457 U.S. 15 (1982), 81, Jackson Transit Authority v. Local Division 1285,

Docket Nº:No. 81 111
Citation:457 U.S. 15, 102 S.Ct. 2202, 72 L.Ed.2d 639
Party Name:Jackson Transit Authority v. Local Division 1285,
Case Date:June 07, 1982
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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457 U.S. 15 (1982)

102 S.Ct. 2202, 72 L.Ed.2d 639

Jackson Transit Authority

v.

Local Division 1285,

No. 81 111

United States Supreme Court

June 7, 1982

Amalgamated Transit Union, AFL-CIO-CLC

Argued April 21, 1982

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Section 13(c) of the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 requires a state or local government to make arrangements to preserve transit workers' existing collective bargaining rights before that government may receive federal financial assistance for the acquisition of a privately owned transit company. Petitioner city entered into a "§ 13(c) agreement" with respondent transit union in order to obtain federal funds to acquire a failing private bus company and convert it into petitioner Jackson Transit Authority. Thereafter, the Authority's unionized workers were covered by a series of collective bargaining agreements. In 1975, however, the Authority notified the union that it no longer considered itself bound by the newest of the collective bargaining agreements. The union subsequently filed suit in Federal District Court, seeking damages and injunctive relief and alleging that petitioners had breached the § 13(c) and collective bargaining agreements. The District Court held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the complaint rested on contract rights that should be enforced only in a state court. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that there was subject matter jurisdiction because the claim arose under a federal law, specifically § 13(c), and that § 13(c) implicitly provided a federal private right of action.

Held: Section 13(c) does not provide the union with federal causes of action for alleged breaches of the § 13(c) and collective bargaining agreements. While § 13(c)'s language supplies no definitive answer, the legislative history is conclusive that Congress intended that such agreements be governed by state law applied in state courts. Congress designed § 13(c) as a means to accommodate state law to collective bargaining, not as a means to substitute a federal law of collective bargaining for state labor law. Pp. 20-29.

650 F.2d 1379, reversed and remanded.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which O'CONNOR, J., joined, post, p. 29.

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BLACKMUN, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Under § 13(c) of the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 (Act or UMTA), 78 Stat. 307, as amended, 49 U.S.C. § 1609(c),1 a state or local government must make arrangements to preserve transit workers' existing collective bargaining rights before that government may receive federal financial assistance for the acquisition of a privately owned transit company. This case presents the issue whether § 13(c), by itself, permits a union to sue in federal court for alleged violations of an arrangement of this kind or of the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the local government transit authority.

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I

A

When the Act was under consideration in the Congress, that body was aware of the increasingly precarious financial condition of a number of private transportation companies across the country, and it feared that communities might be left without adequate mass transportation. See S.Rep. No. 82, 88th Cong., 1st Sess., 4-5, 19-20 (1963). The Act was designed in part to provide federal aid for local governments in acquiring failing private transit companies so that communities could continue to receive the benefits of mass transportation despite the collapse of the private operations. See §§ 2(b) and 3, as amended, 49 U.S.C. §§ 1601(b) and 1602.

At the same time, however, Congress was aware that public ownership might threaten existing collective bargaining rights of unionized transit workers employed by private companies. If, for example, state law forbade collective bargaining by state and local government employees, the workers might lose their collective bargaining rights when a private company was acquired by a local government. See Urban Mass Transportation -- 1963, Hearings on S. 6 and S. 917 before a Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency, 88th Cong., 1st Sess., 318-323 (1963) (Senate Hearings) (statement of Andrew J. Biemiller, Director, Department. of Legislation, AFL-CIO). To prevent federal funds from being used to destroy the collective bargaining rights of organized workers, Congress included § 13(c) in the Act. See H.R.Rep. No. 204, 88th Cong., 1st Sess., 15-16 (1963).

