Des Moines City Ry. Co. v. Amalgamated Ass'n of St. & Elec. Ry. Emps. of Am., No. 37645.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtALBERT
Citation204 Iowa 1195,213 N.W. 264
Decision Date07 April 1927
Docket NumberNo. 37645.

204 Iowa 1195
213 N.W. 264


No. 37645.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

April 7, 1927.

Appeal from District Court, Polk County; Joseph E. Meyer, Judge.

An action to declare void a contract existing between appellant and the appellees, and to enjoin appellees from attempting to enforce the same. The district court dismissed plaintiff's petition. Affirmed.

[213 N.W. 265]

Sargent, Gamble & Read, of Des Moines, for appellant.

C. C. Putnam and Paul Williams, both of Des Moines, for appellees.


The Des Moines City Railway Company is a corporation organized under the laws of the state of Iowa. The Amalgamated Association of Street & Electric Railway Employees of America is an unincorporated association, international in its character. It has what is called a “constitution” and certain by-laws. This association consists of certain officers, and its membership is constituted of representative members from local divisions in various parts of the United States and Canada, which local divisions are also unincorporated. The local divisions or units receive from the international association what is called a “charter,” which, in fact, amounts to a certificate of membership. Each local organization has its quota of officers and certain rules or by-laws for its government, and is generally spoken of as a “local division,” the principal officers of which consist of a president, recording and financial secretary, and treasurer. The general management of the local association is intrusted to an executive board of not less than five members, of which the president is chairman.

The defendant local division was organized some time in 1906, and afterward became affiliated with the international association and received a charter as a member thereof. The exact status of this local division, with reference to the international, will be given further attention later. The street car company will be referred to herein as the “company,” and appellees as the “association.”

On the 1st day of September, 1915, the company and the association entered into a written memoranda of agreement, signed by the president of the company and the president and secretary of the local association. Generally speaking this contract covers, in a large measure, the relations between the company and the association, and provides generally that all employees of the company must be members of the association, or must become such within 30 days after their employment, and, in case the association suspends any of its members, the company will, on written notice thereof from the proper officer, suspend such employee without pay; that any member of the association who interferes with or disturbs the negotiations between the company and the association, or in any way interferes with or disturbs the service, contrary to the conditions of the agreement, shall be dismissed from the service. Also, that the company will collect the “check-off” and pay the same over to the association, and in event an employee leaves the service of the company, on proper notice from the association, the company shall make the proper deductions from the pay of the one thus discharged. The company agrees to recognize and treat with the duly authorized representatives of the association to adjust all questions and differences that may arise. Agrees that any of the members of the association off duty, on official business, shall be allowed due leave of absence and be reinstated on return. Provides that should one of the employees accept an official position with the company for a longer time than three months, he relinquishes all rights to seniority in his line of work. Provides certain regulations as to wages for employees who have been out of the service and are re-employed. Makes certain provisions as to the rights of seniority, and many and numerous provisions as to the wages of employees, and also as to the hours of labor. Provides that all employees, members of the association, shall comply with all the rules and regulations made and adopted by the company that do not conflict with the terms of the agreement. Provides method of amicable adjustment of grievances. Provides that, where differences arise between the company and the association that cannot be amicably adjusted, the matter should be submitted to arbitration, and the manner and method thereof is set out. Provides for changes of certain parts of the agreement, and that the same shall continue in force and be binding on the respective parties until March 1, 1940, unless otherwise changed by mutual consent of the parties thereto. Provides that on proper notice of either party, certain parts of the contract were to be opened for consideration of any change or changes after March 1, 1919, and the wage scale was to be opened from that date on at any two-year period on a prior notice of 30 days.

The company further reserves the right to discharge or discipline its employees on sufficient

[213 N.W. 266]

cause shown, and also the right to fix the number of cars, their time of running, and the length of time they shall be on the street.

The contract covers many other matters which might be the cause of differences between the parties. Any special sections of this agreement, about which contention arises, will be more specifically set out hereafter.

From the date of said contract to the time of the commencement of this proceeding, the company and the association operated under this contract, except from time to time, by consent of the parties, certain modifications were made, none of which are material to the matters involved herein. On the 2d day of October, 1915, an ordinance was passed by the city of Des Moines granting a franchise to the street car company. This was submitted and approved at a general election on November 29, 1915. On December 22d, the city counsel repassed the ordinance, and the company filed its acceptance on January 26, 1916. In June, 1925, some of the members of this association, employees of the company, demanded that they be paid their wages in full, not deducting the check-off, and further complaint was made, on the part of the association, that the company had failed to discharge one of its employees on proper request of the association. Thereupon this action was instituted, on the 2d day of July, 1925, by the company against the defendant association and the individual members thereof, alleging that the contract above referred to was illegal and void and of no effect, on certain grounds hereinafter referred to; asking an injunction against the appellee association and all of its members; enjoining them from further demanding that appellant pay the check-off, which was then in the hands of the company, amounting to $1,548.66; asking that the contract or agreement be declared null and void and of no force and effect whatever, that appellees be permanently enjoined from at tempting to enforce the same, or any of the terms and conditions thereof, that if said contract be adjudged to be valid, that the ambiguities be construed, and that the same be reformed to express the true intent and meaning of the parties.

