Pilot Freight Carriers v. INTERN. BROTH., ETC.

Decision Date23 July 1980
Docket NumberNo. C-219-WS-72.,C-219-WS-72.
Citation495 F. Supp. 619
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of North Carolina

J. W. Alexander, Jr. of Blakeney, Alexander & Machen, Charlotte, N. C., William Kearns Davis of Hutchins, Tyndall, Bell, Davis & Pitt, Winston-Salem, N. C., for plaintiff.

Norman B. Smith of Smith, Patterson, Follin, Curtis, James & Harkavy, Greensboro, N. C., Ira R. Mitzner, Robert J. Higgins of Dickstein, Shapiro & Morin, Washington, D. C., for defendant.


HIRAM H. WARD, District Judge.

This case was tried to a jury between May 5 and May 13, 1980. The plaintiff Pilot Freight Carriers, Inc. (Pilot), suing under 29 U.S.C. § 185, alleged that the defendant International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT or Teamsters) had breached the parties' collective bargaining agreement1 by authorizing and supporting a strike against Pilot in July 1972. The strike had been called when Pilot refused to comply with a grievance committee's decision that the parties' collective bargaining agreement applied, by virtue of accretion, to Pilot employees working at newly opened terminals in Florida.2 At the close of all the evidence, this Court directed a verdict for Pilot on the issue of liability. Rule 50, Fed.R.Civ.P. The Court now enters this Memorandum Opinion to detail the reasons for the directed verdict.3

The Collective Bargaining Agreement

The collective bargaining agreement relevant to this action was entitled the National Master Freight Agreement (NMFA) and Southern Conference Supplement (Southern Supplement) and was effective from April 1, 1970 to June 30, 1973.4 Plaintiff's Exhibit 5. The NMFA was a national agreement applicable to all covered employers and Teamster locals; the Southern Supplement was a regional agreement which dealt primarily with local concerns.

As a part of its directed verdict, this Court held that IBT was a party to and obligated to abide by the provisions of the NMFA and the Southern Supplement. IBT argues that the agreement named as union parties only the Teamster locals and their national negotiating committee, the National Union Committee, and that IBT's only specific contractual obligation was to discourage wildcat strikes (Art. 8(a)(3)(a), NMFA)—an obligation irrelevant to Pilot's claim. IBT asserts its liability "could only be established by first identifying a contractual promise by it to take responsibility for the actions of the locals which struck Pilot or for its locals generally." Trial Brief of Defendant, p. 16 (February 19, 1980).

Although IBT carefully excluded reference to itself in the NMFA and the Southern Supplement, contractual draftsmanship does not control the issue. The Teamster locals did not exist independently of the international. A detailed review of the IBT constitution (Plaintiff's Exhibit 20) reveals, in the words of the Fourth Circuit, "such far-reaching control of local unions that the locals, in essence, were not autonomous but were subdivisions of IBT." Great Coastal Express, Inc. v. IBT, 511 F.2d 839, 844 (4th Cir. 1975). The Court need not detail the various provisions of the IBT constitution which prove the point. The Fourth Circuit, in IBT v. United States, 275 F.2d 610 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 362 U.S. 975, 80 S.Ct. 1060, 4 L.Ed.2d 1011 (1960), a criminal case requiring a more stringent standard of proof, examined a precedent IBT constitution and found that it allowed the international to control the most fundamental of local union affairs. This Court has discovered no significant changes in the IBT constitution relevant to Pilot's suit. The Court therefore believes that, as a matter of law, the Teamster locals, as parties to the NMFA and the Southern Supplement, acted as the acknowledged agents of IBT and thereby obligated IBT to abide by the requirements of the collective bargaining agreement.

Moreover, IBT became a party to the agreement by virtue of the National Union Committee's participating in the bargaining process and signing the final agreement. The Third Circuit reached the same conclusion in Eazor Express, Inc. v. IBT, 520 F.2d 951, 958-59 (3d Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 424 U.S. 935, 96 S.Ct. 1149, 47 L.Ed.2d 342 (1976), overruled on other grounds, Carbon Fuel Co. v. UMW, 444 U.S. 212, 100 S.Ct. 410, 62 L.Ed.2d 394 (1979). There, the court found that the National Union Committee was "organizationally and functionally an administrative arm of the International." 520 F.2d at 958 (quoting the district court). The court further found that IBT was fully obligated to abide by the agreement's no-strike pledge. 520 F.2d at 959.5

