Railway Labor Executives' Ass'n v. Pittsburgh & Lake Erie R. Co., 87-3664

Citation831 F.2d 1231
Decision Date26 October 1987
Docket NumberNo. 87-3664,87-3664
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)

Page 1231

831 F.2d 1231
126 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2975, 56 USLW 2323,
107 Lab.Cas. P 10,155
No. 87-3664.
United States Court of Appeals,
Third Circuit.
Argued Oct. 21, 1987.
Decided Oct. 26, 1987.

Page 1232

John O'B. Clarke, Jr. (argued), Highsaw & Mahoney, Washington, D.C., for appellant.

Richard L. Wyatt, Jr. (argued), Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, Washington, D.C., for appellee.

Clyde J. Hart, Jr. (argued), I.C.C., Washington, D.C., for amicus curiae I.C.C.

Before SLOVITER, BECKER and MANSMANN, Circuit Judges.


SLOVITER, Circuit Judge.

The district court entered an order on October 8, 1987 enjoining the Railway Labor Executives' Association (RLEA), an association of the executive officers of nineteen railroad unions, from proceeding with its strike against defendant Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Company (railroad or P & LE). 1 RLEA appeals from that order contending, inter alia, that the district court had no jurisdiction to issue the injunction because section 4 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 104, has withdrawn jurisdiction from the federal courts to enjoin the strike activity involved in this case. Before us is the motion of RLEA to summarily reverse the district court or in the alternative to stay the injunction pending appeal, on which we have held expedited oral argument.


The following facts are not disputed for purposes of this appeal: P & LE has collective bargaining agreements with various labor organizations whose chief executive officers are members of RLEA. Some of these agreements contain provisions protecting the job security of certain covered employees for their working lives. On July 8, 1987, P & LE entered into an agreement to sell to P & LE Railco, Inc. (Railco), a

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newly-formed subsidiary of Chicago West Pullman Transportation Corporation, all of P & LE's rail lines and certain operating properties. The jobs of P & LE's approximately 750 employees would be affected by the sale because Railco intends to drop approximately 500 employees and does not intend to comply with or assume any of the existing labor agreements between P & LE and its unions.

The unions were notified by P & LE on July 30, 1987 of the pending agreement, and promptly wrote to P & LE noting P & LE's failure to send notice under section 6 of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. Sec. 156, and requesting the railroad to bargain over, among other things, the effects of the transaction on its employees. 2 P & LE responded that the transaction is controlled by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) and that section 6 bargaining would usurp the ICC's authority.

On August 19, 1987, RLEA filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against P & LE to enforce the employees' rights under the Railway Labor Act. RLEA sought a declaration that the provisions of the Railway Labor Act were applicable to this transaction, a declaration that the sale could not be consummated until all Railway Labor Act dispute resolution procedures have been exhausted, and an injunction prohibiting P & LE from completing the transaction until that time.

On September 15, 1987 the RLEA commenced a strike against P & LE. P & LE filed an answer to the complaint and a counterclaim seeking to enjoin the strike. The strike was temporarily halted by stipulation for a short period of time but continued thereafter. On September 21, 1987 the district court denied the railroad's request for a temporary restraining order against the strike, holding that such an injunction was precluded by section 8 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 108, because the railroad had not complied with its obligation under section 6 of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. Sec. 156, to give notice, bargain, and maintain the status quo.

On September 19, 1987 the purchasing company, Railco, filed a notice of exemption with the ICC pursuant to 49 C.F.R. Sec. 1150.31. RLEA filed a petition for a stay, a petition for rejection of the notice of exemption, and a complaint seeking an order preventing consummation of the sale. The ICC denied the request for a stay on September 25, 1987. RLEA filed a petition for revocation, which is pending.

Following the ICC's action, P & LE filed a renewed motion for a temporary restraining order, and, after a hearing on October 8, 1987, the district court entered the injunction order which is the subject of this appeal.

