Syres v. Oil Workers International Union, Local No. 23

Decision Date05 August 1955
Docket NumberNo. 15286.,15286.
Citation223 F.2d 739
PartiesJohn SYRES and Louis J. Warrick, Appellants, v. OIL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, LOCAL NO. 23, F. A. McDuffie, Chairman Gulf Main Plant Group and Gulf Oil Corporation, E. R. McAdams, Chairman of Gulf Workmen's Committee, Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

Roberson L. King, Houston, Tex., William E. Rentfro, Denver, Colo., Dent, Ford, King & Wickliff, Houston, Tex., Lindsay P. Walden, General Counsel, Denver, Colo., for appellants.

Quentin Keith, Beaumont, Tex., Joseph H. Sperry, Chris Dixie, John E. Bailey, William F. Erwin, Jr., Houston, Tex., Eldon Young, Houston, Tex., Russell G. Connolly, Pittsburgh, Pa., David Proctor, Archie D. Gray, Houston, Tex., of counsel, for appellees.

Before RIVES, Circuit Judge, and DAWKINS and DE VANE, District Judges.

DAWKINS, District Judge.

Syres and Warrick, as representatives of all individuals similarly situated, and Local No. 254 of the Oil Workers International Union brought this action in the district court for an injunction to prevent the enforcement of a bargaining agreement with the employer, for declaratory judgment that the agreement is void and for damages. The defendants were Local No. 23 of the Oil Workers Union, Gulf Oil Corporation (called Gulf) and certain individuals as class representatives. The trial court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Appellants alleged that Local No. 254 is composed of Negro employees of Gulf and Local No. 23 of white employees. Pursuant to an agreement between the two locals, and after an election, they were both certified as the joint bargaining representatives of Gulf's employees and entered into contracts with Gulf. Subsequently the two locals decided to "amalgamate" and be represented by one bargaining committee, as to which complainants allege it was agreed there should be only "one line" for seniority. The committee was chosen by majority vote, and was composed entirely of white members of Local No. 23. Negotiations with Gulf resulted in a contract providing for two lines of seniority, and the effect, according to complainants, was to freeze the Negro employees in their jobs and prevent their bidding on higher classifications. They further alleged that this discrimination was based solely on race, and invoked jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, contending that it was a suit in equity involving an interpretation of the Constitution and laws of the United States, namely, the Fifth Amendment and the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq. They of course alleged the jurisdictional amount of more than $3,000.

The union defendants moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. Gulf moved to dismiss for the reason that the amount did not exceed $3,000, the controversy did not arise under the Constitution or laws of the United States, the matter was one exclusively for the National Labor Relations Board, and the complainants had not exhausted the remedies provided by the constitution and by-laws of the union. Judge Sheehy dismissed for the reason that the "cause of action, if any, * * * does not arise under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States, within the purview or meaning of" 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

Appellants cite Steele v. Louisville & N. R. Co., 323 U.S. 192, 65 S.Ct. 226, 89 L.Ed. 173; Tunstall v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, 323 U.S. 210, 65 S.Ct. 235, 89 L.Ed. 187, and Brotherhood of R. R. Trainmen v. Howard, 343 U.S. 768, 72 S.Ct. 1022, 96 L.Ed. 1283, which arose under the National Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq. There it was held that said Act, having created a statutory bargaining agent for all railroad workers, imposed an implied duty to represent all workers fairly and without discriminations based upon race. Appellants cite Ford Motor Co. v. Huffman, 345 U.S. 330, 73 S.Ct. 681, 97 L.Ed. 1048, in support of their contention that the Taft-Hartley Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq., also makes the chosen union the exclusive statutory bargaining agent. Based upon these authorities, they argue that the union (amalgamated) must represent all members of the craft without discrimination as to color, and having failed to do so, the result is the same as was held under the Railway Labor Act. They further argue that the right claimed is a private one over which the N.L.R.B. has no jurisdiction, since that agency deals only with public rights, for which reason they contend they have no administrative remedy.