The claim of appellant company is that this contract is void for the following reasons:

First. Because it is contrary to and made in violation of the constitution and by-laws of the so-called “international association,” and that the local association had no authority whatever to make the same.

Second. Because, in violation of law, the contract unionizes an entire industry, and is therefore against public policy.

Third. That it is void in so far as it requires the company to have a motorman and a conductor on each car while in operation.

Fourth. That so far as the contract is executory, it is without consideration, and cognate thereto is the assertion that the contract is essentially unilateral and is unenforceable because of lack of mutuality.

Fifth. That the check-off clause in the contract is ambiguous and uncertain.

One of the provisions of the contract between the parties reads as follows:

“This company agrees to check off all dues, initiation fees, and assessments from the members who are employees of the company when desired, and the association agrees to furnish a statement of the amount to be deducted from the pay of each member.”

It is insisted that this provision in the contract is invalid for uncertainty, and that a number of the members of the association have notified the company that they refused to allow the check-off and demand their pay in full, and the company says that by reason of this they are put in a position in which they are liable to be required to twice pay the amount of the check-off in such cases.

[1] It is true that the evidence shows that certain of the employees of the company did so notify the company, but such employees are not specifically named as parties defendant herein. Further than this, such fact does not call for equitable intervention. In event the company was sued by such employees in a law action, there is nothing to prevent the company's impleading the association in such a case and adjudicating all such rights in a law action, and, where this condition of affairs exists, equity will not assume jurisdiction. In other words, the company has a clear, speedy, and adequate remedy at law for the very thing about which they complain. Hence equity will not assume jurisdiction. Where several persons hold tracts of land under different titles, and there is no privity between them, but a...

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6 practice notes
  • Katz Inv. Co. v. Lynch, No. 47775
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 8 Mayo 1951
    ...v. Executive Council, 207 Iowa 923, 925, 223 N.W. 737; Des Moines City R. Co. v. Amalgamated Ass'n of Street & Electric Ry. Employees, 204 Iowa 1195, 1207, 213 N.W. 264. However, several actions at least somewhat declaratory in nature had long been entertained in our courts. For example, ac......
  • Bankers Life Co. v. Bennett, No. 43155.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 23 Octubre 1935
    ...See, also, Lynch v. Schemmel, 176 Iowa, 499, 155 N. W. 1019;Des Moines City R. Co. v. Amalgamated Association, 204 Iowa, 1195, 213 N. W. 264. [2] The only special circumstance which the plaintiff claims to take the case from under this rule, is that among the terms provided in said policy i......
  • Beeman v. Bankers' Life Co., No. 41721.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 4 Abril 1933
    ...also been exhaustively reviewed in an opinion written by Albert, J., in the Des Moines C. R. Co. v. Amalgamated Ass'n, 204 Iowa, 1195, 213 N. W. 264. The record in the Biermann Case shows that section 3435 of the Code, now section 10947, was also relied on by appellant as a ground for havin......
  • Walker v. Medical Soc. of Mobile County, 1 Div. 227.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 14 Junio 1945
    ...C.J. 1341; Weatherly v. Medical & Surgical Society of Montgomery County, 76 Ala. 567; Des Moines City Ry. Co. v. Amalgamated Ass'n, etc., 204 Iowa 1195, 213 N.W. 264. The Medical Society of Mobile County, by charter duly issued to it by the State Association, is affiliated with and subordin......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4 cases
  • Katz Inv. Co. v. Lynch, 47775
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 8 Mayo 1951
    ......Thomson and Donald H. Chisholm, of Kansas City, Mo., and Gamble, Read, Howland, Gamble & Riepe, of Des Moines, for appellant Katz Inv. Co. . ...737; Des Moines City R. Co. v. Amalgamated Ass'n of Street & Electric Ry. Employees, 204 ... See also 16 Am.Jur., Declaratory Judgments, section 8; 1 C.J.S., ......
  • Des Moines City Railway Co. v. Amalgamated Ass'n of Street & Electric Railway Employees of America, 37645
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 7 Abril 1927
    ...213 N.W. 264 204 Iowa 1195 DES MOINES CITY RAILWAY COMPANY, Appellant, v. AMALGAMATED ASSOCIATION OF STREET & ELECTRIC RAILWAY EMPLOYEES OF AMERICA, DIVISION 441, OF DES MOINES, et al., Appellees No. 37645Supreme Court of Iowa, Des MoinesApril 7, REHEARING DENIED DECEMBER 17, 1927. Appeal f......
  • Bankers Life Co. v. Bennett, 43155.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 23 Octubre 1935
    ......B. Alberson and E. M. Nourse, both of Des Moines, and Shull & Stillwill, of Sioux City, for ...W. 1019;Des Moines City R. Co. v. Amalgamated" Association, 204 Iowa, 1195, 213 N. W. 264.   \xC2"......
  • Mlynarik v. Bergantzel, No. 02-1348.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 25 Febrero 2004
    ...contract. See Rogers v. Webb, 558 N.W.2d 155, 156 (Iowa 1997); Des Moines City Ry. v. Amalgamated Ass'n of Street & Elec. Ry. Employees, 204 Iowa 1195, 1207, 213 N.W. 264, 269 (1927); Allison v. Hess, 28 Iowa 388, 390 (1870). In Allison, this court held "that where a contract is illegal,.........

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