394 U.S. 369 (1969), 69, Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Jacksonville Terminal Co.

Docket Nº:No. 69
Citation:394 U.S. 369, 89 S.Ct. 1109, 22 L.Ed.2d 344
Party Name:Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Jacksonville Terminal Co.
Case Date:March 25, 1969
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 369

394 U.S. 369 (1969)

89 S.Ct. 1109, 22 L.Ed.2d 344

Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen


Jacksonville Terminal Co.

No. 69

United States Supreme Court

March 25, 1969

Argued December 11, 1968




Florida East Coast Railway Co. (FEC), having exhausted all the Railway Labor Act's procedures for resolving a "major dispute," unilaterally changed its operating employees' rates of pay, rules, and working conditions, and petitioner unions called a strike and picketed peacefully at locations where FEC operated, including the premises of respondent terminal company. A federal district court enjoined picketing of respondent's premises except at a "reserved gate" set aside for FEC employees. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Norris-LaGuardia Act barred issuance of a federal injunction, and that decision was affirmed by an equal division of this Court (385 U.S. 20). While that litigation was pending, respondent obtained from the Florida courts an injunction almost identical to the earlier federal order. The state trial court found that resumption of general picketing would result in virtual cessation of respondent's activities and cause serious economic damage to the State, and that it constituted an illegal secondary boycott and was unlawful under other state laws.


1. The jurisdiction of the state courts was not preempted by the primary jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board, even though a small percentage of petitioner unions' membership may be subject to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), as this is simply a railway labor dispute to which the NLRA has no direct application. Pp. 375-377.

2. The Railway Labor Act (RLA) supplies a detailed framework to facilitate the voluntary settlement of major disputes, and while it does not specify what occurs when these procedures have been exhausted without success, it does imply the ultimate right of the parties to resort to peaceful self-help. Pp. 377-380.

3. Although the Florida courts may have jurisdiction over this litigation, the application of state law is limited by paramount federal policies of nationwide import, as the RLA's scheme for the resolution of major disputes would become meaningless if the

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States could prohibit the parties from engaging in any self-help. Pp. 380-382.

4. The NLRA cannot be imported completely into the railway labor area, but it can be referred to for assistance in construing the RLA, and here the NLRA's policies can aid in determining whether petitioners' conduct is within the penumbra of that protected under the Act or whether it is outside the pale of permissible activity. Pp. 382-384.

5. Peaceful primary picketing incident to a lawful strike is protected conduct under the NLRA, and since there are no grounds for distinguishing picketing under the RLA, peaceful primary strikes and peaceful picketing incident thereto are within the core of protected self-help under the RLA. Pp. 384-386.

6. While it is difficult to formulate generalizations governing common situs picketing, it is clear that secondary employers are not necessarily protected against picketing aimed directly at their employees, and thus to condemn all of petitioners' picketing which carries any "secondary" implications would be to paint with too broad a brush. Pp. 386-390.

7. Congress has not provided usable standards or access to administrative expertise in this area of railway labor conduct, and the least unsatisfactory judicial solution is to allow those who have unsuccessfully exhausted the RLA's procedures for resolving a major dispute to employ their full range of peaceful economic power, provided it does not conflict with any other obligation imposed by federal law. Therefore, until Congress acts, primary or secondary railway labor picketing must be deemed conduct protected against state proscription. Pp. 390-393.

201 So.2d 253, reversed.

Page 371

HARLAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case arises out of the Nation's longest railroad labor dispute, much of the history of which is recorded in the pages of the United States and federal reports.1 The events most pertinent to the present litigation began on April 24, 1966, when the Florida East Coast Railway Company (FEC), having exhausted all procedures required by the Railway Labor Act2 for the resolution of a "major dispute,"3 unilaterally changed its operating employees' rates of pay, rules, and working conditions. Petitioners, who represent FEC's operating employees, responded by calling a strike and thereafter by picketing the various locations at which FEC carried on its operations, including the premises of the respondent, Jacksonville Terminal Company.4

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On the complaint of respondent and two railroads other than FEC, a United States District Court issued a temporary restraining order several hours after the picketing began, and later enjoined petitioners from picketing respondent's premises except at a "reserved gate" set aside for FEC employees. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 47 Stat. 70, 29 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., prevented issuance of a federal injunction. Railroad Trainmen v. Atlantic C. L. R. Co., 362 F.2d 649 (1966). We affirmed by an equally divided Court. 385 U.S. 20 (1966).

