Goclowski v. Penn Cent. Transp. Co., AFL-CI

Citation571 F.2d 747
Decision Date31 May 1978
Docket NumberL,AFL-CI,No. 77-1248,T,77-1248
Parties97 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2563, 83 Lab.Cas. P 10,345 J. B. GOCLOWSKI, B. S. Spiridigliozzi, K. J. Magnus, R. D. Lane, E. Del Baggio, B. Spiridigliozzi, J. M. Leighty, A. G. Dannaway, W. C. Hamilton, L. G. Myers, F. R. Wallace, G. D. Labriola, and John N. Dumbeck, W. H. Moore, and G. F. Colyer, Appellants, v. PENN CENTRAL TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, Transport Workers Union of America,ransport Workers Union of America,ocal 2017, B. E. Porta and E. V. Atreed, Appellees.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)

T. Dean Lower, Hollidaysburg, Pa., for appellants.

Hermon M. Wells, David A. McCormick, Philadelphia, Pa., for Penn Central Transp. Co.

Michael Klein, O'Donnell & Schwartz, New York City, for Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, and E. V. Atreed, appellees.

Richard D. Gilardi, Gilardi & Cooper, Pittsburgh, Pa., for Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, Local 2107 and B. E. Porta, appellees.

Before ROSENN and VAN DUSEN, Circuit Judges, and STERN, District Judge. *

OPINION OF THE COURT

ROSENN, Circuit Judge.

This appeal brings into focus critical questions concerning the boundaries of federal court power to intercede in disputes between railroad employees, their union, and their employer. We must decide the extent of district court jurisdiction to hear employee challenges to the validity of an agreement entered into by a union and a railroad employer affecting the seniority of certain employees. Additionally, we must also once again examine the multiple rules concerning the statutory duty of fair representation.

This is a lawsuit filed by thirteen individuals who worked as railroad employees ("plaintiffs") against their union, the Transport Workers Union of America 1 (collectively referred to as "Union"), and their employer, the Penn Central Transportation Company ("Railroad"). Plaintiffs claim that an agreement between the defendants executed in the face of their basic collective bargaining contract adversely affected their seniority rights. They seek to have that agreement declared invalid, either because it was an impermissible extension of other existing collective bargaining contracts between the defendants or because the Union was not authorized to bind the employees to such a contract in the absence of obtaining employee ratification. Plaintiffs appear to be seeking damages (1) from their Union for breach of the duty of fair representation and (2) from their employer for breach of contract.

On the motion of defendants, the district court granted summary judgment in full for both the Railroad and the Union. We find that the district court was only partially correct in its judgment; we affirm in part and reverse in part.

I. THE FACTS

This is an appeal from a grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants by the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. We have held that appellate review of grants of summary judgment requires that the facts be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Braden v. University of Pittsburgh, 552 F.2d 948, 955 n. 35 (3d Cir. 1977); see C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure, §§ 2725, 2727 (1973). The following facts construed most favorably to plaintiffs may be drawn from the pleadings and affidavits before the district court.

Prior to November 13, 1972, the plaintiffs were carmen employees of the Union. They were listed on the roles of the Railroad's Eastbound Seniority District and worked at the Railroad's Eastbound Repair Shop doing day-to-day carmen work. Their seniority was established according to tenure in that shop within that district.

Sometime prior to November 1, 1972, the Railroad and the Union agreed to change the status of the Eastbound Repair Shop at Altoona, Pennsylvania by transferring its day-to-day repair work to the Westbound Repair Shop and by utilizing the Eastbound facility for programmed car repair work, under the jurisdiction of the Altoona Heavy Repair Shop. As a result of this agreement, employees of the Eastbound Repair Shop, including plaintiffs, would cease to be listed in the Eastbound Seniority District and would have their seniority determined by reference to whatever facility they were transferred. This agreement apparently was a product of mutual understanding between the Railroad and Union. No formal request to negotiate it was ever requested by either signatory as is generally required for major contracts under the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. (1970).