Article 8 of the NMFA and Article 45 of the Southern Supplement detailed the parties' grievance procedure. The procedure applied to "all grievances or questions of interpretations arising under the Master Agreement or Supplemental Agreements," Art. 8(a), NMFA, or "any controversy which might arise," Art. 45 § 1, Southern Supp. There were two types of disputes: (1) "factual grievances or questions of interpretation arising under the grievance provision of the Supplemental Agreement, (or factual grievances arising under the National Master Agreement) . . .;" and (2) "requests for interpretation of the National Master Agreement . . . ." Art. 8(a)(1), NMFA. Disputes of the first type proceeded initially to a State or Multi-State Committee comprised, like all other grievance committees established by the contract, of an equal number of employer and union representatives. When that Committee decided a dispute by majority vote, the decision was said to be "final and binding on both parties." Art. 45 § 1(a), Southern Supp. If the Committee deadlocked, the case was referred to the Southern Conference Area Grievance Committee. Again, a majority vote by that Committee was "final and binding on both parties." Art. 45 § 1(b), Southern Supp. If the Conference Committee deadlocked, the case was referred to the highest employer-union grievance body, the National Grievance Committee (NGC), whose majority decision was "final and binding upon all parties." Art. 8(a)(2), NMFA.

Disputes involving interpretations of the NMFA were referred directly to the Southern Conference Committee, for the making of a record, and then to the NGC for decision. The NGC's interpretation of the NMFA was "final and binding upon all parties." Art. 8(a)(2), NMFA; see Art. 45 § 5, Southern Supp.

In situations where the NGC deadlocked "then either party would be entitled to all lawful economic recourse to support its position in the matter." Art. 8(a)(2), NMFA. Also, a party's "failure to comply with any Committee decision" withdrew that party's rights under the grievance procedure. Art. 45 § 1(d), Southern Supp.; see Art. 8(d), NMFA. Thus, although the parties agreed there would be "no strikes . . . without first using all possible means of settlement as provided for in this Agreement of any controversy which might arise," Art. 45 § 1, Southern Supp., they recognized that the union had retained the right to strike in the appropriate circumstances.

The Pilot—IBT Dispute

In 1970, Pilot extended its eastern seaboard routes into Florida and opened terminals in four Florida cities. Although its other hourly employees were Teamsters and thus subject to the NMFA,6 Pilot operated the Florida terminals non-union. None of the Florida workers had expressed a desire to become Teamsters, Order on Final Pre-Trial Conference (5)(f) (November 28, 1979), and, in any event, Pilot took the position that the workers were independent contractors, see n. 2 supra.

In April 1972, several Florida Teamster locals filed grievances with the local Multi-State Committee claiming that the accretion clause of the NMFA (Art. 2 § 3) required that the NMFA be applied to the Pilot employees in Florida. The accretion clause provided that the NMFA applied "to all accretions to the bargaining unit, including . . . newly established or acquired terminals . . . ." The Florida locals did not assert in their grievances (or at anytime thereafter) that any of the Pilot employees had designated IBT or its locals as their collective bargaining representative.7

Pilot responded to the Florida locals' grievances in four ways. First, it gained consecutive continuances (in April and June 1972) of the Multi-State Committee hearing. Second, on May 24, 1972, it filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) a unit clarification (UC) petition pursuant to § 9(c) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. § 159(c). By its petition, Pilot sought to clarify the Teamster national bargaining unit to exclude its Florida employees. Plaintiff's Exhibits 8 & 9. Third, it filed suit on June 12 in a Florida federal district court against IBT and various locals seeking to enjoin resolution of the grievances by any grievance committee. Pilot also sought a declaratory judgment that an accretion issue could only be decided by the NLRB. Defendant's Exhibit 46. Fourth, Pilot filed with the NGC and the Southern Area Conference on June 19 a request for an interpretation of the accretion clause in the NMFA, pursuant to Article 8(a) of the NMFA. In its request, Pilot argued that the NGC should interpret the NMFA to mean that only the NLRB could finally decide an accretion dispute. Plaintiff's Exhibit 10.

On June 13, an NLRB Hearing Officer began hearing testimony on Pilot's UC petition. The hearings continued until June 22. After a transfer to the NLRB and a remand to the Regional Director, 54 additional days of hearings were held between September 1972 and February 1973. The parties thereafter filed briefs and made oral arguments to the Board in the Fall of 1973. In the meantime, Pilot, on July 29 and August 9, 1972, filed unfair labor practice charges with the Board asserting violations by IBT of §§ 8(b)(1)(A) and 8(b)(3) of...

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  • Pilot Freight Carriers, Inc. v. International Broth. of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America
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    ...and remanded a similar case to the Fifth Circuit for further consideration in the light of DelCostello. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers, Local No. 988 v. Edwards, ___ U.S. ___, 103 S.Ct. 3104, 77 L.Ed.2d 1360 (1983); 678 F.2d 1276 (5th In view of......

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