While that litigation was pending in the federal courts, respondent instituted the present action for injunctive relief in the Florida Circuit Court. Petitioners removed the action to the United States District Court, which promptly remanded to the state court. The Florida court issued a temporary injunction, substantially identical to the earlier federal order, which it made final after a full hearing. On appeal, the Florida District Court of Appeal affirmed per curiam. The Supreme Court of Florida denied certiorari and dismissed the appeal. We granted certiorari, 392 U.S. 904 (1968), to determine the extent of state power to regulate the economic combat of parties subject to the Railway Labor Act.


Respondent, a Florida corporation, operates a passenger and freight rail terminal facility in Jacksonville, Florida, through which rail traffic passes to and from the Florida peninsula. The corporation is jointly owned and controlled by four railroad carriers, including FEC, which enjoy the common use of the terminal's facilities and services, and share equally in its operation.5

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FEC carries on substantial daily operations at the terminal, interchanging freight cars with the other railroads; it accounts for approximately 30% of all interchanges on the premises. Respondent provides various services necessary to FEC's operations, including switching, signaling, track maintenance, and repairs on FEC cars and engines. Without the work and cooperation of employees of respondent (and the other railroads) FEC could not carry on its normal activities at the terminal. In short,

despite the legal separateness of the Terminal Company's entity and operation, it cannot be disputed that the facilities and services provided by the Terminal Company, in fact, constitute an integral part of the day-to-day operations of [89 S.Ct. 1113] the FEC. . . .

Railroad Trainmen v. Atlantic C. L. R. Co., 362 F.2d 649, 651 (1966).

Respondent maintains a "reserved gate" for the exclusive use of all FEC employees entering the terminal premises on foot to begin their workday. Notices to this effect are posted, but compliance is not policed: FEC employees use other entrances as well, and other employees use the FEC reserved entrance. The terminal has a number of other foot, road, and rail entrances, through which pass employees of respondent and the railroads using the premises. No entrances are set aside to separate those employees of respondent and the other railroads who provide services for FEC from those who do not; nor, with one or two possible exceptions, do trains making interchanges with FEC pass through different gateways from those which do not. The joint and

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common use of the premises and facilities would, presumably, render such separations impracticable.

On May 4, 1966, petitioners began to picket almost every entrance to the terminal. The signs stated clearly that the dispute was with FEC alone, and urged "fellow railroad men" not to "cross" and not to "assist FEC."6 The picketing was entirely peaceful. It lasted only a few hours, until it was curtailed by a federal temporary restraining order, and thereafter by a series of federal and state injunctions.

The Florida Circuit Court found that resumption of general picketing "would result in a virtual cessation of activities . . . of the Terminal Company," and would cause serious economic damage to the entire State. Joint App. 183. The court held that the picketing constituted a secondary boycott illegal under state law; that it unjustifiably interfered with respondent's business relations; that it violated the State's restraint of trade laws, Fla.Stat. § 542.01 et seq. (1965), and that it sought to force respondent to violate its duties as a carrier under the Florida Transportation Act.7 On

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this basis, the court enjoined petitioners from picketing the terminal except at the FEC reserved gate, and from causing or inducing respondent's employees to cease performing their duties of employment in connection with the FEC dispute.


We consider initially petitioners' argument that the jurisdiction of the Florida court was ousted by the primary and exclusive jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board. Cf. San Diego Unions v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236 (1969).

It is not disputed that petitioners, the respondent and its employees, and the railroads (including FEC) that use the terminal as well as their employees, are subject to the Railway Labor Act. See §§ 1 First,...

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