Plaintiffs were not informed until October of 1972 that any change in their seniority status was contemplated. They claim that when such agreements had been proposed on earlier occasions, the custom generally had been to allow employees to participate in the negotiations. An affidavit of John Horon, a former official and international representative of the Union, was filed by plaintiffs which stated that all similar contracts were submitted to the employees for comment and ratification. Defendants countered with an affidavit of Joseph Hanaberry, an officer of the International Union, denying that allegation. In October of 1972, the Railroad listed the positions to be abolished and to be readvertised as a consequence of the proposed agreement. At this time, plaintiffs complained to the Local Union and its officials about the proposed change.

On November 1, 1972, the Railroad posted the following notice for the employees containing the content of the agreement which has become the subject of this litigation:

WHEREAS, the Company, on November 13, 1972, will close the Allegheny Division car repair facility at the Eastbound Car Shop, Altoona and transfer the day-to-day repair work to the Westbound Shop; and WHEREAS, this action will result in a surplus of approximately 20 carmen in the involved seniority roster; and

WHEREAS, the Company, on or after November 13, 1972, intends to utilize the said Eastbound Repair facility for programmed car repair work under the jurisdiction of the Altoona Heavy Repair Shops.

THEREFORE, IT IS AGREED:

1. On November 13, 1972, the 20 surplus carmen will be transferred into the Altoona Heavy Repair Shop Seniority District in accordance with the Implementing Agreement of May 31, 1970.

2. Effective November 13, 1972, the territory of the former Eastbound Repair Shop will become part of the Altoona Heavy Repair Shop Seniority District.

This agreement, dated November 1, 1972, was signed by officers of both the Local and International Union and by officials of the Railroad. The affected membership did not ratify the agreement.

Originally, thirty-three carmen were listed on the seniority roster who would have been forced to transfer to the Altoona Heavy Repair Shop Seniority District as a consequence of the November 1 agreement ("November agreement"). However, thirteen, all of whom are plaintiffs in this case, exercised their contractual right to relinquish their seniority and jobs in the Eastbound Seniority District and, in lieu of transfer to the Altoona Heavy Repair Shop, to accept diminished seniority in the Westbound District.

Promptly following the transfer of employees from the Eastbound Seniority District, the Railroad reopened the Eastbound Repair Shop as part of the Altoona Heavy Repair Shop Seniority District. Plaintiffs were then listed on the roster of the Westbound District; they were replaced in the Eastbound Shop by other carmen employees and members of the Union. Plaintiffs allege that these new carmen employees do substantially the same work as plaintiffs had done. They claim that they had been replaced unnecessarily by other identically skilled workers and that they have suffered damage to protected rights, loss of advantageous seniority positions, and have been forced to accept less desirable working conditions.

After plaintiffs realized the impact of the November agreement, they reasserted their previous complaints with the Local. The Local Union officials told them that nothing could be done. Plaintiffs then entered into extensive discussions with the International Union, but officials of the International Union similarly informed them that nothing could be done. Plaintiffs were, however, advised to take an appeal with the Local and told by the Local that no such appeal could be filed as well as being advised that they could appeal through the mechanism provided in the International Constitution. Meanwhile, plaintiffs also protested to the Railroad, but were told that the agreement was valid and binding. They thereupon filed this equity lawsuit on March 19, 1973, in a Pennsylvania state court. Defendants successfully petitioned to have the case removed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. 2 In addition some of the plaintiffs filed formal grievances, none of which proceeded beyond the filing stage.

The complaint stated various bases for relief. Damages were claimed, first, against the Union for conspiracy with the employer to unfairly represent the employees' interests, and second, against the employer for breach of the collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiffs claim that their transfer was a violation of the existing collective bargaining agreement and that they are in their new and less advantageous positions because of the improper actions of the Railroad. 3 The thrust of plaintiffs' action was to invalidate the November agreement and restore the status quo on either of two separate grounds: (1) that the contract was an impermissible extension of the previous agreements between the Union and the Employer; 4 and (2) that the contract was invalidly executed because of the failure of the Union to obtain ratification from the affected membership. 5

Defendants opposed plaintiffs' claims and in their motion for summary judgment claimed: that there was no dispute of material...

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