomotives to longer-range diesel locomotives, respondent railroads issued general orders doubling the length of their way-freight runs, thereby eliminating the jobs of two of their five-man way-freight crews and changing the home or away-from-home terminals of the remaining crews. After unsuccessfully invoking the services of the National Mediation Board, the unions representing the members of these crews called a strike. The railroads submitted the dispute to the National Railroad Adjustment Board and sued for injunctive relief. The District Court enjoined the strike pending decision by the Adjustment Board, but only on condition that the railroads either (1) restore the pre-existing situation, or (2) pay the employees adversely affected the wages they would have received had the orders not been issued.

Held: in granting an injunction to protect the jurisdiction of the Adjustment Board, the District Court had the equitable power to impose these conditions to protect the employees against a harmful change in working conditions during pendency of the dispute before the Adjustment Board. Pp. 529-535.

266 F.2d 335 reversed.

Page 529

WARREN, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents a question concerning the jurisdiction of a Federal District Court to impose certain conditions upon a strike injunction issued in a railway labor dispute.

The essential facts are not complicated. The respondent Railroads operate a 302-mile branch between Wichita Falls, Texas, and Forgan, Oklahoma. The line was originally operated with steam locomotives capable of only short runs, and this necessitated the stationing of five way-freight crews along the route. After longer-range diesel locomotives were purchased to replace the steam equipment, the Railroads issued general orders which doubled the length of the way-freight runs, thereby eliminating the jobs of two of the five way-freight crews and changing the home or away-from-home terminals of the remaining crews.

The petitioner Brotherhoods, representing the engineers, firemen, conductors and brakemen affected, protested [80 S.Ct. 1328] the issuance of the orders and invoked the services of the National Mediation Board. Nonetheless, the Railroads put the change into effect. After the Board advised the parties that it did not consider the dispute one subject to mediation, the unions called a strike. On the same day, the Railroads filed a complaint for injunctive relief in the Federal District Court and obtained a temporary restraining order. The Railroads then submitted the dispute to the National Railroad Adjustment Board, to National Committees and Disputes Committees established by the collective bargaining agreements, and to the National

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Mediation Board. They amended their complaint in the District Court to allege the various submissions.

After a hearing, the District Court granted the injunction pending decision by the Adjustment Board, but it did so upon certain conditions which are the subject of the controversy before us. These conditions required that the Railroads either (1) restore the situation which existed prior to the General Orders, or (2) pay the employees adversely affected by the orders the wages they would have received had the orders not been issued.

Both sides appealed, the unions from the injunction against the strike and the Railroads from the conditions requiring preservation of the status quo. The Court of Appeals sustained the injunction but vacated the conditions, holding that the District Court had no power to attach them. 266 F.2d 335. In so holding, the Court of Appeals reasoned that imposition of conditions of this character involved a preliminary judgment on the merits of a "minor dispute," the resolution of which is committed by the Railway Labor Act, § 3(i), 48 Stat. 1189, 45 U.S.C. § 153, to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Adjustment Board. The question of a district judge's jurisdiction to impose this type of condition upon an injunction issued to preserve the Adjustment Board's jurisdiction is both recurring and important in the field of labor-management relations. Consequently, we granted certiorari, but limited the grant to this issue.1

Page 531

This Court held in Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Chicago River & Ind. R. Co., 353 U.S. 30, that a Federal District Court may enjoin strikes arising out of "minor disputes" -- generally speaking, disputes relating to construction of a contract2 -- when they have been properly submitted to the National Railroad Adjustment Board. We concluded that such an injunction does not fall within the prohibitions of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., because of the superseding purpose of the Railway Labor Act to establish a system of compulsory arbitration for this type of dispute, a purpose which might be frustrated if strikes could not be enjoined during the [80 S.Ct. 1329] consideration of such a dispute by the Board. This case presents a further question as to nature of the relief which may be granted under the Chicago River rule -- specifically, whether the injunction granted the Railroad may be qualified by conditions imposed by the District Court under traditional equitable considerations.3

If the District Court is free to exercise the typical powers of a court of equity, it has the power to impose conditions requiring maintenance of the status quo. Conditions of this nature traditionally may be made the price

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