Bhd. of Loco. Eng'rs v. Springfield Terminal Ry.

Decision Date08 October 1999
Docket NumberNo. 99-1328,99-1328
Citation210 F.3d 18
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

[Copyrighted Material Omitted] Thad B. Zmistowski, with whom Glen L. Porter and Eaton, Peabody, Bradford & Veague, P.A., were on brief for appellants.

Clinton J. Miller, III, General Counsel, for appellee United Transportation Union.

Harold A. Ross, with whom Ross & Kraushaar Co., L.P.A., was on brief for appellee Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.

Before Stahl, Circuit Judge Cyr, Senior Circuit Judge, and Lipez, Circuit Judge.

Lipez, Circuit Judge.

This case requires us to decide whether the district court properly issued a Railway Labor Act ("RLA") injunction barring a wood products company controlled by owners of a railroad from doing switching work historically performed by the railroad's unions. See 45 U.S.C. § 151 and seq. The district court issued the injunction after finding that the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and United Transportation Union (the "Unions") were engaged in a "major" dispute with Springfield Terminal Railway Company ("Springfield") and that Springfield was using Aroostook and Bangor Resources, Inc. ("ABR") to violate its collective bargaining agreement. Springfield and ABR (the "appellants") argue that ABR, although owned and controlled by Springfield's owners, is an independent wood products company not subject to the RLA and therefore not subject to the district court's order that it stop performing switching for Springfield customers while RLA mediation procedures are underway. We reject the contention that ABR is not subject to the injunctive provisions of the RLA, and we affirm both the district court's finding that there was a "major" dispute between Springfield and its Unions and the district court's injunction against ABR.

A. The Labor Dispute

We begin by sketching the facts of this labor dispute, reserving for later a more detailed discussion of the district court's findings. In doing so, "[w]e recite the facts in the light most favorable to the district court's findings of fact." Servicos Comerciales Andinos v. General Electric Del Caribe, Inc., 145 F.3d 463, 466 (1st Cir. 1998).

In 1995 the Unions and Springfield negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that governs the rates of pay, rules, and working conditions for Springfield locomotive engineers, conductors, and trainmen. The agreement specifically provides that union employees "shall perform any and all services under the direct control of the Carrier required for the make up of trains and/or the movement of cars and trains over and through the Carrier's trackage and in its business of servicing industrial sidings."

One such "business of servicing industrial sidings" is switching, a service that rail carriers often provide for their customers on the customers' properties. Springfield employees who are union members have historically provided this service to many of Springfield's line-haul railway customers. Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, the union members performing these switching services have been paid and treated identically to engineers, conductors, and trainmen involved in other aspects of Springfield's railway business.

In 1996 Springfield proposed that the union members engaged in switching accept a twenty-six percent pay cut and less favorable working conditions. Although the Unions' leaders initially resisted, they eventually agreed to submit a proposed pay cut to their respective memberships. The memberships of both Unions rejected the changes in August 1996, opting instead to maintain the more favorable terms of the collective bargaining agreement. Despite the vote, Springfield persisted in seeking a pay cut for switching work.

Unable to persuade the Unions to accept lower pay for switching, Springfield took a series of steps in the spring of 1998 that resulted in ABR performing switching that had previously been done by Springfield's unions. ABR is a non-unionized company located along Springfield's railway lines engaged primarily in the manufacture of clothes pins and other wood products. Springfield executed an agreement with ABR in April 1998 giving ABR joint use of some railway tracks, and Springfield personnel trained two non-union ABR employees to use a leased track-mobile to perform the switching at the ABR wood products mill previously done by Springfield's union employees. While joint use agreements of this type are fairly common in the railway industry, Springfield's next move was unusual. Shortly after executing the joint use agreement, Springfield suggested to ABR that it truck its switching equipment from place to place so that it could perform switching work for various Springfield railway customers that had previously used Springfield (and the Unions) for switching. ABR agreed and by May of 1998 it was providing switching services for Springfield customers Lincoln Pulp & Paper ("Lincoln") and Passadumkeag Stud Mill, owned by Champion International, Inc. ("Champion"). ABR also investigated performing switching work for other Springfield customers.