In essence, the district court found that the strike substantially curtails the operations of P & LE, that it would cause P & LE's customers and employees to suffer irreparable harm, and that an injunction against the strike was warranted because, by approving the sale of P & LE's assets to Railco, "[t]he ICC, and the statutes and regulations under which it operates, has eliminated the effects of the sale upon P & LE employees as a legitimate consideration in the granting of injunctive relief." Transcript of October 8, 1987 at 77.

The RLEA appeals. Because we conclude that section 4 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act divests the district court of jurisdiction to enter the injunction of October 8, 1987, we will summarily reverse, 3 without considering RLEA's additional argument relying on section 8 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act.


Under the mandate of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C. Secs. 101-15, as revealed by the words of the statute, the

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unmistakably clear legislative history, 4 and a long line of Supreme Court cases, district courts lack the power to enjoin employees from exercising their right to strike. See, e.g., Jacksonville Bulk Terminals, Inc. v. International Longshoremen's Association, 457 U.S. 702, 708, 102 S.Ct. 2672, 2678, 73 L.Ed.2d 327 (1982); Milk Wagon Drivers' Union Local No. 753 v. Lake Valley Farm Products, Inc., 311 U.S. 91, 101-03, 61 S.Ct. 122, 127-28, 85 L.Ed. 63 (1940).

Section 4 of the Act is explicit:

No court of the United States shall have jurisdiction to issue any restraining order or temporary or permanent injunction in any case involving or growing out of any labor dispute to prohibit any person or persons participating or interested in such dispute (as these terms are herein defined) from ...

(a) Ceasing or refusing to perform any work or to remain in any relation of employment.

29 U.S.C. Sec. 104 (1982).

Notwithstanding this unambiguous language, the Supreme Court has, in certain limited circumstances, determined that there should be an "accommodation" of Section 4's seemingly blanket prohibition on the exercise of the district court's injunctive powers. For example, in Boys Markets, Inc. v. Retail Clerk's Union Local 770, 398 U.S. 235, 90 S.Ct. 1583, 26 L.Ed.2d 199 (1970), the Supreme Court held that a federal court is not precluded from enjoining a strike in breach of a collective bargaining agreement that contains a no-strike clause and a mandatory grievance adjustment or arbitration procedure. In light of the strong federal labor policy in favor of labor arbitration, the Court concluded that "the core purpose of the Norris-LaGuardia Act is not sacrificed by the limited use of equitable remedies to further this important policy." Id. at 253, 90 S.Ct. at 1594.

P & LE argues, and the district court found, that the Norris-LaGuardia Act must be accommodated to the Interstate Commerce Act. However, the Norris-LaGuardia Act will be accommodated to another federal statute only if that statute irreconcilably conflicts with the command of the Norris-LaGuardia Act and such an accommodation is necessary to enforce some other overriding and equally clear federal labor policy.

A review of the development of the accommodation cases shows that they have focused on "the need to accommodate two statutes when both were adopted as a part of a pattern of labor legislation." Brotherhood of R.R. Trainmen v. Chicago River and Indiana R.R. Co., 353 U.S. 30, 42, 77 S.Ct. 635, 641, 1 L.Ed.2d 622 (1957). See e.g., id. at 39-42, 77 S.Ct. at 639-41 (plain language of Railway Labor Act requiring that...

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11 cases
  • Railway Labor Executives' Ass'n v. Pittsburgh & Lake Erie R. Co., 87-3797
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 8 Abril 1988
    ...to require provisions that protect employees" could not override the "strong national policy embodied in the [NLGA]." RLEA v. P & LE, 831 F.2d 1231, 1236 (3d Cir.1987). 7 We therefore remanded the case for further proceedings. Id. at On November 24, following remand, the district court gran......
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    • 21 Junio 1989
    ......           Faced with heavy losses, petitioner Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Co. (P & LE) agreed to sell its assets to P & LE Rail Co., Inc. (Railco), a newly formed subsidiary of ... See ante, at 496, n. 4; Consolidated Rail Corporation v. Railway Labor Executives' Assn., 491 U.S. 299, 302-304, 109 S.Ct. 2477, 2479-2481, 105 L.Ed.2d 250 (1989). If a railroad sought ......
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