667 F.2d 1327 (11th Cir. 1982), 81-7613, Local Div. 732, Amalgamated Transit Union v. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority

Docket Nº:81-7613.
Citation:667 F.2d 1327
Case Date:January 29, 1982
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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667 F.2d 1327 (11th Cir. 1982)




No. 81-7613.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

January 29, 1982

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Kutak, Rock & Huie, Lawrence L. Thompson, Terrence Lee Croft, Atlanta, Ga., for defendant-appellant.

Jacobs, Burns, Sugarman & Orlove, Linda R. Hirshman, Chicago, Ill., Sinclair & Dixon, Clayton Sinclair, Jr., Atlanta, Ga., for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Before GODBOLD, Chief Judge, TJOFLAT and VANCE, Circuit Judges.

TJOFLAT, Circuit Judge:

Local Division 732, Amalgamated Transit Union (the Union) brought this action against the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) seeking to restrain MARTA from terminating cost of living allowances to represented MARTA employees pending arbitration of a new collective bargaining agreement. The district court, 519 F.Supp. 498, entered a preliminary injunction enjoining MARTA from withholding the cost of living allowance at the levels existing on the last day of the recently expired collective bargaining agreement. Because the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over this case, we vacate its order and remand with instructions to dismiss.


The Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 (UMTA) enables state and local agencies to obtain federal assistance to finance mass transportation services in urban areas. 49 U.S.C. § 1602 (1976). Section 13(c) of the Act, 49 U.S.C. § 1609(c) (1976), establishes as a "condition of any assistance ... that fair and equitable arrangements are made, as determined by the Secretary of Labor, to protect the interests of employees affected by such assistance." The section further requires that the labor protective arrangements include such provisions as may be necessary to certain enumerated objectives. Finally, § 13(c) directs that the "terms and conditions of the protective arrangements" shall be specified in the grant contract between the local authority and the federal government. 1 In practice, the protective arrangements made pursuant to § 13(c) are written agreements (13(c) agreements) negotiated between the applicant for federal assistance and the bargaining representative of its employees and then approved by the Secretary of Labor.

MARTA, a public body corporate providing transit service in Atlanta, Georgia, has received UMTA grants for the acquisition, improvement, and operation of its bus and rail transit system. As a grant applicant, MARTA has entered into 13(c) agreements with the Union, which is the collective bargaining representative for a unit of MARTA's employees. The most recent such agreement was executed on February 14, 1977, and, like its predecessors, was determined by the Secretary of Labor to be a fair and equitable protective arrangement.

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Paragraph (20) of the 1977 13(c) agreement provides that:

In case of any labor dispute ... which cannot be settled by collective bargaining within sixty (60) days, such dispute or controversy may be submitted at the written request of either party hereto to a board of arbitration as hereinafter provided.... The decision by majority vote of the arbitration board shall be final, binding and conclusive: all contract conditions shall remain undisturbed, there shall be no lock-outs, strikes, walk-outs or interference with or interruption of MARTA operations during the arbitration proceedings or to upset the award.... Except where arbitration is requested as provided hereinabove, nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to enlarge or limit the right of any party to utilize, upon the expiration of any collective bargaining agreement, any economic measures that are not inconsistent or in conflict with applicable laws.

(Emphasis added.)

Until midnight on June 27, 1981, the Union and MARTA were also parties to a three-year collective bargaining agreement (the labor contract). The labor contract entitled represented employees to receive twelve quarterly Cost of Living Allowances (COLA's) computed with reference to the Consumer Price Index.

On April 23, 1981, MARTA notified the Union that it would terminate the labor contract upon its June 27 expiration and that it desired to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. On June 25, 1981, the Union requested arbitration of the terms and conditions of a new collective bargaining agreement, and the parties proceeded to arbitration. Also on June 25, MARTA informed the Union that since the COLA obligation terminated upon the expiration of the labor contract, MARTA would cease paying COLA's on June 27. Elimination of the COLA would reduce the affected employees' salaries by approximately 25%.

