721 F.2d 1332 (D.C. Cir. 1983), 82-2468, Railroad Yardmasters of America v. Harris

Docket Nº:82-2468.
Citation:721 F.2d 1332
Party Name:RAILROAD YARDMASTERS OF AMERICA v. Robert O. HARRIS, Chairman, National Mediation Board, et al., Appellants.
Case Date:November 10, 1983
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

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721 F.2d 1332 (D.C. Cir. 1983)



Robert O. HARRIS, Chairman, National Mediation Board, et

al., Appellants.

No. 82-2468.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

November 10, 1983

Argued Sept. 13, 1983.

As Amended Nov. 16, 1983.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (D.C. Civil Action No. 82-2741).

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John C. Hoyle, Atty., Washington, D.C., with whom J. Paul McGrath, Asst. Atty. Gen., Stanley S. Harris, U.S. Atty., Anthony J. Steinmeyer, Atty., Dept. of Justice and Ronald M. Etters, General Counsel, National Mediation Board, Washington, D.C., were on brief, for appellants.

Michael S. Wolly, Washington, D.C., with whom Edward J. Hickey, Jr., Washington, D.C., was on brief, for appellee.

Before WALD and EDWARDS, Circuit Judges, and McGOWAN, Senior Circuit Judge.

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge HARRY T. EDWARDS.

Dissenting opinion filed by Circuit Judge WALD.

HARRY T. EDWARDS, Circuit Judge:

This case presents the issue whether section 4 of the Railway Labor Act 1 permits a single member of the three-person National Mediation Board ("the Board") to act for the Board pursuant to a validly issued delegation order at a time when there are two vacancies on the Board.

The National Mediation Board is responsible for administering provisions of the Railway Labor Act. 2 The Board seeks to maintain labor peace in the railroad and airline industries primarily by mediating contract disputes, resolving representation disputes and administering arrangements for the arbitration of disputes under collective bargaining agreements. On June 1, 1982, the Board had only two members in office. In anticipation of the resignation of one of the members, the Board issued a delegation order authorizing the other member to act for the Board. The first member then resigned. During the subsequent period, when only one member remained in office, a dispute arose between the Railroad Yardmasters of America ("RYA") and the Yardmasters Steering Committee ("YSC") concerning which organization would represent the yardmasters of the Union Pacific Railroad Company. The Board investigated the dispute, conducted an election, considered and denied several protests filed by RYA, and finally certified YSC as the organization designated and authorized to represent the yardmasters. RYA subsequently brought suit in the District Court seeking to have the Board's orders invalidated. The District Court held that the orders had been issued in violation of the Board's quorum requirement and enjoined the Board and the one member then in office from enforcing the orders.

We conclude that the District Court misconstrued applicable law by failing to give effect to the provisions of the Railway Labor Act that authorize an individual member

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to exercise the powers of the Board pursuant to a validly issued delegation order. Accordingly, we reverse.


  1. The Statutory Framework

    The National Mediation Board was established as an independent agency in the executive branch of the Government on June 21, 1934, by an act of Congress amending the Railway Labor Act. 3 Section 4 of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. Sec. 154 (1976), contains the Board's enabling provisions, several of which are at issue in this case. The first subdivision of section 4 deals with the composition of the Board, the effect of vacancies, and the number of members required for a quorum. Specifically, the first subdivision provides in pertinent part that:

    There is established, as an independent agency in the executive branch of the Government, a board to be known as the "National Mediation Board", to be composed of three members appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, not more than two of whom shall be of the same political party.... Vacancies in the Board shall not impair the powers nor affect the duties of the Board nor of the remaining members of the Board. Two of the members in office shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of the business of the Board.

    45 U.S.C. Sec. 154, First (1976). The fourth subdivision of section 4 authorizes the Board to delegate its powers and duties:

    The Mediation Board is authorized by its order to assign, or refer, any portion of its work, business, or functions arising under this chapter or any other Act of Congress, or referred to it by Congress or either branch thereof, to an individual member of the Board or to an employee or employees of the Board to be designated by such order for action thereon, and by its order at any time to amend, modify, supplement, or rescind any such assignment or reference. All such orders shall take effect forthwith and remain in effect until otherwise ordered by the Board. In conformity with and subject to the order or orders of the Mediation Board in the premises, [and] such individual member of the Board or employee designated shall have power and authority to act as to any of said work, business, or functions so assigned or referred to him for action by the Board.

