Rumbaugh v. Winifrede Railroad Company, 9022.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Citation331 F.2d 530
Docket NumberNo. 9022.,9022.
PartiesLuther Ray RUMBAUGH, Appellant, v. WINIFREDE RAILROAD COMPANY, a corporation, The Carbon Fuel Company, a corporation, Local Union 14182 United Mine Workers of America, District 50 United Mine Workers of America, and United Mine Workers of America, Appellees.
Decision Date02 March 1964

331 F.2d 530 (1964)

Luther Ray RUMBAUGH, Appellant,
WINIFREDE RAILROAD COMPANY, a corporation, The Carbon Fuel Company, a corporation, Local Union 14182 United Mine Workers of America, District 50 United Mine Workers of America, and United Mine Workers of America, Appellees.

No. 9022.

United States Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit.

Argued September 27, 1963.

Decided March 2, 1964.

Rehearing Denied May 1, 1964.

331 F.2d 531
331 F.2d 532
Edwin M. Young, Roanoke, Va. (E. Franklin Pauley, Charleston, W. Va., on brief), for appellant

F. Paul Chambers, Charleston, W. Va. (James K. Brown and Jackson, Kelly, Holt & O'Farrell, Charleston, W. Va., on brief), for appellees Winifrede R. Co. and Carbon Fuel Co.

M. E. Boiarsky, Charleston, W. Va., for appellees Unions.

Before SOBELOFF, Chief Judge, BOREMAN, Circuit Judge, and NORTHROP, District Judge.

SOBELOFF, Chief Judge.

This is another in the succession of cases since Steele v. Louisville & Nashville R. R., 323 U.S. 192, 65 S.Ct. 226, 89 L.Ed. 173 (1944), involving interpretation of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. A. § 151 et seq., and determination of the scope of federal judicial power in its administration.

Rumbaugh has joined his former employer, Winifrede Railroad Company, and the union designated as the bargaining representative for local railroad employees as co-defendants in an action to recover damages allegedly caused by the independent and combined efforts of the defendants to effect his discharge. Since there is no diversity of citizenship between the parties, federal jurisdiction must be predicated upon a claim arising under the laws of the United States. 28 U.S.C.A. §§ 1331, 1337. No such federal question was recognized by the District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia and the complaint was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, the District Court holding that exclusive jurisdiction was in the Railroad Adjustment Board.

This disposition of plaintiff's claims raises two fundamental jurisdictional questions. First, is there federal court jurisdiction over an employee's suit against a union for invidious discrimination where there is a dispute as to whether the aggrieved worker is a member of the bargaining unit which the union is statutorily obligated to represent? Second, does an employee have such a federal claim against his employer for wrongful discharge that jurisdiction will lie in a federal court regardless of the citizenship of the parties?1


Essentially, Rumbaugh's grievance against the union is that it, as the local bargaining representative, discriminated against him by refusing him membership, by failing to protect his employment rights, and by wrongfully procuring his discharge through false charges filed with his employer. His complaint against the railroad arises from allegedly false representations made to him by company officials that he was not covered by the collective bargaining agreement and his subsequent summary discharge, which he asserts was unlawful. He further charges that there was collusion between the union and his employer to effect his dismissal.

As factual support for the claims of unfair representation, wrongful discharge and conspiracy, the complaint states that the plaintiff went to work for the railroad in 1928 as a laborer and by 1959 had risen to the position of senior mechanic. Although designated as a foreman, Rumbaugh maintains that his duty was merely to verify locomotive inspection reports, and this entailed no supervisory functions whatsoever. Even though not a member of Local 14182 United Mine Workers, the plaintiff asserts that he has been unlawfully discriminated

331 F.2d 533
against by the bargaining agent in rejecting all of his applications for membership, while accepting similar requests from his fellow workers. He insists that the collective bargaining agreement adopted on November 7, 1958, imposed a duty on the union to represent him fairly as one of the specified "non-supervisory men."

