402 U.S. 570 (1971), 189, Chicago & North Western Railway Co. v. United Transportation Union

Docket Nº:No. 189
Citation:402 U.S. 570, 91 S.Ct. 1731, 29 L.Ed.2d 187
Party Name:Chicago & North Western Railway Co. v. United Transportation Union
Case Date:June 01, 1971
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 570

402 U.S. 570 (1971)

91 S.Ct. 1731, 29 L.Ed.2d 187

Chicago & North Western Railway Co.

v.

United Transportation Union

No. 189

United States Supreme Court

June 1, 1971

Argued January 18, 1971

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioner railroad brought this suit (after formal procedures of the Railway Labor Act had been exhausted) to enjoin a threatened strike by respondent Union, charging that the Union had failed to perform its obligations under § 2 First of the Railway Labor Act "to exert every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements concerning rates of pay, rules, and working conditions." The Union answered that the Norris-LaGuardia Act deprived the District Court of jurisdiction to enjoin the strike, and that, in any event, the complaint failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The District Court, declining to pass on whether either party had violated § 2 First, concluded that the matter was one for administrative determination by the National Mediation Board, and was not justiciable, and that §§ 4 and 7 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act deprived the court of jurisdiction to enjoin the threatened strike. The Court of Appeals affirmed, construing § 2 First as hortatory, and not enforceable by the courts, but only by the National Mediation Board.

Held:

1. Sec. 2 First was intended to be not just a mere exhortation, but an enforceable legal obligation on carriers and employees alike. Pp. 574-578.

2. The obligation imposed by § 2 First, which is central to the effective working of the Railway Labor Act, is enforceable in the courts, rather than by the Mediation Board, as is clear from the Act's legislative history. Pp. 578-581.

3. Sec. 4 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act does not prohibit the use of a strike injunction where that remedy is the only practical, effective means of enforcing the duty imposed by § 2 First. Pp. 581-584.

422 F.2d 979, reversed and remanded.

HARLAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. BRENNAN,

Page 571

J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BLACK, DOUGLAS, and WHITE, JJ., joined, post, p. 584.

HARLAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Chicago and North Western Railway Co., petitioner in this action, brought suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to enjoin a threatened strike by the respondent, the United Transportation Union. The substance of the complaint was that in the negotiations between the parties over work rules, the Union had failed to perform its obligation under § 2 First of the Railway Labor Act, as amended, 44 Stat. 577, 45 U.S.C. § 152 First, "to exert every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements concerning rates of pay, rules, and working conditions."1 Jurisdiction was said to rest on 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and

Page 572

1337. The Union in its answer contended that §§ 4, 7, and 8 of the [91 S.Ct. 1733] Norris-LaGuardia Act, 47 Stat. 70, 71, 72, 29 U.S.C. § § 104, 107, 108,2 deprived the District Court of jurisdiction to issue a strike injunction and that, in any event, the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.3 The District Judge, having heard evidence and argument, declined to pass on whether either party had violated § 2 First. In an unreported opinion, he concluded that the question was a matter for administrative determination by the National Mediation Board and was nonjusticiable; he further ruled that §§ 4 and 7 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act deprived the court of jurisdiction to issue an injunction against the Union's threatened strike. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed, 422 F.2d 979, construing § 2 First as a statement of the purpose and policy of the subsequent provisions of the Act, and not as a specific requirement anticipating judicial enforcement. Rather, in that court's view, the enforcement of § 2 First was solely a matter for the National Mediation Board. Id. at 985-988. We granted certiorari to consider this important question under the Railway Labor

Page 573

Act, on which the lower courts had expressed divergent views.4 For reasons that follow, we reverse.

