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Q Order /Q of Railway Conductors of America v. Swan

December 21, 1945

ORDER OF RAILWAY CONDUCTORS OF AMERICA, ET AL.
v.
SWAN, ET AL. WILLIAMS, ET AL. V. SAME



Author: Sparks

Before EVANS, SPARKS, and KERNER, Circuit Judges.

SPARKS, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs instituted this action under general federal equity jurisdiction, for a declaratory judgment pursuant to § 274d (1) of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C.A. § 400(1). They sought to have the First Division of the National Railroad Adjustment Board declared to have exclusive jurisdiction of disputes involving railroad yardmasters, within the terms and definitions of § 3, subd. First (h) of the railway Labor Act of May 20, 1926, as amended June 21, 1934. This Act created the National Railroad Adjustment Board for the adjustment of disputes between the carriers and their employees. It consists of thirty-six members, grouped in four divisions, and the Act provides that the proceedings of each division shall be independent. The constituency and jurisdiction of each division are fixed by the statute. 45 U.S.C.A. § 153, subd. First (h). Only the first and fourth divisions are involved here.*fn1

The only issue here involved is whether yardmasters shall be included in the first or fourth division. It is admitted that they can not be classified properly in either the second or third division, and if they can not be included in the first they must be included in the fourth division. The District Court held that they could not be classified properly in the first division, and assigned them to the fourth division. From that decree this appeal is prosecuted.

The decisive question here is whether yardmasters are "yard-service employees" as that term is used in the first division. Findings 7 to 13 inclusive are supported by substantial evidence and are as follows:

7. "Yardmasters and assistant yardmasters are not train-service or yard-service employees of rail carriers; that is to say, they are not engineers, firemen, hostlers, outside hostler helpers, conductors, trainmen, or yard-service employees.

8. "The terms 'yard service' and 'yard-service employees' are not terms in general and common usage in the English language.

9. "The terms 'yard service' and 'yard-service employees' are and have been for many years, both prior and subsequent to the amendment of the Railway Labor Act in 1934, technical terms in railroad usage, with definite meanings clearly understood by persons familiar with that usage.

10. "The term 'year-service employees,' as used in Section 3, First (h) of the Railway Labor Act with reference to the jurisdiction of the First Division of the National Railroad Adjustment Board, was taken by Congress from railroad usage and was introduced into the said statute upon its amendment in 1934 as a railroad term having the meaning customarily assigned to it in railroad parlance.

11. "At the time of the amendment to the Railway Labor Act referred to in the preceding paragraph 10, for many years prior thereto, and since that time, the term 'yard-service employees' referred, and has referred, solely to railroad employees engaged in making up and breaking up trains and switching trains and cars within yard limits. Over the same period of time the term 'yard service' has denoted the work performed by such employees, who include engineers, firemen, conductors or engine foremen, yard brakemen or switchmen, and switchtenders.

12. "During the period of time referred to in the preceding paragraph 11, the terms 'yard service' and 'yard work' have been synonymous and have been used interchangeably in railroad parlance, and the terms 'yard-service employees' and 'yardmen' have been synonymous and used interchangeably in railroad parlance.

13. "Railroad usage, as evidenced by the testimony of experienced railroad officials and representatives of railroad employees, has never included yardmasters and assistant yardmasters within the meaning of the terms 'yard-service employees' or 'yard men,' and yardmasters and assistant yardmasters have never been regarded as yard-service employees or yard men."

A study of this record convinces us that the District Court, in holding that yardmasters were not included in Division 1, did not give to the Act a strained or narrow interpretation contrary to the meaning of its terms. In support of their contention to the contrary, plaintiffs rely on Federal Trade Commission v. Bunte Brothers, Inc., 312 U.S. 349, 61 S. Ct. 580, 85 L. Ed. 881, and United States v. Cooper Corporation, 312 U.S. 600, 61 S. Ct. 742, 85 L. Ed. 1071. In both of those cases the court declined to extend the terms there used beyond their natural and ordinary meaning, and that is precisely the thing that was done in the case at bar. The testimony of all the witnesses did not differ materially with respect to the definition of "yard-service employees" as used by those engaged in the railroad business, and the court's finding adopted that definition. True, plaintiffs' one witness stated: "I would say that they (yardmasters) fit more nearly in with the yard-service employees than with any other class." However, he did not deny the accuracy of the definition of the terms "yard-service employees" as given by all other witnesses testifying on this subject. Of course, the construction of a statute involves a question of law. However, the definitions of words, either common or technical, involve questions of fact, and we are bound by the court's findings as to the definitions if they are supported by substantial evidence.

Aside from the testimony of witnesses on this subject, plaintiffs contend that the court erred in failing to give any weight to the historical alignment of yardmasters with the train and yard-service crafts in ...


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