Burlington Northern v. Maintenance of Way Employes, 4:00-CV-0441-A.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
Citation143 F.Supp.2d 672
Docket NumberNo. 4:00-CV-0441-A.,4:00-CV-0441-A.
PartiesBURLINGTON NORTHERN AND SANTA FE RAILWAY CO., et al., Plaintiffs, v. BROTHERHOOD OF MAINTENANCE OF WAY EMPLOYES, Defendant.
Decision Date12 April 2001

Rick Glenn Sorenson, McDonald Sanders, Fort Worth, TX, Ralph J Moore, Jr, Donald J Munro, Shea & Gardner, Washington DC, for Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company, plaintiff.

Rick Glenn Sorenson, Fort Worth, TX, Ralph J Moore, Jr, Donald J Munro, Shea & Gardner, Washington, DC, for Consolidated Rail Corporation, plaintiff.

Rick Glenn Sorenson, Fort Worth, TX, Ralph J Moore, Jr, Donald J Munro, Shea & Gardner, Washington, DC, John V Jansonius, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Dallas, TX, for CSX Transportation Inc, plaintiff.

Rick Glenn Sorenson, Fort Worth, TX, Ralph J Moore, Jr, Donald J Munro, Shea & Gardner, Washington, DC, for Kansas City Southern Railway Company, Norfolk Southern Railway Company and Union Pacific Railroad Company plaintiffs.

Sanford R Denison, Baab & Denison, Dallas, TX, Richard S Edelman, O'Donnell Schwartz & Anderson, Washington, DC, for Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, defendant.

Richard S Edelman, O'Donnell Schwartz & Anderson, Washington, DC, for Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, counter-claimant.

Sanford R Denison, Baab & Denison, Dallas, TX, Richard S Edelman, O'Donnell Schwartz & Anderson, Washington, DC, for Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, counter-claimant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER

McBRYDE, District Judge.

Now pending are the motion of plaintiffs, Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company ("BNSF"), Consolidated Rail Corporation ("Conrail"), CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX"), Kansas City Southern Railway Company ("KCS"), Norfolk Southern Railway Company ("INS"), and Union Pacific Railroad Company ("UP"), for summary judgment on their claims for declaratory and injunctive relief, the motion of defendant, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, ("BMWE") for summary judgment, and plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on BMWE's counterclaim. The court, having considered the motions,1 the responses, the record, the summary judgment evidence, and applicable authorities, makes the following determinations.

I. Plaintiffs' Claims

On May 23, 2000, plaintiffs filed their complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief in which they allege that:

Plaintiffs are common carriers by rail under the Interstate Commerce Act and carriers as defined in § 1 First of the Railway Labor Act, 44 Stat. 577, as amended, 45 U.S.C. §§ 151-88 ("RLA"). They are represented by the National Carriers' Conference Committee ("NCCC") for purposes of national collective bargaining agreement issues. BMWE is an unincorporated association and a labor organization as defined in the RLA that is the collective bargaining representative under the RLA of the craft or class of maintenance of way employees employed by plaintiffs.2 BMWE has pursued, and continues to pursue, a policy or practice of striking over minor disputes by characterizing any action of plaintiffs with which it disagrees as a "unilateral change." The union's pattern, policy, or practice of striking constitutes a violation of its statutory obligation to exert every reasonable effort to settle disputes without interruption of railroad transportation as set forth in 45 U.S.C. § 152 First.

Plaintiffs pray for declaratory judgment that (1) BMWE's authorizing, encouraging, permitting, calling, or engaging in strikes, work stoppages, picketing, or other self-help against plaintiffs and their subsidiaries over any disputes involving what BMWE claims are unilateral changes in agreements, without prior notice to plaintiffs, is a violation of § 152 First, and (2) BMWE's pattern, practice or policy of engaging in conduct of that kind is a violation of § 152 First. Plaintiffs seek an injunction requiring BMWE, its divisions, lodges, locals, officers, agents, employees, members, and all persons acting in concert or participation with any of them, to provide at least ten days' notice to plaintiffs prior to engaging in the described conduct during the period prior to exhaustion of the major dispute procedures.

II. BMWE's Answer and Counterclaim

BMWE takes the position that plaintiffs' complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and specifically alleges that the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 47 Stat. 70, 29 U.S.C. §§ 101-15, ("NLGA") prevents the court from granting the relief sought by plaintiffs and that § 152 First does not apply to disputes other than those over the conduct of bargaining. In the alternative, BMWE counterclaims against plaintiffs for a declaration that plaintiffs violate § 152 First by a policy and practice of asserting that disputes must be arbitrated while plaintiffs continue to act in accordance with their contract interpretations that they claim require arbitration, and continue to act in accordance with their contract interpretations even after they have been rejected in arbitration.

III. The Motions for Summary Judgment

Plaintiffs moved January 31, 2001, for summary judgment, contending that the summary judgment record establishes as a matter of law their right to the relief they seek by their complaint. In addition, plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment as to BMWE's counterclaim, asserting, in effect, that there is no summary judgment evidence to support the assertion by BMWE that plaintiffs have violated § 152 First "as a result of their handling of disputes with the BMWE, either pending or following arbitration." Carriers' Mot. for Partial Summ.J. on BMWE's Countercl. at 1-2.

BMWE has moved for summary judgment as to plaintiffs' request for declaratory and injunctive relief, assigning as grounds of its motion that (1) "the Court lacks jurisdiction over [plaintiffs'] complaint since it does not involve an actual case or controversy as required by Article III of the Constitution," (2) "[§ 152] First does not provide a basis for the claims asserted by [plaintiffs]," and (3) "the injunctive relief [plaintiffs] seek is barred by the Norris LaGuardia Act." Def.'s Mot. for Summ.J. or Alternatively for Dismissal Pursuant to 12(B)(1) at 2.

IV. The Legal Context

Before discussing the undisputed summary judgment evidence, the court provides a legal context by discussions of the purpose and scheme of the RLA, and the distinctions between minor and major disputes.

A. The Purpose and Scheme of the Railway Labor Act:

The core dispute resolution duties imposed by the RLA on carriers and their employees are defined at 45 U.S.C. § 152 First and Second as follows:

First. Duty of carriers and employees to settle disputes

It shall be the duty of all carriers, their officers, agents, and employees to exert every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements concerning rates of pay, rules, and working conditions, and to settle all disputes, whether arising out of the application of such agreements or otherwise, in order to avoid any interruption to commerce or to the operation of any carrier growing out of any dispute between the carrier and the employees thereof.

Second. Consideration of disputes by representatives

All disputes between a carrier or carriers and its or their employees shall be considered, and, if possible, decided, with all expedition, in conference between representatives designated and authorized so to confer, respectively, by the carrier or carriers and by the employees thereof interested in the dispute.

Consistent with those provisions is the description of the purpose and scheme of the RLA found in Delaware & Hudson Railway Co. v. United Transportation Union as follows:

The purpose and scheme of the Railway Labor Act is to "provide a machinery to prevent strikes" and the resulting interruptions of interstate commerce. As to minor disputes the Act provides for compulsory arbitration. As to major disputes, ... the Act's machinery operates not to prohibit strikes but to delay them in order to assure ample opportunity for negotiation and mediation.

450 F.2d 603, 607 (D.C.Cir.1971) (footnote omitted).

Two of the questions presented to the Supreme Court in Chicago & North Western Railway Co. v. United Transportation Union were "whether [45 U.S.C. § 152] First imposes a legal obligation on carriers and employees or is a mere exhortation" and "whether the obligation is enforceable by the judiciary." 402 U.S. 570, 574, 91 S.Ct. 1731, 29 L.Ed.2d 187 (1971). After recalling its observation in an earlier case that the heart of the RLA is the duty imposed by § 152 First, the Court said:

[W]e think it plain that § [152] First was intended to be more than a mere statement of policy or exhortation to the parties; rather, it was designed to be a legal obligation, enforceable by whatever appropriate means might be developed on a case-by-case basis.

Id. at 577, 91 S.Ct. 1731. And, the Court added, "[W]e think the conclusion inescapable that Congress intended the enforcement of § [152] First to be overseen by appropriate judicial means...." Id. at 581, 91 S.Ct. 1731. Section 152 Second and the other provisions of the RLA, serve to define congressionally mandated techniques for the accomplishment of the goal of § 152 First.

B. "Major" versus "Minor" Disputes:

A distinction exists between changes in working conditions that are "major" changes and those that are "minor." In Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway Co. v. Burley, the Supreme Court explained the difference between disputes concerning the making of collective agreements ("major disputes") and those over grievances ("minor disputes"), saying:

The first relates to disputes over the formation of collective 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. They look to the acquisition of...

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  • Csx Transp., Inc. v. Brotherhood of Maintenance, No. 01-15410.
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