Although nominally an independent corporation, ABR is not unrelated to Springfield. Springfield is a wholly owned subsidiary of Guilford Transportation Industries, Inc. ("Guilford"), a holding company that owns several railroads in New England.1 Guilford, in turn, was closely held (at the time of the dispute) by four individuals who also served as its directors: David Andrew Fink, David Armstrong Fink, Richard Kelso and Timothy Mellon. Both of the Finks and Mellon were also the sole owners of ABR. The three companies shared the same four directors at the time the dispute arose: all three ABR owners plus Richard Kelso. While David Andrew Fink served as President of Springfield, his son, David Armstrong Fink, served as President of ABR (as well as a Director of Guilford and, later, as an Executive Vice-President at Springfield). It was David Armstrong Fink who met with a Springfield vice-president involved in the failed labor negotiations about the possibility of ABR performing the switching work previously done by the Unions.

B. The Railway Labor Act

The Unions filed suit under the RLA, arguing that Springfield was using ABR to violate the terms of its collective bargaining agreement. Under the RLA, a district court has no jurisdiction to rule on the merits of a labor dispute. Rather, the court may only decide what type of statutorily mandated dispute resolution procedure is appropriate, depending on the category of the dispute. See Elgin, Joilet & E. Ry. v. Burley, 325 U.S. 711, 722-23 (1945). Minor disputes under the RLA are those in which the carrier's challenged policies are at least arguably permitted under the existing collective bargaining agreement.2 If the dispute is "minor," the district court dismisses the case in favor of binding arbitration. Major disputes, on the other hand, relate to carrier attempts to modify rates of pay, rules or working conditions in a fashion not even arguably covered by the collective bargaining agreement.3 See Brotherhood of Locomotive Eng'rs v. Boston & Maine Corp., 788 F.2d 794, 797 (1st Cir. 1986); Maine Central R.R., Co. v. United Transp. Union, 787 F.2d 780, 782 (1st Cir. 1986). If the dispute is "major," the Act provides for extensive, non-binding mediation procedures.4 In major disputes- unlike minor disputes- the RLA bars the carrier from implementing the contested change until the mediation efforts are exhausted. See Detroit and Toledo Shore Line R.R. Co. v. United Transp. Union, 396 U.S. 142, 150-53 (1969). To invest these status quo requirements with judicial authority, the district court is permitted to issue an injunction ordering the parties to maintain the pre-dispute status quo while the mediation procedures take place. See Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Railway Labor Executives' Ass'n, 491 U.S. 299, 303 (1989) ("The district courts have subject-matter jurisdiction to enjoin a violation of the status quo pending completion of the required procedures....").

C. The District Court Proceedings

The Unions argued to the district court that the arrangement between Springfield and ABR created a major dispute because Springfield was seeking to modify the collective bargaining agreement's rules on pay and working conditions for those engaged in switching. The Unions claimed that Springfield was using ABR to implement this contested change before RLA mediation procedures were exhausted, thereby violating the RLA's requirement that the carrier and union maintain the pre-dispute status quo. The appellants objected, arguing, inter alia, that Springfield had not done anything to alter the collective bargaining agreement and that ABR was acting independently in performing switching work for Springfield customers.

On the basis of a stipulated record, the district court ruled that the dispute was major under the RLA. In so concluding, the court found that Springfield was attempting to evade the collective bargaining agreement by "allow[ing] a corporate relative not bound by the collective bargaining agreement to perform work covered by the collective bargaining agreement." The court also rejected the appellants' other defenses: their assertion that the arrangement with ABR did not alter the pay or working conditions of the Unions and their assertion that the arrangement was covered by "implied terms" in the collective bargaining agreement. The court then enjoined ABR from performing industrial switching for Lincoln, Champion and any companies for which Springfield currently provided switching services, pending the outcome of the RLA mediation procedures. ABR and Springfield appeal.5



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