Employers Ass'n v. United Steelworkers of America

Decision Date01 October 1992
Docket NumberCiv. No. 4-91-947.
Citation803 F. Supp. 1558
PartiesEMPLOYERS ASSOCIATION, INC. v. UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Minnesota

Mark B. Rotenberg, Dorsey & Whitney, Minneapolis, Minn., for plaintiff.

Scott Adams Higbee, Peterson, Engberg & Peterson, Minneapolis, Minn., for defendant.

Alec J. Beck and Robert Stephen Halagan, Felhaber, Larson, Fenlon & Vogt, Minneapolis, Minn., for Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Labor Policy Ass'n (amici).

Scott R. Strand, Minnesota Atty. Gen.'s Office, St. Paul, Minn., for State of Minn. (intervenor).

AMENDED ORDER

ROSENBAUM, District Judge.

Minnesota's Striker Replacement Law, Minn.Stat. § 179.12(9) ("Striker Replacement Law" or "Act"), makes it an unfair labor practice, and an unlawful act, for an employer to hire, or threaten to hire, permanent replacement workers in the event of a lockout by an employer or during a strike by employees. The plaintiff claims that the Act is preempted by federal labor law, and therefore contravenes the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2.

Before the Court are plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and defendant's cross motion for dismissal.1 The plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment finding Minnesota's Striker Replacement Law unconstitutional. The defendant contends that there is no justiciable case or controversy between the parties and, as a result, this Court lacks jurisdiction.

Briefs were submitted, and oral argument was heard on June 25, 1992. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that this case presents a justiciable controversy. The Court further holds that Minnesota's Striker Replacement Law is preempted by federal labor law. As a result, the Court finds the Act unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause.

Background

Plaintiff Employers Association, Inc. ("the Association"), is a Minnesota-incorporated membership organization consisting of more than 1,250 Minnesota employers. The Association provides labor relations specialists who assist over 200 of its members in the collective bargaining process throughout Minnesota. (Rinne Aff. ¶¶ 1-3). The Association and its member employers are "employers" as defined by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. § 152(2), and the Minnesota Labor Relations Act (MLRA), Minn.Stat. § 179.01(3).

Defendant United Steelworkers of America ("USWA" or "Union") is a labor organization, as defined by the NLRA, 29 U.S.C. § 152(5), and the MLRA, Minn.Stat. § 179.01(6). The USWA is the exclusive bargaining representative of, and has bargained for, a number of plaintiff's members' employees.2 Notwithstanding the USWA's protestations to the contrary, there is no question that these parties will negotiate in the future.3

The State of Minnesota ("the State") has intervened in this action to defend the constitutionality of the Striker Replacement Law, pursuant to Rule 24(a), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Fed.R.Civ.P.).4

Analysis
A. The Striker Replacement Law

The striker replacement bill was passed by the 1991 Minnesota State legislature as an amendment to the Minnesota Labor Relations Act, Minn.Stat. §§ 179.01-179.17.5 The Striker Replacement Law provides:

It is an unfair labor practice for an employer ...
(9) To grant or offer to grant the status of permanent replacement employee to a person for performing bargaining unit work for an employer during a lockout of employees in a labor organization or during a strike of employees in a labor organization authorized by a representative of employees....

Minn.Stat. § 179.12(9) (1991).

Under the terms of the Act, if an employer hires or threatens to hire permanent replacement workers, a union may seek a temporary or permanent injunction in state court to enjoin the unfair labor practice. Id. § 179.14. An employer who violates the Striker Replacement Law is then precluded from exercising its own remedies which would otherwise be available under the MLRA. These remedies include the right to bring an injunction action in state court with respect to matters arising out of a labor dispute. Id. § 179.15.6

B. Justiciability

Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment that the Striker Replacement Law is preempted by federal labor law, as defined by the Supreme Court in Lodge 76, Int'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Comm'n, 427 U.S. 132, 146, 96 S.Ct. 2548, 2556, 49 L.Ed.2d 396 (1976) ("Machinists"), and San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 79 S.Ct. 773, 3 L.Ed.2d 775 (1959) ("Garmon").

Both the USWA and the State seek dismissal, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), Fed. R.Civ.P. Each contends that no justiciable case or controversy exists between the parties and, consequently, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. In the alternative, defendants urge this Court to abstain because this issue is now pending before the Minnesota Court of Appeals.7

The relevant provision of the Declaratory Judgement Act states:

In a case of actual controversy within its jurisdiction, ... any court of the United States ... may declare the rights and other legal relations of any interested party seeking such declaration.

