Moir v. Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, 89-3275

Decision Date06 February 1990
Docket NumberNo. 89-3275,89-3275
Parties133 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2528, 58 USLW 2507, 114 Lab.Cas. P 11,891 Michael T. MOIR, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. GREATER CLEVELAND REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY; Amalgamated Transit Union, Local # 268, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

Dale J. Belock (argued), Cleveland, Ohio, for plaintiff-appellant.

Robert E. Davis (argued), James L. Hardiman, Hardiman, Alexander, Buchanan & Howland, Cleveland, Ohio, for defendants-appellees.

Before KEITH, JONES and BOGGS, Circuit Judges.

KEITH, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Michael T. Moir ("Moir") appeals from the judgment and order of the district court dismissing his complaint alleging that Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority ("GCRTA") and the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 268 ("ATU") (collectively "defendants") engaged in unfair labor practices. We conclude that the district court properly dismissed Moir's claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, we AFFIRM.

I.
A.

Michael Moir was employed by GCRTA from January 11, 1978 until August 10, 1988. During this employment period, Moir was a member of ATU. 1 Stanley Shope ("Shope"), GCRTA General Supervisor of Outside Garages, notified Moir, on January 12, 1987, that he had been promoted to the position of Equipment Electrician, Grade 5, as a result of receiving the highest rating on a promotion examination. The promotion was pursuant to GCRTA's Merit System Rules 2 and the collective bargaining agreement between GCRTA and ATU. Shope made a payroll entry reflecting the promotion and directed Moir to report to the GCRTA Brooklyn station to begin his new job. Robert James, GCRTA's Director of Personnel, notified Joseph Bartkiewicz ("Bartkiewicz"), the Director of Equipment, of Moir's promotion.

On March 3, 1987, Shope notified Moir that because another GCRTA employee was being transferred to replace Moir, he would not be permitted to retain his position as Equipment Electrician, Grade 5.

B.

Moir filed a grievance with ATU on March 5, 1987 indicating that although he had satisfactorily performed his duties, GCRTA was replacing him in violation of the Merit System Rules. A hearing was held on March 26, 1987. In a memorandum dated March 30, 1987, Bartkiewicz notified Moir that he was removed from the position as Equipment Electrician, Grade 5 because of a lateral transfer of another electrician. 3 Moreover, Bartkiewicz explained that Moir's promotion had been rescinded and that he should return to his original position.

Moir appealed the rescission of his promotion and a hearing was held on April 28, 1987. A memorandum dated April 29, 1987, indicated that GCRTA's decision to remove Moir from his promoted position would stand. 4 Although Moir was ranked first on the January 5, 1987 eligibility list for Equipment Electrician, Grade 5, Edward McDermott was transferred to the position because of his seniority. ATU agreed with the disposition of Moir's appeal.

C.

Moir instituted this action on October 27, 1988 pursuant to Section 301 of the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"), 29 U.S.C. Sec. 185(a), as amended by Section 2(2) of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. Sec. 152(2). Moir complains that by rescinding his promotion, GCRTA violated his rights under the collective bargaining agreement. Additionally, ATU failed to protect his job security rights and therefore breached its duty to represent him fairly. As a result, Moir has incurred financial losses and suffered emotional distress.

Defendants moved for dismissal based on two theories: lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and (6). Defendants argued that pursuant to the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 152(2), GCRTA is a "political subdivision" of the State of Ohio and, as such, is exempt from Section 301 of the NLRA, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 185(a), the statute upon which Moir seeks to premise federal jurisdiction. Additionally, defendants assert that the alleged actions constitute an unfair labor practice which falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Ohio State Employment Relations Board ("SERB"). Ohio Rev.Code Sec. 4417.02. Thus, Moir failed to exhaust his state administrative remedies prior to commencing an action in state court. Defendants also argued that Moir is now time-barred from filing a claim with SERB.

The district court held that GCRTA is a "political subdivision" of the State of Ohio within the meaning of 29 U.S.C. Sec. 152(2), and therefore is exempt from federal jurisdiction. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), the district court dismissed Moir's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. 5 Moir filed a timely notice of appeal with this court on April 3, 1989.