Alleging that cessation of COLA payments would violate the provision of paragraph 20 of the 1977 13(c) agreement that all contract conditions remain undisturbed pending arbitration, and would therefore violate UMTA § 13(c), the Union commenced this action on June 29, 1981, seeking to enjoin MARTA from discontinuing COLA payments pending arbitration of the new collective bargaining agreement. The complaint predicated jurisdiction on the UMTA and on 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (1976).

Following hearings on the Union's motion for a temporary restraining order, the district court treated the motion as a motion for a preliminary injunction and orally enjoined MARTA from withholding COLA payments at June 27, 1981, levels. The court subsequently entered findings of fact and conclusions of law and preliminarily enjoined MARTA "from withholding COLA payments at the levels existing on June 27, 1981, the last day of the (labor contract)."

MARTA raises three points on appeal: (1) that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction; (2) that the Union's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because there is no private federal cause of action to enforce labor protective arrangements under UMTA § 13(c); (3) that the Norris-LaGuardia Act precludes such injunctive relief as the district court granted. We conclude that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over this case. 2 Therefore, without reaching the Norris-LaGuardia issue, we remand with instructions to dismiss.


The jurisdiction of federal courts is, of course, limited; the federal district court may exercise only that jurisdiction which Congress has prescribed. Chicot County Drainage District v. Baxter State Bank, 308 U.S. 371, 376, 60 S.Ct. 317, 319, 84 L.Ed. 329 (1940); Marshall v. Gibson's Products,

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Inc., 584 F.2d 668, 672 (5th Cir. 1978). 3 A corollary to this principle is that Congress may withhold from the federal courts jurisdiction over a class of cases despite the inclusion of that class within the judicial power of the United States defined in article III, § 2 of the Constitution. 4 Sheldon v. Sill, 49 U.S. (8 How.) 441, 448, 12 L.Ed. 1147 (1850); Turner v. Bank of North America, 4 U.S. (4 Dall.) 7, 11, 1 L.Ed. 718 (1799); Marshall, 584 F.2d at 672. We proceed by articulating in turn the theories of action advanced in the Union's complaint and by determining as to each whether Congress has prescribed jurisdiction.

The complaint alleges that MARTA's termination of COLA payments constitutes a breach of the 1977 13(c) agreement. Even though UMTA § 13(c) inspired the 13(c) agreement, the Union does not dispute that a complaint alleging a breach of the agreement, without more, would set forth only a breach of a private contract and would not invoke federal jurisdiction.

The complaint further alleges that breach of a 13(c) agreement violates UMTA § 13(c). The Union argues that by conditioning financial assistance on the execution of fair and equitable arrangements as determined by the Secretary of Labor, and by commanding that the grant contract specify the terms and conditions of such arrangements, Congress implicitly required that grant recipients comply with the labor protective arrangements. From this, the argument proceeds, it follows that there is an implied grant of federal jurisdiction within the UMTA or, at the least, "arising under" jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (1976) over actions to enforce § 13(c).

It is necessary to distinguish between the Union's theory as we have just paraphrased it and an alternative theory, namely, that though Congress did not implicitly declare that to breach a 13(c) agreement is to violate the UMTA, Congress did implicitly declare that a party injured by breach of a 13(c) agreement could seek his contract remedy in federal district court. Under the former theory, the action is for violation of a federal statute prohibiting breaches of 13(c) agreements; under the latter theory, the action is for breach of contract-a claim rendered cognizable in federal court by Congress' implicit grant of jurisdiction.

For the reasons stated below, we conclude that an inquiry into whether Congress implicitly provided that breaches of 13(c) agreements are violations of federal statutory law would be misdirected and fruitless and, for the most part, 5 would not even serve the Union's interest, given our willingness to inquire whether the UMTA implicitly grants to the district courts jurisdiction over private actions for breach of 13(c) agreements. We therefore reject the Union's theory without prolonged analysis and devote our serious consideration to the alternative theory.

First, the Union does not argue, and the legislative history belies, that there is any remedy, implied or otherwise, for the statutory violation the Union alleges. Thus, under the Union's theory, a plaintiff alleging a violation of UMTA § 13(c) via a breach of a 13(c) agreement can seek no remedy other than the common law remedies for breach of the underlying 13(c) agreement....

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