Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union, AFL-CIO v. Facetglas, Inc.

Decision Date05 May 1988
Docket NumberNo. 87-1697,P,AFL-CI,87-1697
Citation845 F.2d 1250
Parties128 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2252, 109 Lab.Cas. P 10,643 AMALGAMATED CLOTHING & TEXTILE WORKERS UNION,laintiff-Appellant, v. FACETGLAS, INC., Defendant-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

David M. Prouty (Joel Ronald Ax, Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, New York City, Davison M. Douglas, Smith, Patterson, Follin, Curtis, James & Harkavy, Raleigh, N.C., on brief), for plaintiff-appellant.

Robert Valois (Margie T. Case, Maupin, Taylor, Ellis & Adams, P.A., Raleigh, N.C., on brief), for defendant-appellee.

Before ERVIN and WILKINS, Circuit Judges, and BUTZNER, Senior Circuit Judge.

WILKINS, Circuit Judge:

The Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union appeals from the dismissal of its breach of contract action against Facetglas, Inc. for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. We affirm in part, reverse in part and remand for further proceedings.


In May 1985 the Union won a National Labor Relations Board-supervised election at the Facetglas plant in Rock Hill, South Carolina. When Facetglas closed the Rock Hill plant prior to finalizing a collective-bargaining agreement, the Union and Facetglas bargained over the effects of the plant closing. See First Nat'l Maintenance Corp. v. NLRB, 452 U.S. 666, 677-78 n. 15, 101 S.Ct. 2573, 2580 n. 15, 69 L.Ed.2d 318 (1981). In June 1986 they reached an agreement that a private election would be held among the employees at Facetglas' new plant in Chadbourn, North Carolina [election agreement]. 1

The election agreement provided that Facetglas would "be neutral in the election and let any selection be strictly up to its employees," and would hire employees "without regard to whether or not [they] joined the union or [were] in favor of it." Attached to the election agreement was a collective-bargaining agreement regarding wages and benefits which would be implemented in the event the employees selected the Union as their collective-bargaining representative [wage agreement]. One of its terms provided that employees would not be discharged except for just cause.

An election was held on July 31, 1986 and its outcome was contested. The Union contended that it won the election 15 to 13 while Facetglas maintained that it won the election 17 to 15. The dispute centered on the voting eligibility of four truck drivers from the Rock Hill plant. Because Facetglas concluded that the Union lost the election, it refused to implement the wage agreement.

The Union filed a complaint in district court for breach of contract, asserting jurisdiction under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. Sec. 185 (West 1978). The Union pled a claim for breach of the election agreement, alleging that Facetglas: (1) breached the neutrality provision of the election agreement by making anti-union statements to employees prior to the election and by involving outside parties who distributed anti-union literature; (2) breached its promise not to discriminate by discharging two employees because of their support of, membership in, and activities on behalf of the Union; and (3) breached the implementation provision by failing to fulfill the wage agreement. The Union also asserted a claim for breach of the wage agreement, alleging that in addition to discharging the two employees without just cause, Facetglas failed to implement the wage schedule and provide other benefits. It sought an order directing Facetglas to implement the wage agreement and reinstate the two discharged employees, an award of damages to all employees for any losses in wages and benefits, and an award of damages to the Union for the costs incurred in the elections and the bargaining negotiations.

Facetglas moved for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), asserting that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under section 301. The district court dismissed the case, finding: "Although the plaintiff's case is framed as a breach of contract action, the pervasiveness of representation issues deprives this court of jurisdiction." Since the district court based its decision on the complaint alone, our review is limited to determining whether the court's application of the law was correct. Saval v. BL Ltd., 710 F.2d 1027, 1031 n. 4 (4th Cir.1983); Williamson v. Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 413 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 897, 102 S.Ct. 396, 70 L.Ed.2d 212 (1981).

We find that the district court properly dismissed the claims concerning breach of the wage agreement for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Resolution of those claims would require a determination of the primarily representational issue of whether the Union was selected as the collective-bargaining representative of the employees. That issue is within the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board. However, it appears that the claims relating to breach of the election agreement do not involve representational issues and are within the jurisdiction of the district court pursuant to section 301.


Generally, the National Labor Relations Board is vested with jurisdiction over the area of labor management relations. In addition to handling unfair labor practice complaints, 29 U.S.C.A. Sec. 160 (West 1973 & Supp.1987), the Board is responsible for resolving representational issues, including identification of an appropriate collective-bargaining unit and certification of an exclusive bargaining agent, 29 U.S.C.A. Sec. 159 (West 1973). The district court is vested with limited jurisdiction pursuant to section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act which provides in part:

Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce ... may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties.

29 U.S.C.A. Sec. 185(a).

The jurisdictions of the Board and the court are not mutually exclusive and claims may arise within both jurisdictions. For example, where an activity is arguably both an unfair labor practice and a breach of a collective-bargaining contract, the Board's authority "is not exclusive and does not destroy the jurisdiction of the courts in suits under Sec. 301." William E. Arnold Co. v. Carpenters Dist. Council, 417 U.S. 12, 16, 94 S.Ct. 2069, 2072, 40 L.Ed.2d 620 (1974) (quoting Smith v. Evening News Ass'n, 371 U.S. 195, 197, 83 S.Ct. 267, 268, 9 L.Ed.2d 246 (1962)). The Board's jurisdiction is also not exclusive over representational issues arising in a breach of contract case: "[A] suit ... in the federal courts, as provided by Sec. 301(a) ... is proper, even though an alternative remedy before the Board is available." Carey v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 375 U.S. 261, 268, 84 S.Ct. 401, 407, 11 L.Ed.2d 320 (1964). However, this court has held that jurisdiction under section 301 is precluded if the contractual dispute is "primarily representational." United Bhd. of Carpenters, Local Union No. 1694 v. W.T. Galliher & Bros., 787 F.2d 953, 954 (4th Cir.1986).

Representational issues still lie "largely within the discretion of the Board," and it is "incompatible with the orderly function of the process of judicial review" for a court to render initial determinations of representational issues. South Prairie Constr. Co. v. Local No. 627, Int'l Union of Operating Eng'rs, 425 U.S. 800, 805, 96 S.Ct. 1842, 1844, 48 L.Ed.2d 382 (1976) (quoting NLRB v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 380 U.S. 438, 444, 85 S.Ct. 1061, 1064, 13 L.Ed.2d 951 (1965)). Federal courts must give "due observance [to] the distribution of authority made by Congress as between its power to regulate commerce and the reviewing power which it has conferred upon the courts under Article III of the Constitution." Id. 425 U.S. at 806, 96 S.Ct. at 1845 (quoting FCC v. Pottsville Broadcasting Co., 309 U.S. 134, 141, 60 S.Ct. 437, 440, 84 L.Ed. 656 (1940)).


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