Retail Clerks International Association, Local Unions Nos 128 and 633 v. Lion Dry Goods, Inc, 73

Citation7 L.Ed.2d 503,369 U.S. 17,82 S.Ct. 541
Decision Date26 February 1962
Docket NumberNo. 73,73
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

S.G. Lippman, Washington, D.C., for petitioners.

Merritt W. Green, Toledo, Ohio, for respondents.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act,1 provides that "Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizen of the parties." The questions presented in this case are: (1) Does the scope of "contracts" within § 301(a) include the agreement at bar, claimed to be not a "collective bargaining contract" but a "strike settlement agreement"? (2) If otherwise includible, is the "strike settlement agreement" cognizable under § 301(a), although the petitioners, the labor-organization parties to the agreement, acknowledged that they were not entitled to recognition as exclusive representatives of the employees of the respondents?

The opinions below appear to rest upon alternative holdings, answering in the negative each of these questions. The District Court's conclusion that it lacked jurisdiction over the subject matter, 179 F.Supp. 564, was affirmed in a brief per curiam by the Court of Appeals, saying: "The contract here involved is not a collective bargaining agreement between an employer and a labor organization representing its employees. We think that the trial court was correct in reaching the conclusion that collective bargaining contracts between a union and an employer are the only contracts intended to be actionable in a United States District Court under the provisions of section 301(a)." 286 F.2d 235. We granted certiorari because of the importance of the questions to the enforce- ment of the national labor policy as expressed in § 301(a). 366 U.S. 917, 81 S.Ct. 1094, 6 L.Ed.2d 240. We hold that the lower courts erred and remand the cause for trial and further proceedings consistent with this opinion.2

The petitioners, local unions of the Retail Clerks International Association, brought this action on the sole jurisdictional basis of § 301(a) and (b), seeking to compel respondents' compliance with two allegedly binding arbitration awards. Respondents are two department stores in Toledo, Ohio, covered by the Labor Management Relations Act. For some years prior to 1957, petitioners had been the collective bargaining representatives of respondents' employees and had been parties to collective bargaining agreements with respondents. In November 1957, negotiations for renewal contracts ended in impasse. A strike ensued against one of the respondents, Lasalle's, and continued until December 24, 1958; the dispute with the other respondent, Lion Dry Goods, continued during the whole of those 13 months although no strike occurred. On December 24, 1958, the parties ended their dispute with the aid of the Toledo Labor-Management-Citizens' Committee (hereinafter, L-M-C), a local mediation and arbitration body.3 Negotiations by means of L-M-C mediation had produced a "Statement of Understanding" 4 satisfactory to all parties.

A few days before December 24, 1958, the L-M-C proposed a plan for settling the dispute. Discussions ensued between the Committee and the respondents, and between the Committee and the petitioners. At no time were direct negotiations carried on between petitioners and the respondents. Each side made known to the L-M-C discussed these conditions with the other side. In this manner a basis for settlement was fashioned which was embodied in the Statement referred to in the text.