Gulf argues that even if the claimed right does arise under the Taft-Hartley Act, it imposes no duty upon the employer to bargain for one group of employees in an agreement solely between two groups of the union. Further, it contends that the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments apply only to official acts of the State and Federal Governments and the Taft-Hartley Act does not accord the right here claimed. It relies strongly upon Williams v. Yellow Cab Co., 3 Cir., 200 F.2d 302, which distinguished the "railroad brotherhood" cases from those arising under the Taft-Hartley Act and refused to apply them. It further argues that at best the facts alleged amount to nothing more than an unfair labor practice of which the N.L.R.B. has exclusive jurisdiction, citing Carter Manufacturing Co., 59 N.L.R.B. 804, General Motors Corp., 62 N.L.R.B. 427, and Hughes Tool Co., 104 N.L.R.B. 318. It finally contends that there is no allegation that appellants have exhausted remedies under the union's constitution and by-laws, or that none exists.

The union appellees (No. 23) refrain from contending that the Taft-Hartley Act does not confer rights of this character under any circumstances but content themselves with saying, in this particular case, the issue is between one element of the amalgamated union against the joint bargaining agent duly certified and that the dispute concerns merely the private matter of seniority, not covered by the Taft-Hartley Act, and hence does not arise under Federal laws.

The International Union seeks to appear as amicus curiae, and its brief sides with the appellants. It joins appellants in arguing that a bargaining agent derives its authority from the statute, rather than from the consent of its members and has the same legal duty to refrain from racial discrimination as was held under the Railway Labor Act. In any event, it contends that whether or not the appellants were all members of the union was a fact issue which could not be decided without a hearing on the merits.

In Williams v. Yellow Cab Co., supra 200 F.2d 304, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, one of whose members was Judge Hastie, had occasion to consider substantially the same questions as presented in the present case, and unanimously sustained a ruling that there was no jurisdiction. The Supreme Court denied certiorari. Dargan v. Yellow Cab Co., 346 U.S. 840, 74 S.Ct. 52, 98 L.Ed. 361. Judge Maris reviewed and distinguished the cases relied upon here. We feel little need be added to what was said:

"The appellant relies primarily upon the cases of Steele v. Louisville & N. R. Co., 1944, 323 U.S. 192, 65 S.Ct. 226, 89 L.Ed. 173, and Tunstall v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, 1944, 323 U.S. 210, 65 S.Ct. 235, 89 L.Ed. 187, to sustain his proposition. In these cases the Supreme Court held that the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, when exercising the power granted by the Railway Labor Act to act as the statutory representative of the craft of firemen, composed of white members of the Brotherhood and Negro nonmembers, was under a duty imposed by the act to protect equally the interests of all the members of the craft in behalf of whom it acted. The court said that the power conferred on the Brotherhood by the act must be exercised fairly and without discrimination between its own member employees and those employees who were not its members. This rule does not preclude the statutory representative of a craft from making contracts the terms of which vary in their application to individual employees by reason of differences in seniority, competence, type of work done, or other relevant factors, but the court pointed out that discrimination based on race alone is irrelevant, invidious and unauthorized.
* * * * * *
"It does not follow, however, that the National Labor Relations Act imposed such a duty upon the Union in this case. For even if we assume that the Cab Company was engaged in interstate commerce, the act contains no general prohibition of discriminatory practices by unions engaged in collective bargaining with employers. * * *
"In considering this question we must bear in mind that the plaintiffs were all members of the Union. This is the distinguishing factor which makes the rule of the Steele case inapplicable to the facts of this case.
* * * * * *
"The right of a labor union to engage in collective bargaining on behalf of its members is a right which was not conferred by the National Labor Relations Act but was recognized long prior thereto. In exercising its powers to bargain collectively for its members as in all its other activities on their behalf a labor union acts, through its authorized officers, as agent of the entire membership within the authority conferred by its constitution and bylaws. In exercising these bargaining powers the labor union has the corresponding duty of an agent to represent all its members fairly, in good faith and without discrimination. This duty, however, being one imposed by the law of the state in which the Union operates, cannot be made the basis for invoking federal jurisdiction under Section 1331, even though it might well form the basis for action in the state courts. As we have said, the plaintiffs here were all members of the Union. We are compelled to conclude that the authority of the Union to act for them in collective bargaining was derived from their consent as

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