844 F.2d 1218 (6th Cir. 1988), 85-1782, Division No. 1, Detroit, Broth. of Locomotive Engineers v. Consolidated Rail Corp.

Docket NºENGINEERS, Plaintiff- Appellee (85-1782),
Citation844 F.2d 1218
Case DateApril 14, 1988
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Page 1218

844 F.2d 1218 (6th Cir. 1988)


ENGINEERS, Plaintiff- Appellee (85-1782),

Plaintiff-Appellant (86-1016),



(85-1782), Defendant- Appellee (86-1016).

Nos. 85-1782, 86-1016.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

April 14, 1988

Argued May 14, 1987.

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied in No. 86-1016 May 31, 1988.

Page 1219

Harold M. Provizer, Provizer, Eisenberg, Lichtenstein & Pearlman, P.C., Marilyn A. Madorsky (argued), Southfield, Mich., for Div. No. 1, Detroit Broth. of Locomotive Engineers.

Lucy S.L. Amerman (argued), Dennis Alan Arouca, Philadelphia, Pa., Gary E. Murg, Nancy S. Katz, Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz, Detroit, Mich., Cary Alan Metz, Philadelphia, Pa., for Consol. Rail Corp.

Before JONES and RYAN, Circuit Judges, and CELEBREZZE, Senior Circuit Judge.

CELEBREZZE, Senior Circuit Judge.

These consolidated appeals arise from the district court's grant of a status quo injunction against defendant Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), and its subsequent order requiring plaintiff Division No. 1, Detroit, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) to post a $750,000 bond as security for the injunction. Conrail contends on appeal that under the Railway Labor Act (Act), 45 U.S.C. Secs. 151-163 (1982), the district court was without jurisdiction to issue the injunction because the instant case presents a "minor" dispute, and not a "major" dispute as the district court held. In the consolidated appeal, BLE argues that the district court abused its discretion in ordering BLE to post the bond. We hold that the district court erred in finding this dispute to be "major," and therefore, that the status quo injunction was improvidently granted. We further conclude that the court abused its discretion in ordering BLE to post a $750,000 bond. Accordingly, we vacate the injunction and the bond, and remand the case to the district court.


Defendant Conrail, a "carrier" as defined in the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. Sec. 151, First (1982), operates a freight railroad system in fourteen states and the District of Columbia. Under the auspices of the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 (RRRA), 45 U.S.C. Secs. 701-797m (1982), Conrail began its operation in 1976 on rail properties inherited from several railroads, including properties in the Detroit area previously owned by Penn Central Transportation Co. (Penn Central). The Penn Central was similarly the product of the 1968 merger of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central Railroad.

Plaintiff BLE is the authorized "representative," 45 U.S.C. Sec. 151, Sixth (1982), of the locomotive engineers employed by Conrail in the Detroit area. BLE represents both "yard engineers," who work within train terminals, and "road engineers," who operate the trains between terminals.

The instant dispute arose from Conrail's unilateral decision to move the "on-off duty point" for the Detroit-based road engineers in Conrail's "Detroit/Toledo pool." The term Detroit/Toledo pool identifies those locomotive engineers and trainmen who operate Conrail's trains between the two cities. The on-off duty point is where the road engineers must report for work each day. If the road engineers are scheduled to operate a train that is departing from a location other than the on-off duty point, they are then transported, at Conrail's expense, to the point of departure. Similarly, at the end of their work day, Conrail returns the road engineers to the on-off duty point.

The on-off duty point for the Detroit-based road engineers in the Detroit/Toledo pool had been located at Livernois Yard since Conrail established the pool in 1981. On September 20, 1984, however, Conrail notified the pool that effective October 1, the on-off duty point would be changed to North Yard, which is approximately ten miles from Livernois Yard. BLE objected to the change on behalf of the road engineers in the pool, asserting that the on-off duty point had been fixed at Livernois Yard by collective bargaining and that Conrail could not unilaterally alter the existing agreements. Conrail responded that the existing agreements specifically permitted it to change the on-off duty point for the pool, consequently rejecting BLE's requests to negotiate or to submit the dispute for mediation. The change went into effect as scheduled.

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In December, 1984, BLE brought suit against Conrail, moving the district court for a status quo injunction under the Railway Labor Act. After hearing several days of testimony, the district court finally held on August 14, 1985, that Conrail had unilaterally changed a previously negotiated working condition, thus causing a "major" dispute under the Act. The court therefore granted BLE's motion and issued an injunction mandating that Conrail return the on-off duty point to Livernois Yard pending exhaustion of statutory procedures. Conrail appeals the grant of the status quo injunction.

