International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America Uaw v. Hoosier Cardinal Corporation

Decision Date24 March 1966
Docket NumberNo. 387,AFL-CI,P,387
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Stephen I. Schlossberg, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Harry P. Dees, Evansville, Ind., for respondent.

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, confers jurisdiction upon the federal district courts over suits upon collective bargaining contracts.1 Nowhere in the Act, however, is there a provision for any time limitation upon the bringing of an action under § 301. The questions presented by this case arise because of the absence of such a provision.

The petitioner union and the respondent company were parties to a collective bargaining contract within the purview of § 301. The contract contained a section governing vacations. One clause in this section dealt with payment of accumulated vacation pay, by providing: 'Employees who qualified for a vacation in the pervious year and whose employment is terminated for any reason before the vacation is taken will be paid that vacation at time of termination.' On June 1, 1957, prior to the expiration of the contract, the company terminated the employment of employees covered by the agreement, but it did not pay them any accumulated vacation pay. Since that date, two lawsuits have been brought to recover amounts allegedly due. The first was a class action in early 1958, brought against the company in an Indiana court, but the court ruled that such an action was impermissible under Indiana law. In an attempt to remedy this pleading defect, the former employees assigned their vacation pay claims to a union representative who then filed an amended complaint, but this form of action, too, was held improper under Indiana law. Thereafter, by further amended complaints, the employees sought to reform and reinstitute the class action, but once again the trial court held the complaint insufficient as a matter of state law. The court dismissed the suit in June 1960, and the judgment of dismissal was affirmed on appeal. Johnson v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp., 134 Ind.App. 477, 189 N.E.2d 592.

Almost four years after the dismissal of that lawsuit by the Indiana trial court, and almost seven years after the employees had left the company, the union filed the present action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. On the company's motion, the trial court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the suit was barred by a six-year Indiana statute of limitations. The court regarded this action as based partly upon the written collective bargaining agreement and partly upon the oral employment contract each employee had made, and it held that Indiana would apply to such a hybrid action its six-year statute governing contracts not in writing. Ind.Stat.Ann. § 2—601 (1965 Supp.). 235 F.Supp. 183. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed, 346 P.2d 242, and we granted certiorari, 382 U.S. 808, 86 S.Ct. 87, 15 L.Ed.2d 58.

We note at the outset that this action was properly brought by the union under § 301. There is no merit to the contention that a union may not sue to recover wages or vacation pay claimed by its members pursuant to the terms of a collective bargaining contract. Such a suit is among those '(s)uits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization' that § 301 was designed to permit. This conclusion is unimpaired by the fact that each worker's claim may also depend upon the existence of his individual contract of employment. See J. I. Case Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 321 U.S. 332, 335—336, 64 S.Ct. 576, 88 L.Ed. 762. In Smith v. Evening News Assn., 371 U.S. 195, 83 S.Ct. 267, 9 L.Ed.2d 246, we rejected the view, once held for carying reasons by a majority of this Court, Association of Westinghouse Salaried Employees v. Westinghouse Corp., 348 U.S. 437, 75 S.Ct. 488, 99 L.Ed. 510, 'that § 301 did not give the * * * courts jurisdiction over a suit brought by a union to enforce employee rights * * * characterized as * * * arising 'from separate hiring contracts between the employer and each employee." 371 U.S., at 198, 83 S.Ct. at 269. Alghough the Smith case was brought by an individual worker, there is every reason to recognize the union's standing to vindicate employee rights under a contract the union obtained. Such recognition is fully consistent with the language of § 301(b): 'Any * * * labor organization may sue * * * in behalf of the employees whom it represents in the courts of the United States.' 61 Stat. 156, 29 U.S.C. § 185(b) (1964 ed.). 2 And indeed, the union's standing to vindicate employee rights under § 301 implements no more than the established doctrine that the union's role in the collective bargaining process does not end with the making of the contract. 3 Since this suit was properly brought under § 301, the question of its timeliness is squarely presented. It is clearly a federal question, for in § 301 suits the applicable law is 'federal law, which the courts must fashion from the policy of our national labor laws.' Textile Workers Union of America v. Lincoln Mills, 353 U.S. 448, 456, 77 S.Ct. 912, 918, 1 L.Ed.2d 972. Relying upon that statement and upon the coordinate principle that 'incompatible doctrines of local law must give way to principles of federal labor law,' Local 174 Teamsters, Chauffeurs, etc. v. Lucas Flour Co., 369 U.S. 95, 102, 82 S.Ct. 571, 7 L.Ed.2d 593, the union contends that this suit cannot be barred by a statute of limitations enacted by a State. We are urged instead to devise a uniform time limitation to close the statutory gap left by Congress. But the teaching of our cases does not require so bald a form of judicial innovation. Lincoln Mills instructs that, in fashioning federal law, the 'range of judicial inventiveness will be determined by the nature of the problem.' 353 U.S., at 457, 77 S.Ct. at 918. We do not question that there are problems so vital to the implementation of federal labor policy that they will command a high degree of inventiveness from the courts. The problem presented here, however, is not of that nature.