Section 13(c) requires, as a condition of federal assistance under the Act, that the Secretary of Labor certify that "fair and equitable arrangements" have been made "to protect the interests of employees affected by [the] assistance." The statute lists several protective steps that must be taken before a local government may receive federal aid; among these

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are the preservation of benefits under existing collective bargaining agreements and the continuation of collective bargaining rights. The protective arrangements must be specified in the contract granting federal aid.2

B

In 1966, petitioner city of Jackson, Tenn., applied for federal aid to convert a failing private bus company into a public entity, petitioner Jackson Transit Authority. See App. 12a-16a. In order to satisfy § 13(c), the Authority so created entered into a "§ 13(c) agreement" with respondent Local Division 125, Amalgamated Transit Union, AFL-CIC-CLC, the union that represented the private company's employees. See 29 CFR pt. 215 (1981). Among other things, the § 13(c) agreement guaranteed the preservation of the transit workers' collective bargaining rights. App. 16a-20a. The Secretary of Labor certified that the agreement was "fair and equitable." Its substance was made a part of the grant contract between the city and the United [102 S.Ct. 2205] States, and the city received approximately $279,000 in federal aid.

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Thereafter, until 1975, the Authority's unionized workers were covered by a series of collective bargaining agreements. Six months after a new 3-year collective bargaining agreement was signed in 1975, see id. at 31a, however, the Authority notified the union that it no longer considered itself bound by that contract. See id. at 45a.3

Ultimately, the union filed suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. It sought damages and injunctive relief, alleging that petitioners had breached the § 13(c) agreement and the collective bargaining contract. App. 8a, 10a-11a.4 The District Court concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the suit because the complaint rested on contract rights that should be enforced only in a state court. 447 F.Supp. 88 (1977).

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed. 650 F.2d 1379 (1981). Relying on Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678 (1946), that court first determined that it had subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, because the union's claim arose under the laws of the United States,

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specifically § 13(c). The court then held that § 13(c) implicitly provides a federal private right of action. Section 13(c) reflects national labor policy, the Court of Appeals reasoned, and the rights protected by the statute are thus federal rights. The court concluded that it was consistent with the congressional intent behind § 13(c) to permit enforcement of these federal rights in federal court.

Because of the importance of the interpretation of § 13(c) for local transit labor relations,5 we granted certiorari. 454 U.S. 1079 (1981).

II

While the Court of Appeals treated this as a private right of action case, see, e.g., Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. v. Curran, 456 U.S. 353 (1982), it does not fit comfortably in that mold. Indeed, since § 13(c) contemplates protective arrangements between [102 S.Ct. 2206] grant recipients and unions as well as subsequent collective bargaining agreements between those parties, see H.R.Rep. No. 204, 88th Cong., 1st Sess., 16 (1963), it is reasonable to conclude that Congress expected the § 13(c) agreement and the collective bargaining agreement, like ordinary contracts, to be enforceable

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by private suit upon a breach. See Transamerica Mortgage Advisors, Inc. v. Lewis, 444 U.S. 11, 119 (1979). The gist of the union's position is not that § 13(c) creates an implied right of action to sue for violations of the statute. Instead, the union argues that

[i]t was the intent of Congress that federal law would determine the binding effect of labor protective agreements under § 13(c) and of the collective bargaining agreements reached pursuant to § 13(c) between unions and recipients of UMTA funds

so that those agreements "are enforceable in the federal courts." Brief for Respondent 24.

The issue, then, is not whether Congress intended the union to be able to bring contract actions for breaches of the two contracts, but whether Congress intended such contract actions to set forth federal, rather than state, claims. Admittedly, since the private right of action decisions address the related question whether Congress intended that a particular party be able to bring suit under a federal statute, those decisions may provide assistance in resolving this case. But the precise question before us is whether the union's contract actions are federal causes of action, not whether the union can bring suit at all to enforce its contracts. See Local Div. 72, Amalgamated Transit Union v. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, 667 F.2d 1327, 1329-1334 (CA11 1982).6

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As the union points out, on several occasions, the Court has determined that a plaintiff stated a federal claim when he sued to vindicate contractual rights set forth by federal statutes, despite the fact...

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