CSX Transp., Inc. v. United Transp. Union, 1554

Decision Date07 June 1989
Docket NumberD,No. 1554,1554
Citation879 F.2d 990
Parties131 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2681, 112 Lab.Cas. P 11,331 CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Plaintiff-Appellee, v. UNITED TRANSPORTATION UNION, et al., Defendants-Appellants. ocket 88-7461.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit

John O'B. Clarke, Jr., Washington, D.C. (Highsaw & Mahoney, P.C., Washington, D.C., John F. Collins, Collins, Collins & DiNardo, Buffalo, N.Y., of counsel), for defendants-appellants.

Ronald M. Johnson, Washington, D.C. (Brett A. Perlman, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, Washington, D.C., Courtland R. Levalee, Moot & Sprague, Buffalo, N.Y., T.L. Samuel, Nicholas S. Yovanovic, CSX Transportation, Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., of counsel), for plaintiff-appellee.

Before ALTIMARI and MAHONEY, Circuit Judges, and DEARIE, District Judge. *

MAHONEY, Circuit Judge:

This appeal presents for review an order of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, John T. Curtin, Judge, which granted a permanent injunction barring defendants-appellants, certain labor organizations and officers thereof, from engaging in any "strike, picketing, patrolling, self-help or disruptive behavior" to prevent or interfere with the sale by CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX") of a line of railroad between Buffalo, New York and Eidenau, Pennsylvania (the "Buffalo-Eidenau line") to the Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad, Inc. ("B & P"), a newly formed corporation.

The specific question presented to the district court by this action for injunctive and declaratory relief was whether CSX was obliged to refrain from completing the sale of the Buffalo-Eidenau line pending bargaining under the Railway Labor Act ("RLA"), 45 U.S.C. Secs. 151-188 (1982), over the effects of the sale on the employees of that line. The Interstate Commerce Commission ("ICC") had granted expedited approval of the proposed sale without imposition of labor protective conditions.

In the opinion below, Decker v. CSX Transp., Inc., 688 F.Supp. 98 (W.D.N.Y.1988) ("Decker II "), the district court first determined that the dispute resolution processes of the RLA were not preempted by the ICC's authorization of the line sale. Id. at 107-09. The court went on to hold, however, that the controversy between CSX and appellants should be categorized as a "minor dispute" under the RLA, since a "plausible interpretation" of the pertinent agreements between the parties (the "Agreements") would justify CSX's action in selling the Buffalo-Eidenau line without prior bargaining with appellants concerning the affected employees. Id. at 109-12. The district court accordingly determined that the controversy was "subject to the RLA's formal grievance process while the sale goes through," id. at 109, and enjoined appellants from striking to prevent or impede the sale of the Buffalo-Eidenau line.

In accordance with the district court order, the parties brought this dispute before Special Board of Adjustment No. 1018 (the "Board") for arbitration pursuant to RLA Sec. 3 Second, 45 U.S.C. Sec. 153 Second (1982). On December 15, 1988, while this appeal was pending, the Board determined that CSX did not "have the unilateral right, under existing collective bargaining agreements or past practice, to abolish its positions in connection with the sale of the Buffalo-Eidenau line without first negotiating with the [appellant unions] as to the affected employees." Board Determination dated December 15, 1988 at 5, 21. Appellants then moved this court to vacate and remand based upon the Board's decision.

The order of the district court granting a permanent injunction is affirmed. Appellants' post-argument motion to vacate and remand is denied.


CSX is a Class 1 railroad, see 45 U.S.C. Sec. 151 First (1982), subject to the jurisdiction of the ICC under the Interstate Commerce Act ("ICA"), 49 U.S.C. Secs. 10101-11917 (1982 & Supp. IV 1986). CSX is also a "carrier" within the meaning of the RLA, see 45 U.S.C. Sec. 151 First (1982), and thus subject to its directives regarding labor relations. Appellants are labor organizations and certain named officers of those organizations which represent various crafts or classes of CSX employees. They are "representatives" within the meaning of the RLA, see 45 U.S.C. Sec. 151 Sixth (1982).

CSX owns and operates over 21,000 miles of rail lines in twenty states and in the province of Ontario, Canada. Prior to July 19, 1988, this system included a 369-mile line of railroad between Buffalo, New York and Eidenau, Pennsylvania. The Buffalo-Eidenau line had formerly been part of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad ("B & O"), which was merged into CSX in 1987. CSX administered all collective bargaining agreements between the former B & O and the unions representing employees on the Buffalo-Eidenau line.