28 U.S.C. § 2201 (1992). The decision to grant a declaratory judgment lies within the sound discretion of the Court. Public Affairs Associates, Inc. v. Rickover, 369 U.S. 111, 112, 82 S.Ct. 580, 582, 7 L.Ed.2d 604 (1962). But, before the Court may exercise this discretion, the plaintiff must satisfy the statute's jurisdictional requirements. The plaintiff must first demonstrate the Court's independent basis for subject matter jurisdiction. Skelly Oil Co. v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 339 U.S. 667, 671-672, 70 S.Ct. 876, 879, 94 L.Ed. 1194 (1950); Collin County, Texas v. Homeowners Ass'n for Values Essential to Neighborhoods (HAVEN), 915 F.2d 167, 170 (5th Cir.1990); Wright Miller & Kane, Federal Practice & Procedure § 2766 (1983 & supp.1991). Second, the plaintiff must demonstrate the existence of an actual controversy between the parties. Aetna Life Ins. Co. of Hartford, Conn. v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227, 239, 57 S.Ct. 461, 463, 81 L.Ed. 617 (1937).

No party challenges this Court's independent subject matter jurisdiction. It is clear that federal question jurisdiction, arising under § 151 of the NLRA and the United States Constitution, satisfies the first requirement of the Declaratory Judgment Act. The defendant, however, denies that there is an actual controversy which is ripe for resolution.

The "actual controversy" requirement of § 2201 is synonymous with the constitutional requirement of Article III, § 2, limiting the jurisdiction of this Court to "cases" and "controversies." Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452, 458, 94 S.Ct. 1209, 1215, 39 L.Ed.2d 505 (1974). "The basic inquiry is whether the `conflicting contentions of the parties ... present a real, substantial controversy between parties having adverse legal interests, a dispute definite and concrete, not hypothetical or abstract.'" Babitt v. United Farm Workers Nat'l Union, 442 U.S. 289, 298, 99 S.Ct. 2301, 2308, 60 L.Ed.2d 895 (1979) (quoting Railway Mail Ass'n v. Corsi, 326 U.S. 88, 93, 65 S.Ct. 1483, 1487, 89 L.Ed. 2072 (1945), and citing Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co., 312 U.S. 270, 273, 61 S.Ct. 510, 512, 85 L.Ed. 826 (1941)). "The difference between an abstract question, and a `controversy' ... is necessarily one of degree...." Maryland Casualty, 312 U.S. at 273, 61 S.Ct. at 512.

In the USWA's view, the plaintiff has failed to satisfy the justiciability requirement, as delineated in Babitt and Maryland Casualty. It is the USWA's position that any case or controversy which existed as a result of the labor negotiations between Northern Hydraulics and the Union is now moot. Further, the USWA suggests that the actual controversy requirement is not satisfied by consideration of future negotiations, which might lead to invocation of the Striker Replacement Law. Finally, the USWA claims that if any controversy does exist, it is not of "sufficient immediacy" to satisfy the ripeness requirement. Both the USWA and the State argue that a judgment entered at this time would constitute an impermissible advisory opinion.

"Concerns of justiciability go to the power of the federal courts to entertain disputes, and to the wisdom of their doing so." Renne v. Geary, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 111 S.Ct. 2331, 2336, 115 L.Ed.2d 288 (1991); 13A Wright, Miller & Cooper, Federal Practice & Procedure § 3532 (1983 & supp.1992). The ripeness doctrine requires this Court to "evaluate both the fitness of the issues for judicial decision and the hardship to the parties of withholding court consideration." Abbott Laboratories v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 149, 87 S.Ct. 1507, 1515, 18 L.Ed.2d 681 (1967).

The Court finds that an actual and justiciable controversy exists in this case. The enactment of the Striker Replacement Law has materially altered the Congressionally defined equilibrium which exists between management and organized labor in collective bargaining negotiations. It is this alteration which gives rise to a justiciable controversy.

It is settled that one of the economic weapons available to an employer is the right to hire permanent replacement workers in the event of an economic strike. Belknap, Inc. v. Hale, 463 U.S. 491, 500, 103 S.Ct. 3172, 3177, 77 L.Ed.2d 798 (1983); NLRB v. MacKay Radio & Telegraph Co., 304 U.S. 333, 347, 58 S.Ct. 904, 911, 82 L.Ed. 1381 (1938). "The presence of economic weapons in reserve and their actual exercise on occasion by the parties, is part and parcel of the system that the Wagner and Taft Hartley Acts have recognized." NLRB v. Insurance Agents' Int'l Union, AFL-CIO, 361 U.S. 477, 489, 80 S.Ct. 419, 427, 4 L.Ed.2d 454 (1960) (emphasis added). The enactment of the Striker Replacement Law has removed this weapon from the plaintiff's bargaining arsenal,...

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