Bulk Carriers, Inc v. Arguelles, No. 29

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtDOUGLAS
Citation91 S.Ct. 409,400 U.S. 351,27 L.Ed.2d 456
Decision Date13 January 1971
Docket NumberNo. 29
PartiesU.S. BULK CARRIERS, INC. v. Dominic B. ARGUELLES

400 U.S. 351
91 S.Ct. 409
27 L.Ed.2d 456
U.S. BULK CARRIERS, INC.

v.

Dominic B. ARGUELLES.

No. 29.
Argued Nov. 12, 1970.
Decided Jan. 13, 1971.

Syllabus

The enactment of 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, which provides for the enforcement of grievance and arbitration provisions of collective-bargaining agreements in industries affecting commerce, did not abrogate, but merely added an optional remedy to, the remedy of 46 U.S.C. § 596, which permits seamen to sue for wages in federal court. 408 F.2d 1065, affirmed.

George W. Sullivan, New York City, for petitioner.

I. Duke Avnet, Baltimore, Md., for respondent.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a suit for seaman's wages accruing from services rendered in foreign commerce. Federal jurisdiction was claimed under 28 U.S.C. § 1333 which grants exclusive jurisdiction to the district courts in any 'admiralty or maritime' case. A collective-bargaining agreement contained provisions concerning wages payable when seamen were dismissed or when their employment was terminated; and it provided a grievance procedure and for arbitration of disputed claims. Those procedures were not pursued by the seaman. He sued in the federal court instead.

Page 352

The District Court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment, ruling that the principles we announced in a series of decisions starting with Textile Workers Union of America v. Lincoln Mills of Alabama, 353 U.S. 448, 77 S.Ct. 912, 1 L.Ed.2d 972, and extending to Republic Steel Corp. v. Maddox, 379 U.S. 650, 85 S.Ct. 614, 13 L.Ed.2d 580, governed this maritime case and that the federal court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate the maritime claim but only to enforce the grievance procedure or an arbitration award that might be given. The Court of Appeals reversed by a divided vote, 408 F.2d 1065, and we granted certiorari, 398 U.S. 957, 90 S.Ct. 2163, 26 L.Ed.2d 541.

The Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, 61 Stat. 136, provides a federal remedy to enforce grievance and arbitration provisions of collective-bargaining agreements in an industry 'affecting commerce,' § 301(a), 29 U.S.C. § 185(a); and it is clear that 'commerce' includes foreign commerce. 29 U.S.C. § 152(6). It is also clear that this employee's basic wage and the overtime rate of pay were fixed or determinable by the collective-bargaining agreement. And it is generally true, as stated in Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 184, 87 S.Ct. 903, 914, 17 L.Ed.2d 842, that when the employee's claim 'is based upon breach of the collective bargaining agreement, he is bound by terms of that agreement which govern the manner in which contractual rights may be enforced.'

The question here is not the continuing validity of Lincoln Mills and its progeny. The question is a distinctly different one, and that is whether the earlier, express, and alternative method of collecting seamen's wages contained in 46 U.S.C. § 596 has been displaced by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act or whether so far as seamen and their wages are concerned § 301 is only an optional method of resolving the controversy.

Page 353

Title 46 U.S.C. § 596, which derives from the Act of July 20, 1790, § 6, 1 Stat. 133, provides in relevant part:

'The master or owner of any vessel making coasting voyages shall pay to every seaman his wages within two days after the termination of the agreement under which he was shipped, or at the time such seaman is discharged, whichever first happens; and in case of vessels making foreign voyages, or from a port on the Atlantic to a port on the Pacific, or vice versa, within twenty-four hours after the cargo has been discharged, or within four days after the seaman has been discharged, whichever first happens; and in all cases the seaman shall be entitled to be paid at the time of his discharge on account of wages a sum equal to one-third part of the balance due him. Every master or owner who refuses or neglects to make payment in the manner hereinbefore mentioned without sufficient cause shall pay to the seaman a sum equal to two days' pay for each and every day during which payment is delayed beyond the respective periods, which sum shall be recoverable as wages in any claim made before the court* * *.' (Italics added.)