From the complaint it appears that Rumbaugh's troubles began on July 16, 1959, when a local union official, not qualified as a mechanic and without seniority, was designated to assume the responsibilities of an absent colleague. Thinking the assignment unfair, the plaintiff was moved to inquire of company agents about an individual's right under the Railway Labor Act to organize other employees, presumably into a competing bargaining unit. Dissatisfied because he was "briskly informed" by the agents that no such right existed and displeased as well with changes being effected in rates of pay and work rules, Rumbaugh approached the president of Winifrede Railroad and was assured that a full investigation of the matter would be made and, if necessary, a complete hearing arranged. Neither step was ever taken. This prompted the plaintiff to inquire further of a union agent on October 14, 1959, as to the union's compliance with the statutory requirement that union-management contracts and pertinent work rules be filed with the National Mediation Board. Thereafter, on the same day, it is alleged that a union agent, conspiring with other union agents and an officer of the railroad, filed with the employer "charges against complainant on the false ground that he Rumbaugh was discriminating against the union" and requested that he be fired. The next day, October 15, 1959, Rumbaugh was summarily dismissed without explanation.

This suit for compensatory and punitive damages totalling $300,000 was instituted to redress the claimed discriminatory, wrongful and collusive behavior of the defendants.


Duty of Fair Representation

Since the landmark case of Steele v. Louisville & Nashville R. R., 323 U.S. 192, 65 S.Ct. 226, 89 L.Ed. 173 (1944), the principle has become unchallengeable that the federal courts have subjectmatter jurisdiction to enforce the judicially-created duty imposed upon bargaining agents to represent all employees in the bargaining unit fairly and without racial discrimination.2 Originally this court in Alabaugh v. Baltimore & O. R. R., 222 F.2d 861 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 350 U.S. 839, 76 S.Ct. 77, 100 L.Ed. 748 (1955), adopted the view that federal jurisdiction over alleged violations of the "duty of fair representation" was restricted to cases of racial discrimination. The District Court, following this guide, declined to give weight to what it recognized to be "the current of judicial authority" toward expansion of the union's obligation to include all forms of hostile treatment and discrimination regardless of race.3

While the District Court's conclusion, when rendered, was consistent with the position theretofore taken by this court, it does not reflect the broader principle which we subsequently announced in Thompson v. Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, 316 F.2d 191 (4th Cir. 1963). There we specifically stated that Alabaugh "represents too narrow a view" and that the judicially enforceable duty

331 F.2d 534
of fair representation "should be interpreted as also prohibiting invidious discrimination that is not based upon race." Id. 316 F.2d at 198. Thus we held that an allegation of breach of the statutory duty, even if not based upon racial discrimination, is within the jurisdiction of the federal courts

Membership in the Bargaining Unit

We also recognized in Thompson that no less protection should be afforded to an aggrieved non-union member who is within the bargaining unit for which the union is the bargaining agent than is afforded to a member of the union.4 Because the duty extends only to those employees whom the union is empowered to represent and because a union cannot be expected to look after the needs and demands of workers who are not covered by the collective bargaining agreement, an employee must establish, as part of his case, that he is a member of the designated bargaining unit.

Rumbaugh maintains that the union's duty of fair representation extends even further. His theory is that when discrimination is alleged, the complainant's status relative to the bargaining unit is immaterial. As support for this contention he cites Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Howard, 343 U.S. 768, 72 S.Ct. 1022, 96 L.Ed. 1283 (1952). But in that case the Supreme Court rejected the proposition that Steele's prohibition against racial discrimination was inapplicable because the plaintiffs, train porters, were not designated as brakemen, the class of employees represented by the Brotherhood. The Court said that the central issue was the legality of the collective bargaining agreement which the white union had secured and which had the effect of requiring the carrier to eliminate all Negro train porters and substitute white brakemen in their places.

We agree that the Court disregarded the artificial classification of train porters and brakemen in holding that the union violated its obligation of fair representation by entering into a racially discriminatory collective agreement. But this disregard was a facet of the patently illegal activity of the Brotherhood. It was the Court's view that the bargaining agent's obligation extended to all who worked in the craft, regardless of job classification. The Court did not hold that the duty of fair representation extends even to workers, such as supervisors, who are not regarded as "employees" within the meaning of the Railway Labor Act.

The union's position is that Rumbaugh is not within the unit it represents, because he is a supervisor. It contends that exclusive jurisdiction to determine his employment classification (i. e., whether he is a supervisor or a non-supervisor) lies either with the National Railroad Adjustment Board as a question arising "out of the interpretation or application of agreements," 45 U.S.C.A. § 153 First (i), or with the National Mediation Board as a dispute concerning craft classification or...

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