I

For at least the past decade, the Nation's railroads and the respondent Union or its predecessors have been engaged in an off-and-on struggle over the number of brakemen to be employed on each train. We find it unnecessary to describe this history in any great detail, either generally or with particular reference to petitioner. Accounts at earlier stages may be found in Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co., 372 U.S. 284, 285-288 (1963); Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Enginemen v. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy R. Co., 225 F.Supp. 11, 14-17 (DC), aff'd, 118 U.S.App.D.C. 100, 331 F.2d 1020 (1964); Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Akron Barberton Belt R. Co., 128 U.S.App.D.C. 59, 670, 385 F.2d 581, 588-592 (1967); Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 127 U.S.App.D.C. 298, 383 F.2d 225 (1967); and see the opinion of the court below, 422 F.2d at 980-982, and n. 4. For present purposes, it is sufficient to observe that the parties have exhausted the formal procedures of the Railway Labor Act: notices, conferences, unsuccessful mediation, refusal by the Union to accept the National Mediation Board's proffer of arbitration, termination of mediation, and expiration of the 30-day cooling-off period of § 5 First, 45

Page 574

U.S.C. § 155 First. The Railroad's charge that the Union had violated § 2 First was based principally on its contention that the Union had consistently refused to handle the dispute on a nationwide basis while maintaining an adamant determination that no agreement should be reached with the Chicago & North Western more favorable to the carrier [91 S.Ct. 1734] than agreements which the Union had already reached with other railroads. The complaint also alleged that the Union had refused to bargain on the proposals in the Railroad's counter-notices.

The narrow questions presented to us are whether § 2 First imposes a legal obligation on carriers and employees or is a mere exhortation; whether the obligation is enforceable by the judiciary; and whether the Norris-LaGuardia Act strips the federal courts of jurisdiction to enforce the obligation by a strike injunction. The parties have not requested us to decide whether the allegations of the complaint or the evidence presented at the hearing was sufficient to show a violation of § 2 First, and the lower courts, by their resolution of the threshold questions, did not reach the issue. Accordingly, we intimate no view on this matter.

II

This Court has previously observed that

[t]he heart of the Railway Labor Act is the duty, imposed by § 2 First upon management and labor, "to exert every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements concerning rates of pay, rules, and working conditions, and to settle all disputes . . . in order to avoid any interruption to commerce or to the operation of any carrier growing out of any dispute between the carrier and the employees thereof."

Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Jacksonville Terminal Co., 394 U.S. 369, 377-378 (1969). It is not surprising that such is the case. As one leading commentator has said, in connection with the duty under

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the National Labor Relations Act to bargain in good faith,

[i]t was not enough for the law to compel the parties to meet and treat without passing judgment upon the quality of the negotiations. The bargaining status of a union can be destroyed by going through the motions of negotiating almost as easily as by bluntly withholding recognition.

Cox, The Duty to Bargain in Good Faith, 71 Harv.L.Rev. 1401, 1412-1413 (1958). We recognized this to be true when we said in NLRB v. Insurance Agents' International, 361 U.S. 477, 484 485 (1960), that "the duty of management to bargain in good faith is essentially a corollary of its duty to recognize the union." Virginian R. Co. v. System Federation No. 40, 300 U.S. 515 (1937), furnishes an early illustration of this principle in connection with the duty to "exert every reasonable effort" under the Railway Labor Act. In that case, the railroad refused to recognize a union certified by the National Mediation Board as the duly authorized representative of its shop workers, and instead sought to coerce these employees to join a company union. The employees sought and obtained an injunction requiring the railroad to perform its duty under § 2 Ninth to "treat with" their certified representative; the injunction also compelled the railroad "to exert every reasonable effort" to make and maintain agreements with the union. This Court affirmed that decree, explicitly rejecting the argument that the duty to exert every reasonable effort was only a moral obligation. This conclusion has been repeatedly referred to without criticism in subsequent decisions.5

Page 576

[91 S.Ct. 1735] The conclusion that § 2 First is more than merely hortatory finds support in the legislative history of the Railway Labor Act as well. As this Court has often noted, the Railway Labor Act of 1926 was, and was acknowledged to be, an agreement worked out between management and labor, and ratified by the Congress and the President.6 Accordingly, the statements of the spokesmen for the two parties made in the hearings on the proposed Act are entitled to great weight in the construction of the Act.7

In the House hearings, Donald R. Richberg, counsel for the organized railway employees supporting the bill, was unequivocal on whether § 2 First imposed a legal obligation on the...

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