Moreover, 46 U.S.C. § 597, which also derives from the 1790 Act, provides:

'Every seaman on a vessel of the United States shall be entitled to receive on demand from the master of the vessel to which he belongs one-half part of the balance of his wages earned and remaining unpaid at the time when such demand is made at every port where such vessel, after the voyage has been commenced, shall load or deliver cargo before the voyage is ended, and all stipulations in the contract to the contrary shall be void:

Page 354

Provided, Such a demand shall not be made before the expiration of, nor oftener than once in five days nor more than once in the same harbor on the same entry. * * *'

The statutory remedy speaks in terms of the amount of wages due and owing and the penalties for nonpayment, and it specifies the timetable within which the payments must be made. Section 596 speaks of a penalty for nonpayment recoverable 'as wages in any claim made before the court.' This implies a right to make the claim to the court and not a duty to make it before a grievance committee or before an arbiter. Hence § 596 does not wholly jibe with § 301. We often must legislate interstitially1 to iron out inconsistencies within a statute or to fill gaps resulting from legislative oversight or to resolve ambiguities resulting from a legislative compromise. It is earnestly urged that the grievance procedure established in the collective-bargaining agreement can give effect to these payments and penalty provisions and that the agreement is therefore not in

Page 355

derogation of the ancient statutory remedy which Congress has provided.

Seamen from the start were wards of admiralty. See Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U.S. 275, 287, 17 S.Ct. 326, 331, 41 L.Ed. 715. In 1872 it was provided that the federal courts might appoint shipping commissioners 'to superintend the shipping and discharge of seamen' in our merchant fleet. Cong.Globe, 42d Cong., 2d Sess., 1836.2 Commissioners indeed served, 46 U.S.C. § 541 (1940 ed.), as an administrative adjunct of the federal courts until July 16, 1946, when § 104 of Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1946 abolished them. 60 Stat. 1098. No other administrative agency was substituted. The federal courts remained as the guardians of seamen, the agencies chosen by Congress, to enforce their rights—a guardian concept which, so far as wage claims are concerned, is not much different from what it was in the 18th century.

We reviewed the legislative history of § 301 in Textile Workers Union of America v. Lincoln Mills of Alabama, 353 U.S., at 451—456, 77 S.Ct. at 915—917, 1 L.Ed.2d 972. The matter of foremost concern in Congress was the enforceability of collective-bargaining agreements. The essence of § 301 was a new federal policy governed by federal law—'that federal courts should enforce these agreements on behalf of or against labor organizations and that industrial peace can be best obtained only in that way.' Id., at 455, 77 S.Ct., at 917, 1 L.Ed.2d 972. Enforcement by or against labor unions was the main burden of § 301, though standing by individual employees to secure declarations of their legal rights under the collective agreement was recognized. Id., at 456, 77 S.Ct., at 917, 1 L.Ed.2d 972. Since the emphasis was on suits by unions and against unions, little attention was given to the assertion

Page 356

of claims by individual employees and none whatsoever concerning the impact of § 301 on the special protective procedures governing the collection of wages of maritime workers. We can find no suggestion in the legislative history of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 that grievance procedures and arbitration were to take the place of the old shipping commissioners or to assume part or all of the roles served by the federal courts protective of the rights of seamen since 1790.

It is earnestly urged that the literalness of the old statute should give way to the progressive philosophy of the new procedures.

It is said that arbitration would be most appropriate because 'a familiarity with the customs and practices of shipping would be distinctly helpful in assessing the validity of the claims,' and the 'underlying wage claims (are) based on factual disputes.' Resolving factual disputes is hardly uncommon in federal district courts. And while an arbitrator in the area may have expertise, for 180 years federal courts have been protecting the rights of seamen and are not without knowledge in the area.

It is also said that the informal, readily available grievance and arbitration procedures might defeat any overreaching and delay by the employer which § 596 was designed to reach. We do not hold that § 596 is the exclusive remedy of the seaman. He may, if he chooses, use the processes of grievance and arbitration. Yet, unlike Congress, we are not in a position to say that his interests usually will be best served through § 301 rather than through § 596.

The literal conflict between this ancient seaman's statute and the relatively new grievance procedure is one which we think Congress rather than this Court should resolve. We do not sit as a legislative committee of revision. We know that this employee has a justiciable

Page 357

claim. We know it is the kind of claim that is grist for the judicial mill. We know that in § 596 Congress allowed it to be recoverable when made to a court. We know that this District Court has the case properly before it under the head of maritime jurisdiction. We hesitate to route this claimant through the relatively new administrative remedy of the collective agreement and shut the courthouse door on him when Congress,...