Conrail complied with the injunction, but subsequently moved the court to order BLE to post a bond in excess of $1 million as security for the injunction under Rule 65(c), Fed.R.Civ.P. The district court concluded that requiring security was permissible under the Act and ordered BLE to post a $750,000 bond. BLE timely appealed the bond order.


The validity of the district court's grant of a status quo injunction depends on whether this dispute should be categorized as major or minor under the Railway Labor Act. See Elgin, J. & E. Ry. v. Burley, 325 U.S. 711, 722-28, 65 S.Ct. 1282, 1289-92, 89 L.Ed. 1886 (1945); Brotherhood of Railway Carmen v. Norfolk & W. Ry., 745 F.2d 370, 374-75 (6th Cir.1984); 45 U.S.C. Sec. 151a(4) & (5) (1982). "Major" disputes concern "the formation of collective bargaining agreements or efforts to secure them. They arise where there is no such agreement or where it is sought to change the terms of one, and therefore the issue is not whether an existing agreement controls the controversy." Elgin, 325 U.S. at 723, 65 S.Ct. at 1290. Major disputes thus "present the large issues about which strikes ordinarily arise with the consequent interruptions of traffic the Act sought to avoid." Elgin, 325 U.S. 723-24, 65 S.Ct. 1289-90; see 45 U.S.C. Sec. 151a(1) (1982). To avoid work stoppages that would likely ensue from major disputes, the Act requires the parties to uphold the status quo while the Act's dispute resolution procedures are in operation. See 45 U.S.C. Sec. 156 (1982) ("working conditions shall not be altered" during major disputes); id. Sec. 152, Seventh; Detroit & T.S.L. R.R. v. United Transp. Union, 396 U.S. 142, 149, 90 S.Ct. 294, 298, 24 L.Ed.2d 325 (1969); Brotherhood of R.R. Trainmen v. Jacksonville Terminal Co., 394 U.S. 369, 378, 89 S.Ct. 1109, 1115, 22 L.Ed.2d 344 (1969). It is well settled that "[t]he duty to uphold the status quo may be enforced by obtaining injunctive relief in federal district court," Railway Carmen, 745 F.2d at 375, and that such an injunction will issue without regard for the traditional requisites in equity for obtaining injunctive relief. 1 See Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, Lodge 16 v. Burlington N. R.R., 802 F.2d 1016, 1021 (8th Cir.1986); United Transp. Union v. Penn Central Transp. Co., 505 F.2d 542, 543 (3d Cir.1974); United Transp. Union v. Burlington Northern, Inc., 458 F.2d 354, 357 (8th Cir.1972); Southern Ry. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, 337 F.2d 127, 133-34 (D.C.Cir.1964); cf. Shore Line, 396 U.S. 142, 90 S.Ct. 294, 24 L.Ed.2d 325 (1969) (upholding issuance of status quo injunction under Act during a major dispute without discussing equitable constraints).

"Minor" disputes, on the other hand, presuppose an existing collective bargaining agreement; they are essentially contract grievances, relating "either to the meaning or proper application of a particular provision with reference to a particular situation or omitted case." Elgin, 325 U.S.

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at 724, 65 S.Ct. at 1290; see Railway Carmen, 745 F.2d at 374. Minor disputes "seldom produce strikes, though in exaggerated circumstances they may do so." Elgin, 325 U.S. at 724, 65 S.Ct. at 1290. In view of the less severe nature and consequences of minor disputes, Congress imposed no duty to maintain the status quo, opting instead for resolution of minor disputes through compulsory and binding arbitration. Railway Carmen, 745 F.2d at 375. The district court, therefore, is not free to enjoin unilateral action by a party during a minor dispute, but may do so in only more limited circumstances. 2

Distinguishing between major and minor disputes has proven elusive. The union, in seeking federal court intervention, will undoubtedly argue that the railroad unilaterally changed the collective bargaining agreement, while the railroad will contend that the existing agreement authorized its challenged action. To resolve this inevitable conflict, we adopted the following standard in Railway Carmen:

The test for determining if a dispute involves only the interpretation of an existing agreement, and is therefore minor, or involves a unilateral change in working conditions, and is therefore major, inquires whether the disputed action "can arguably be justified by the existing agreement" or, in other words, whether the construction of the agreement which would sanction the action is "not obviously insubstantial."

745 F.2d at 375 (quoting Local 1477, United Transp. Union v. Baker, 482 F.2d 228, 230 (6th Cir.1973)); see also International Longshoremen's Ass'n, Local 158 v. Toledo Lakefront Dock & Pellet Co., 776 F.2d 1341 (6th Cir.1985). As applied to this case, the dispositive question is whether Conrail's unilateral change of the on-off duty point is "arguably justified" by the existing labor agreements.

The parties direct our...

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