On appeal, Moir advances two arguments. First, Moir contends that the "political subdivision" exemption does not apply to defendants. Therefore, the district court erred in dismissing Moir's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Second, Moir argues that since the complaint arises out of a collectively bargained contract governed by the NLRA which preempts Ohio law and intra-union procedures, the exhaustion of administrative remedies requirement is inapposite.

II.
A.

This case requires us to conduct a de novo review of the district court's dismissal of the claims against GCRTA and ATU pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Giannini v. Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California, 847 F.2d 1434, 1435 (9th Cir.1988) (per curiam); San Francisco County Democratic Central Committee v. Eu, 826 F.2d 814, 818 n. 3 (9th Cir.1987). Where subject matter jurisdiction is challenged pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff has the burden of proving jurisdiction in order to survive the motion. Rogers v. Stratton Industries, Inc., 798 F.2d 913, 915 (6th Cir.1986). Moreover, the court is empowered to resolve factual disputes when subject matter jurisdiction is challenged. Rogers, 798 F.2d at 915, 918 (contrasting analysis under Rule 12(b)(6) where existence of genuine issues of material fact warrants denial of the motion to dismiss). Defendants moved for dismissal based on both Rules 12(b)(1) and (6). However, we are bound to consider the 12(b)(1) motion first, since the Rule 12(b)(6) challenge becomes moot if this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. See Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682, 66 S.Ct. 773, 776, 90 L.Ed. 939 (1946) (motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action may be decided only after establishing subject matter jurisdiction, since determination of the validity of the claim is, in itself, an exercise of jurisdiction); Wright & Miller, 5 Federal Practice and Procedure Sec. 1350 at 548 (1969).

B.

Moir contends that the LMRA "political subdivision" exemption does not apply to GCRTA and ATU; therefore Section 301 of the NLRA confers federal subject matter jurisdiction over this action. Accordingly, dismissal of his complaint was in error. Defendants counter that they satisfy the requirements for the "political subdivision" exemption. We agree with defendants and conclude that the district court properly dismissed Moir's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Section 301 of the NLRA, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 185(a), establishes federal subject matter jurisdiction in contract disputes between an employer and a union representing employees in an industry affecting commerce. 6 However Section 2(2) of the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 152(2), amended the NLRA to specifically exclude political subdivisions and labor unions (except when acting as an employer) from its definition of the term "employer." 7

ATU's status as collective bargaining agent for Moir qualifies it for the labor organization exemption of 29 U.S.C. Sec. 152(2). Thus, dismissal of Moir's claims against ATU was proper. However, the question of whether GCRTA is a "political subdivision" of the State of Ohio and, therefore, subject to the "political subdivision" exemption of the LMRA requires more extensive analysis. After careful consideration of GCRTA's creation and administrative operations in light of the legislative history of the relevant federal statutes, Ohio law, and the Supreme Court's decision in National Labor Relations Board v. Natural Gas Utility District of Hawkins County, Tennessee, 402 U.S. 600, 91 S.Ct. 1746, 29 L.Ed.2d 206 (1971), we conclude that GCRTA is a "political subdivision" within the meaning of 29 U.S.C. Sec. 152(2).

Neither the LMRA nor its legislative history provides adequate guidance regarding the definition of the term "political subdivision." 8 However, the legislative history of the LMRA does reveal that the "political subdivision" exemption was enacted "since governmental employees did not usually enjoy the right to strike." Natural Gas, 402 U.S. at 604 & n. 3, 91 S.Ct. at 1749 & n. 3 (citations omitted) (emphasis added). Moir argues that because GCRTA employees can strike, the "political subdivision" exemption is not applicable to GCRTA. We reject this argument since state statutes granting public employees the right to strike are not determinative of whether a public entity qualifies for the "political subdivision" exemption.

Federal law governs the determination of whether an "entity created under state law is a 'political subdivision' of the State" and therefore exempt from "employer" status under the NLRA, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 185(a), as amended by the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 152(2). National Labor Relations Board v. Natural Gas Utility District of Hawkins County, Tennessee, 402 U.S. 600, 603, 91 S.Ct. 1746, 1749, 29 L.Ed.2d 206 (1971). In Natural Gas, the Supreme Court found that the Natural Gas Utility District of Hawkins County is a "political subdivision" within the meaning of 29 U.S.C. Sec. 152(2) because: (1) its income from bonds is tax exempt as income from an obligation of a political subdivision under 26 U.S.C....

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