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121 practice notes
  • Wren v. Sletten Const. Co., No. 77-2092
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • February 5, 1981
    ...v. Anchor Motor Freight, Inc., 424 U.S. 554, 563, 96 S.Ct. 1048, 1055, 47 L.Ed.2d 231 (1976); U. S. Bulk Carriers, Inc. v. Arguelles, 400 U.S. 351, 357, 91 S.Ct. 409, 412, 27 L.Ed.2d 456 (1971); Glover v. St. Louis-San Francisco Ry. Co., 393 U.S. 324, 329, 89 S.Ct. 548, 551, 21 L.Ed.2d 519 ......
  • Puamier v. BARGE BT 1793, Civ. A. No. 12-73-N
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • November 20, 1974
    ...to be due and owing no penalty will be imposed. See Arguelles v. U. S. Bulk Carriers, Inc., 408 F.2d 1065 (4th Cir. 1969), aff'd. 400 U.S. 351, 91 S.Ct. 409, 27 L.Ed.2d 456 (1971). It is not required that the "sufficient cause" actually be a valid legal defense. Bender v. Waterman S. S. Cor......
  • Mateo v. M/S KISO, No. C-90-2357 DLJ.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • November 19, 1991
    ...his statutory right to resolve wage claims under the applicable statutory rules in federal court. U.S. Bulk Carriers, Inc. v. Arguelles, 400 U.S. 351, 357-58, 91 S.Ct. 409, 412-13, 27 L.Ed.2d 456 (1971); 46 U.S.C. § 10313 (regulating seamens' wages). In enunciating this rule, the Supreme Co......
  • Baker v. Raymond Intern., Inc., No. 80-3019
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • September 14, 1981
    ...jurisdiction. As a matter of policy, we treat seamen protectively, as "wards of admiralty." U. S. Bulk Carriers, Inc. v. Arquelles, 400 U.S. 351, 355, 91 S.Ct. 409, 411, 27 L.Ed.2d 456, 461 (1971); Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U.S. 275, 287, 17 S.Ct. 326, 331, 41 L.Ed. 715, 719 (1897). In Spin......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
121 cases
  • Wren v. Sletten Const. Co., No. 77-2092
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • February 5, 1981
    ...v. Anchor Motor Freight, Inc., 424 U.S. 554, 563, 96 S.Ct. 1048, 1055, 47 L.Ed.2d 231 (1976); U. S. Bulk Carriers, Inc. v. Arguelles, 400 U.S. 351, 357, 91 S.Ct. 409, 412, 27 L.Ed.2d 456 (1971); Glover v. St. Louis-San Francisco Ry. Co., 393 U.S. 324, 329, 89 S.Ct. 548, 551, 21 L.Ed.2d 519 ......
  • Puamier v. BARGE BT 1793, Civ. A. No. 12-73-N
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • November 20, 1974
    ...to be due and owing no penalty will be imposed. See Arguelles v. U. S. Bulk Carriers, Inc., 408 F.2d 1065 (4th Cir. 1969), aff'd. 400 U.S. 351, 91 S.Ct. 409, 27 L.Ed.2d 456 (1971). It is not required that the "sufficient cause" actually be a valid legal defense. Bender v. Waterman......
  • Mateo v. M/S KISO, No. C-90-2357 DLJ.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • November 19, 1991
    ...his statutory right to resolve wage claims under the applicable statutory rules in federal court. U.S. Bulk Carriers, Inc. v. Arguelles, 400 U.S. 351, 357-58, 91 S.Ct. 409, 412-13, 27 L.Ed.2d 456 (1971); 46 U.S.C. § 10313 (regulating seamens' wages). In enunciating this rule, the Supreme Co......
  • Baker v. Raymond Intern., Inc., No. 80-3019
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • September 14, 1981
    ...As a matter of policy, we treat seamen protectively, as "wards of admiralty." U. S. Bulk Carriers, Inc. v. Arquelles, 400 U.S. 351, 355, 91 S.Ct. 409, 411, 27 L.Ed.2d 456, 461 (1971); Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U.S. 275, 287, 17 S.Ct. 326, 331, 41 L.Ed. 715, 719 (1897). In Spinks v......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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