The Statement contained such key points of settlement as the unions' acknowledgement that they were not then entitled to recognition as exclusive representatives, and would not seek such recognition unless and until certified as so entitled in single store unit elections conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, and Lasalle's agree- ment to reinstate striking employees without discrimination. Both stores also agreed to continue in effect detailed wage and hour schedules and provisions as to working conditions and other benefits, incorporated as exhibits to the Statement. All terms of employment had been in force prior to December 24, 1958, except an agreement by the stores to provide and pay fully for specified insurance coverage. The stores wrote the L-M-C delivering the Statement, calling it "the basis on which the heretofore existing dispute between [the Locals] and our compan[ies] is to be fully and finally resolved," and specifying that "The conditions to be performed and met by us are, of course, subject to and conditioned upon the receipt by your organization of guarantees from the respective labor organizations to make the principles enumerated [in the Statement] completely effective." A few days later the Locals wrote the L-M-C that "we herewith agree to the conditions and guarantees of the Statement of Understanding." The conditions to be performed by each side were performed and the dispute was terminated. In a few months, however, new grievances arose, including the two that generated this case. First. The unions claimed under the Statement the right of access to the employees' cafeteria in order to communicate with employees during their non-working time. The stores claimed that Statement ¶ 6 gave no right of access to the employees' cafeterias, for those are not "areas of the store which are open to customers." 5 Second. Two Lasalle's employees, salesladies in the men's furnishings department, had been fully reinstated except that the saleslady formerly assigned to sell men's shirts was assigned to sell men's sweaters, and the other saleslady, who had been selling sweaters, now was assigned to sell shirts. The Locals submitted these matters to the L-M-C under the procedure of Statement ¶ 7; the stores and the Locals participated fully in the ensuing arbitration proceedings; and the award went to the Locals on both grievances. The stores' refusal to accede to those awards prompted this suit.

The District Court viewed as crucial the question whether the Statement given by the stores to the L-M-C and then concurred in by the Locals, constituted "such a contract as is contemplated by Section 301(a)." 179 F.Supp., at 567. Although the opinion is somewhat ambiguous, we read it as holding that there was a contract between the Locals and the stores but that only certain kinds of contracts are within the purview of § 301(a) and this was not one of them.6 We interpret the District Court as holding that to be within § 301(a), contracts must be "collective bargaining contracts, or agreements arrived at through collective bargaining," ibid.' and fur- ther, must be with a union that is the recognized majority representative of the employees. The court found that the Statement of Understanding met neither test.7 The Court of Appeals' brief affirmance, supra, fails to make clear whether it agreed with both of those limitations on § 301(a), or with only one and if so which one.

It is argued that Congress limited § 301(a) jurisdiction to contracts that are "collective bargaining contracts," meaning, so runs the argument, only agreements concerning wages, hours, and conditions of employment concluded in direct negotiations between employers and unions entitled to recognition as exclusive representatives of employees.

The words of § 301(a) require no such narrow construction as is suggested; rather, they negate it. First. The Section says "contracts" though Congress knew well the phrase "collective bargaining contracts," see, e.g., § 8(d), § 9(a), § 201(c), § 203(d), § 204(a)(2), § 211(a), 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 158(d), 159(a), 171(c), 173(d), 174(a)(2), 181(a). Had Congress contemplated a restrictive differentiation, we may assume that it would not have eschewed "collective bargaining contracts" unwittingly. Moreover, Congress provided in § 211(a): "For the guidance and information of interested representatives of employers, employees, and the general public, the Bureau of Labor Statistics * * shall maintain a file of copies of all available collective bargaining agreements and other available agreements and actions thereunder settling or adjusting labor disputes." 8 Whatever the proper construction of that Section, insofar as it reflects upon § 301(a) at all, it supports the inference that "contracts" does include more than "collective bargaining agreements," at lest as respondents would define them. Second. If "contracts, the subsequent words "or between any such labor organizations" are superfluous, for if there is a collective bargaining agreement between unions it follows that as to that agreement, one union is the employer and the other represents employees. See Office Employes Intern. Union, etc., v. National Labor Relations Board, 353 U.S. 313, 77 S.Ct. 799, 1 L.Ed.2d 846. Congress was not indulging in surplusage: A federal forum was provided for actions on other labor contracts besides collective bargaining contracts. See, e.g., United Textile Workers, etc., v. Textile Workers Union, 7 Cir., 258 F.2d 743 (no-raiding agreement). But, it is urged, though Congress meant that labor organizations could sue one another in federal courts on other contracts between themselves, suits between employers and unions were still limited to actions on collective bargaining contracts: The provision for suits between labor organizations was inserted in Conference.9 Differing House and Senate bills were reconciled in Conference. The House bill spoke of suits involving a violation of "an agreement between an employer and a labor...

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