    45 U.S.C. Sec. 154, Fourth (1976) (brackets in original).

    The Board has three major responsibilities. The first is to mediate disputes over rates of pay, rules, or working conditions that arise between rail and air carriers and organizations representing their employees. 4 The second is to investigate representation disputes and certify employee organizations as representatives of crafts or classes of carrier employees. The third is to administer arrangements for the arbitration

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    of disputes concerning the interpretation of collective bargaining agreements.

    The present case arises out of a representation dispute. The key provisions dealing with such disputes are contained in the fourth and ninth subdivisions of section 2 of the Railway Labor Act. Section 2, Fourth of the Railway Labor Act provides in pertinent part that: "Employees shall have the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing. The majority of any craft or class of employees shall have the right to determine who shall be the representative of the craft or class for the purposes of this chapter." 45 U.S.C. Sec. 152, Fourth (1976). Section 2, Ninth of the Act sets forth the duties of the Board to investigate, upon request, any representation dispute among employees and to certify to contesting parties and the carrier the name or names of individuals or organizations who are the authorized and designated bargaining representatives. The Board is expressly authorized to use a secret ballot election procedure or any other appropriate means, such as a check of valid authorization cards, that will assure a free and uncoerced exercise of the employees' right to choose representatives. If the Board chooses to conduct a secret ballot election, the designation of eligible voters and establishment of rules to govern the election are the responsibilities of the Board. Once the determination of the employees' choice of representative, if any, has been made, the Board issues a written certification of the outcome of its investigation. If a bargaining representative is certified by the Board, the carrier is under a legally enforceable obligation to treat with that representative for the purposes of the Act. 5

  2. The Facts

    The facts in this case are not in dispute. From June 1 until October 12, 1982, the National Mediation Board had only one member in office. This condition arose through the following sequence of events. As of August 31, 1981, the Board was fully manned with three members in office: George S. Ives, Robert O. Harris and Robert J. Brown. 6 On September 1, 1981, Member Ives retired. 7 On June 1, 1982, at 10:00 a.m., Members Harris and Brown executed the following Order:

    Pursuant to Section 4, Fourth of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. Sec. 154, Fourth, the undersigned Members of the National Mediation Board hereby do authorize and empower Robert O. Harris, a Member of the National Mediation Board, to exercise without further authorization all official actions whatsoever on behalf of the National Mediation Board under the Railway Labor Act or any other authority. This Order will become effective on June 1st 10:05 A.M. and will expire upon the taking of office of a new Board Member, or upon revocation by Board Member Robert J. Brown. 8

    Later that day Member Brown resigned, leaving Member Harris as the only remaining member. That condition continued until October 12, 1982, when Member Ives' successor finally took office. 9 Throughout

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    the period from June 1 until October 12, 1982, Member Harris acted for the Board pursuant to the delegation order. 10

    During the period when Harris was the lone member, the National Mediation Board resolved a representation dispute that arose between the Railroad Yardmasters of America and the Yardmasters Steering Committee. From 1935 until 1982, RYA had represented persons employed as yardmasters at the Union Pacific Railroad Company. On June 10, 1982, YSC filed an application with the Board for a determination of whether the yardmaster employees of the Union Pacific Railroad Company wished to have YSC replace RYA as the employees' lawful bargaining agent.

    Consistent with normal practice, an agent of the Board was assigned to investigate the RYA/YSC matter. This investigation disclosed a legitimate representation dispute involving the yardmasters. Accordingly, a secret ballot election was held to determine the employees' choice of a bargaining agent. Before the ballots were counted, RYA submitted four letters of protest to the Board. The protests alleged that YSC had failed to comply with the requirements of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959; that YSC lacked the intent and ability to represent the yardmasters of the Union Pacific Railroad...

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