It is true that if state limitations provisions govern § 301 suits, these suits will lack a uniform standard of timeliness. It is also true that the subject matter of § 301 is 'peculiarly one that calls for uniform law.' Local 174 Teamsters, Chauffeurs, etc. v. Lucas Flour Co., supra, 369 U.S. at 103, 82 S.Ct. at 576. Our cases have defined the need for uniformity, however, in terms that are largely inapplicable here:

'The possibility that individual contract terms might have different meanings under (two systems of law) would inevitably exert a disruptive influence upon both the negotiation and administration of col- lective agreements. Because neither party could be certain of the rights which it had obtained or conceded, the process of negotiating an agreement would be made immeasurably more difficult by the necessity of trying to formulate contract provisions in such a way as to contain the same meaning under two or more systems of law which might someday be invoked in enforcing the contract. Once the collective bargain was made, the possibility of conflicting substantive interpretation under competing legal systems would tend to stimulate and prolong disputes as to its interpretation. Indeed, the existence of possibly conflicting legal concepts might substantially impede the parties' willingness to agree to contract terms providing for final arbitral or judicial resolution of disputes.

'* * * The ordering and adjusting of competing interests through a process of free and voluntary collective bargaining is the keystone of the federal scheme to promote industrial peace. State law which frustrates the effort of Congress to stimulate the smooth functioning of that process thus strikes at the very core of federal labor policy.' Local 174 Teamsters, Chauffeurs, etc. v. Lucas Flour Co., 369 U.S. 95, 103—104, 82 S.Ct. 571, 577.

The need for uniformity, then, is greatest where its absence would threaten the smooth functioning of those consensual processes that federal labor law is chiefly designed to promote the formation of the collective agreement and the private settlement of disputes under it. For the most part, statutes of limitations come into play only when these processes have already broken down. Lack of uniformity in this area is therefore unlikely to frustrate in any important way the achievement of any significant goal of labor policy. Thus, although a uniform limitations provision for § 301 suits might well constitute a desirable statutory addition, there is no justification for the drastic sort of judicial legislation that is urged upon us.4 See Smith v. Evening News Assn., supra, 371 U.S. at 203, 83 S.Ct., at 271 (Black, J., dissenting).

That Congress did not provide a uniform limitations provision for § 301 suits is not an argument for judicially creating one, unless we ignore the context of this legislative omission. It is clear that Congress gave attention to limitations problems in the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947; it enacted a six months' provision to govern unfair labor practice proceedings, 61 Stat. 146, 29 U.S.C. § 160(b) (1964 ed.), and it did so only after appreciable controversy.5 In this context, and against the background of the relationship between Congress and the courts on the question of limitations provisions, it cannot be fairly inferred that when Congress left § 301 without a uniform time limitation, it did so in the expectation that the courts would invent one. As early as 1830, this Court held that state statutes of limitations govern the timeliness of federal causes of action unless Congress has specifically provided otherwise. McCluny v. Silliman, 3...

To continue reading

Request your trial
815 cases
  • De Arroyo v. Sindicato de Trabajadores Packing., AFL-CIO, No. 7456-7458.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • April 17, 1970
    ...However, while International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (U.A.W.) A.F.L.-C.I.O. v. Hoosier Corp., 383 U.S. 696, 701-705, 86 S.Ct. 1107, 16 L.Ed.2d 192 (1966), established that § 301 suits should be governed by the state statute of limit......
  • Matthewman v. Akahane
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Hawaii
    • November 15, 1983
    ...Retail Clerks Int'l Ass'n., 618 F.2d 1370 (9th Cir.1980). This is a matter of federal, not state, law. U.A.W. v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp., 383 U.S. 696, 86 S.Ct. 1107, 16 L.Ed.2d 192 (1966); Smith v. Cremins, 308 F.2d 187 (9th Cir.1962). Plaintiff's first argument is that H.R.S. § 657-11 is a......
  • United States v. Little Lake Misere Land Company, Inc 8212 1459
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 18, 1973
    ...or patently run counter to the terms of the Act.' 328 U.S., at 210, 66 S.Ct., at 995. See also U.A.W. v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp., 383 U.S. 696, 706, 86 S.Ct. 1107, 1113, 16 L.Ed.2d 192 (1966). Under Louisiana's Act 315, land acquisitions of the United States,14 explicitly authorized by the M......
  • Balsavage v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Jersey
    • May 11, 1989
    ...agent breached its duty of fair representation in its handling of the employee's greivance." Id. 4 In U.A.W. v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp., 383 U.S. 696, 86 S.Ct. 1107, 16 L.Ed.2d 192 (1966), the Supreme Court declined to require a uniform statute of limitation, noting that Congress had refused......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Malicious Prosecution as Undue Process: A Fourteenth Amendment Theory of Malicious Prosecution
    • United States
    • The Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy No. 20-1, January 2022
    • January 1, 2022
    ...the courts follow their previous practice of borrowing state provisions.” Id . 126. International Auto Workers v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp., 383 U.S. 696, 710 (1966). 127. See Whitman, supra note 122, at 678. 128. Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 554 (1967). 129. Id. at 554–55. 130. See Gary S. G......
  • Beyond DOMA: choice of state law in federal statutes.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 64 No. 6, June 2012
    • June 1, 2012
    ...citizenship, we need not decide."); see also Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 26 n.3 (1988); UAW v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp., 383 U.S. 696, 705 n.8 (1966); McKenzie v. Irving Trust Co., 323 U.S. 365, 371 n.2 (137.) In re Gaston & Snow, 243 F.3d 599, 606 (2d Cir. 2001). (138......
  • State courts and the making of federal common law.
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 153 No. 3, January 2005
    • January 1, 2005
    ...and accompanying text (describing the Kimbell factors). (98) Glen Ridge, 734 S.W.2d at 382 (citing Int'l Union v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp., 383 U.S. 696, 702 (99) Id. (100) Id. (101) Id. (102) 487 U.S. 500 (1988). (103) Id. at 512. (104) Id. at 504-07 (internal quotation marks omitted). (105)......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT