LOCAL 205, ETC. v. General Electric Company

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Citation233 F.2d 85
Docket NumberNo. 4980.,4980.
PartiesLOCAL 205, UNITED ELECTRICAL, RADIO AND MACHINE WORKERS OF AMERICA (UE), Plaintiff, Appellant, v. GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY (Telechron Department, Ashland, Massachusetts), Defendant, Appellee.
Decision Date25 April 1956



Allan R. Rosenberg, Boston, Mass., for appellant.

Warren F. Farr, Boston, Mass., with whom William J. Barron, New York City, Francis J. Vaas, Lane McGovern and Ropes, Gray, Best, Coolidge & Rugg, Boston, Mass., were on the brief, for appellee.

Before MAGRUDER, Chief Judge, and WOODBURY and HARTIGAN, Circuit Judges.

MAGRUDER, Chief Judge.

This case, together with two others also decided today, Newspaper Guild of Boston v. Boston Herald-Traveler Corp., 1 Cir., 233 F.2d 102; Goodall-Sanford, Inc., v. United Textile Workers of America, 1 Cir., 233 F.2d 104, presents the question of whether a federal district court has authority, under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 61 Stat. 156, 29 U.S.C.A. § 185, to compel an employer to arbitrate a dispute in accordance with the terms of a collective bargaining agreement between such "employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce".

Plaintiff-appellant is an unincorporated labor organization representing employees of defendant Company at a plant in Ashland, Mass., which is, without dispute, in an industry affecting commerce, within the meaning of the Act. Article XII of the collective bargaining agreement in effect between the parties at the relevant dates established a conventional four-step procedure for adjustment of employee grievances between the Union and the Company, by which negotiation was to continue at progressively higher levels if an agreement was not reached. Article XIII provided:

"1. Any matter involving the application or interpretation of any provisions of this Agreement which shall not include a matter involving establishing of wage rates, general increases or production standards may be submitted to arbitration by either the Union or the Company. * * *"

The Article required written notice of intention to submit an unresolved grievance to arbitration within 30 days after the decision rendered in step 4 of the grievance procedure, and it went on to describe certain procedural matters and restrictions on the scope of the arbitrator's authority. He was limited, in so far as relevant here, to "interpretation, application, or determining compliance with the provisions of this Agreement but he shall have no authority to add to, detract from, or in any way alter the provisions of this Agreement."

Two grievances filed by the Union in 1954 are the subject of its present suit. One involved a dispute over whether an employee named Boiardi was employed in a certain job classification carrying a higher rate of pay than he in fact was receiving; the other involved the propriety of the discharge of an employee named Armstrong for refusing to clean certain machines when he asserted that such work was in addition to his regular duties. After unsuccessfully prosecuting these matters through the procedure of Art. XII, the Union duly notified the Company in each case of its desire to arbitrate, but the Company refused to submit to arbitration either the merits of the two grievances or the disputed issue of whether they were arbitrable under the provisions of Art. XIII first quoted above. The Union then filed its complaint in the district court, alleging jurisdiction under § 301. It sought as to each of the grievance cases an order "that defendant be required specifically to perform its agreement to arbitrate" and damages. After the district court granted a motion to strike the claims for equitable relief, the amended complaint was again amended to eliminate the damage claims. This was done so that no question could be raised as to the appealability of the decision. Plaintiff's appeal is properly here, under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, from the final order of April 27, 1955, which dismissed the complaint for want of jurisdiction, the district judge being of the view that he was forbidden by the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 47 Stat. 70, 29 U.S. C.A. § 101 et seq., from issuing the requested order to compel arbitration of the two disputes. See 129 F.Supp. 665.


In any case where equitable relief in some form is sought in the context of a controversy involving labor relations, a federal court must inquire whether the Norris-LaGuardia Act has withdrawn the jurisdiction of the district court to grant the desired remedy. See W. L. Mead, Inc., v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 1 Cir., 1954, 217 F.2d 6, in which case we affirmed an order denying a temporary injunction against a strike and picketing alleged to be in breach of a collective bargaining agreement. We held that § 301 had not repealed by implication the withdrawal of jurisdiction to enjoin the activities listed in § 4 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act even in a case where such activities constitute a breach of contract. The present case presents a different problem, for the activity against which relief is sought, refusal to arbitrate, can in no way be fitted into any of the classes enumerated in § 4. However, consideration must also be given to § 7 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, the relevant parts of which are set forth in the footnote.1 See also §§ 8 and 9. If it is not implicit in our discussion in the Mead case, supra, we now affirm that our determination there that enactment of § 301 did not by implication repeal § 4 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act applies as well to § 7 and indeed to the whole of that Act. It is in this light that one must read the dictum in the Mead opinion, 217 F.2d at page 9, that "equitable relief may sometimes be given in terms which do not trench upon the interdictions of § 4 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act." That is, any such equitable relief to be given in a suit brought under § 301 must also not "trench upon the interdictions of" § 7, when that section and the Act of which it is a part are applicable according to their own terms.

In recognition of this situation, it has sometimes been argued that a suit to remedy a breach of contract does not involve or grow out of a "labor dispute." This argument cannot be accepted, in the face of the sweeping definitions of § 13, which set the scope of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. 47 Stat. 73. Any controversy between an employer and a union "concerning terms or conditions of employment" is included, "and no less so because the dispute is one that may be resolved or determined on its merits by reference to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement." W. L. Mead, Inc., v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, supra, 217 F.2d at page 8, and cases cited; see Note, 37 Va.L.Rev. 739, 746 (1951).

Nevertheless, it is our conclusion that jurisdiction to compel arbitration is not withdrawn by the Norris-LaGuardia Act. Although the present controversy is a "labor dispute" within the scope of the Act as defined in § 13, the relief sought is not the "temporary or permanent injunction" against whose issuance the formidable barriers of § 7 are raised. Of course, the label used to describe the judicial command is not controlling. We would not rest by saying that an order to arbitrate is a "decree for specific performance" in contradistinction to a "mandatory injunction," for each term has been attached so frequently to this type of relief that neither can be rejected out of hand as an inappropriate characterization of it. But see 2 Pomeroy, Equitable Remedies § 2057 (2d ed. 1919). For reasons to be developed below, we believe that the "injunction" at which § 7 was aimed is the traditional "labor injunction," typically an order which prohibits or restricts unilateral coercive conduct of either party to a labor dispute. E. g., Alcoa S. S. Co., Inc., v. McMahon, D.C.S.D.N.Y. 1948, 81 F.Supp. 541, affirmed 2 Cir., 1949, 173 F.2d 567; Associated Telephone Co. v. Communication Workers, D.C.S.D.Cal.1953, 114 F.Supp. 334. An order to compel arbitration of an existing dispute, or to stay a pending lawsuit over the dispute so that arbitration may be had, as redress for one party's breach of a prior agreement to submit such disputes to arbitration, seems to have a different character, whatever name is given to it. Cf. Sanford v. Boston Edison Co., 1944, 316 Mass. 631, 56 N.E. 2d 1, 156 A.L.R. 644; Lincoln Mills v. Textile Workers Union, 5 Cir., 1956, 230 F.2d 81 (arbitration order denied on other grounds).

It should be noted in passing that the Supreme Court has recently reaffirmed its ruling that an order denying a stay of an action for damages in favor of arbitration is "refusal of an `injunction' under" 28 U.S.C. § 1292. Baltimore Contractors, Inc. v. Bodinger, 1955, 348 U.S. 176, 180, 75 S.Ct. 249, 252, 99 L. Ed. 233. Whether the same characterization would be applied to an order affirmatively compelling arbitration need not be decided, for the Baltimore Contractors case and its predecessors were treating the stay order as an "injunction" only for the purpose of determining appealability under 28 U.S.C. § 1292 (1), as is obvious from the opinions. What is an "injunction" for that statutory test would seem to have little relevance to what is an "injunction" in the wholly different context of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. Cf. Shanferoke Coal & Supply Corp. of Delaware v. Westchester Service Corp., 1935, 293 U.S. 449, 452, 55 S.Ct. 313, 79 L.Ed. 583. See also Goodall-Sanford, Inc., v. United Textile Workers, 1 Cir., 233 F.2d 104.

It is significant, while still at the verbal level, that within the Norris-LaGuardia Act itself a distinction is made in the breadth of the bars imposed on equitable relief. The sections that might be relevant here all deny jurisdiction to issue an "injunction", §§ 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, or "injunctive relief", § 8. In contrast is § 3, where...

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