CSX had for some time sought a buyer for the Buffalo-Eidenau line because traffic on that line had decreased to a point of marginality (defined by testimony in the district court as the point where a line is not earning the corporate rate of return on investment, or is experiencing a traffic loss which, if uncorrected, would lead to eventual abandonment). In the late summer of 1987, CSX found a prospective purchaser for the Buffalo-Eidenau line, B & P. At that time, the CSX corporate rate of return was 11.5%, and the rate of return on the Buffalo-Eidenau line was 1.4%.

Upon learning of CSX's intention to sell, several appellant unions served notices upon CSX pursuant to RLA Sec. 6, 45 U.S.C. Sec. 156 (1982), of "an intended change in agreements affecting rates of pay, rules, or working conditions," id. The unions sought thereby to preserve the status quo until the effects of the proposed sale on railroad employees could be assessed and negotiated. CSX responded that these notices violated the moratorium provisions of the Agreements, 1 and that in any event, the sale of the Buffalo-Eidenau line was subject to the ICC's exclusive jurisdiction, rendering the status quo requirements of the RLA inapplicable.

On August 31, 1987, representatives of the United Transportation Union ("UTU"), a defendant-appellant here, filed suit against CSX in New York State Supreme Court to enjoin CSX from altering the status quo as it existed with respect to the Buffalo-Eidenau line on the date the first Section 6 notices were filed. The case was thereafter removed to the United States District Court for the Western District of New York.

On September 16, 1987, CSX entered into a letter of intent with B & P to sell the Buffalo-Eidenau line to B & P. Shortly thereafter, B & P filed a notice of exemption with the ICC under 49 C.F.R. Sec. 1150.31 (1987) for exemption from the prior approval requirements of 49 U.S.C. Sec. 10901 (1982). See Ex Parte No. 392 (Sub-No. 1), Class Exemption for the Acquisition and Operation of Rail Lines Under 49 U.S.C. 10901, 1 I.C.C.2d 810 (1985) (rulemaking proceeding where a class of such transactions was initially exempted from regulation under Sec. 10901), review denied mem. sub nom. Illinois Commerce Comm'n v. ICC, 817 F.2d 145 (D.C.Cir.1987). The exemption was granted and became effective on September 29, 1987. By order dated October 13, 1987, the ICC denied a UTU request for a stay of the exemption's effectiveness.

B & P's corporate parents also joined B & P in seeking an exemption pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 10505 (1982) from the common control approval requirements of 49 U.S.C. Sec. 11343 (1982). An ICC order dated December 21, 1987 granted the exemption, thereby authorizing B & P's parent corporations to control B & P and paving the way for the sale of the Buffalo-Eidenau line to be completed. Genesee & Wyoming Industries, Inc., The Arthur T. Walker Estate Corp., Dumaines and B. & P. R.R. Exemption--Continuance in Control, I.C.C. Decision Finance Docket No. 31117 (December 21, 1987).

Meanwhile, on November 3, 1987, the district court dismissed UTU's complaint in the removed injunction action in reliance upon this Court's decision in RLEA v. Staten Island R.R. Corp., 792 F.2d 7 (2d Cir.1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1054, 107 S.Ct. 927, 93 L.Ed.2d 978 (1987), reasoning that the requested issuance of a status quo injunction would impermissibly interfere with the ICC's order of exemption. Decker v. CSX Transp., Inc., 672 F.Supp. 674 (W.D.N.Y.1987) ("Decker I "), vacated, 688 F.Supp. 98 (W.D.N.Y.1988).

On October 29, 1987, just prior to that dismissal, CSX commenced the instant action against UTU, eleven other labor organizations and twenty-seven union officials. The complaint sought a declaratory judgment that CSX was under no statutory obligation to negotiate with defendants with respect to the proposed sale of the Buffalo-Eidenau line to B & P, and an injunction preventing the unions from "exercising any self-help including, without limitation, a strike" in order to prevent or impede the sale.

Before answering the complaint in the instant action, appellants moved the district court to reconsider and vacate its order of dismissal in Decker I, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P 59(a)(2), and to consolidate the two actions, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a). Appellants then answered CSX's complaint, asserting a counterclaim for judgment against CSX requiring that the status quo be maintained until "all [RLA] major dispute resolution processes have been exhausted," and enjoining any sale of the Buffalo-Eideneau line pending such exhaustion. Appellants also moved to dismiss CSX's complaint, insofar as it requested an injunction against a strike, on the ground that section 4 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 104 (1982), deprived the court of jurisdiction to enjoin strike activity, 2 and for a preliminary injunction barring CSX from altering the rates of pay, rules, and working conditions of its employees on the Buffalo-Eidenau line pendente lite.

On March 26, 1988, CSX posted notices that the sale of the Buffalo-Eidenau line would be completed on...

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