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UNITED RAILROAD WORKERS v. ATCHISON

March 3, 1950

UNITED RAILROAD WORKERS OF AMERICA, INDEPENDENT, ET AL.
v.
ATCHISON, T. & S.F.R. CO. ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Igoe, District Judge.

This cause is before the Court for disposition of the motions of the defendants, The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company (hereinafter referred to as Santa Fe) and System Federation No. 97, Railway Employes' Department, American Federation of Labor (hereinafter referred to as System Federation) to dismiss the amended complaint. There is a third defendant, National Railroad Adjustment Board, Second Division (hereinafter referred to as the Board) on whose behalf no motion or responsive pleading has been filed.

Plaintiffs are Alvin R. Wilson, Sr., a machinist formerly in the employ of the Santa Fe at Chicago, and United Railroad Workers of America, Independent (hereinafter referred to as Independent), an unincorporated railway labor organization.

The amended complaint alleges that at all times mentioned therein System Federation was, and now is, the duly authorized collective bargaining agent for members of the craft employed in the Maintenance of Equipment Department of the Santa Fe at Chicago, in which craft plaintiff Wilson was employed by Santa Fe on and before June 16, 1947. There was in effect a collective bargaining agreement entered into between System Federation and Santa Fe which was a part of Wilson's contract of employment. Rule 33 of the agreement prescribes the manner in which grievances shall be handled by employees covered by the agreement with the officers of the carrier. This rule permits an aggrieved employee to present and appeal his grievance either personally or through the duly authorized representative of his craft, i.e., System Federation.*fn1

On June 16, 1947 Wilson was dismissed by the Santa Fe following a formal investigation conducted by an officer of the carrier on May 23, 1947. The reasons for Wilson's dismissal are not material to this inquiry. Thereafter, Wilson requested System Federation to appeal his grievance, but System Federation is alleged to have refused the request. Wilson then designated a minority shop union, United Railroad Workers of America, Congress of Industrial Organizations, Local 1618 (hereinafter referred to as CIO), as his representative to appeal his grievance. The CIO agent communicated with the Santa Fe but was advised that under Rule 33 of the collective bargaining agreement appeals may not be handled by persons other than the employee himself or the accredited representative of the craft (System Federation). Subsequent communications from the CIO agent to the successive officers of the carrier through the highest operating official authorized to handle such disputes were not answered by the carrier.

On October 8, 1947, CIO filed with defendant Board a submission asserting a claim on behalf of Wilson against Santa Fe for reinstatement and wages wrongfully withheld, on the ground of wrongful dismissal and subsequent refusal by the carrier to consider an appeal in his behalf. The Board denied jurisdiction on the ground that Wilson had failed to comply with the statutory prerequisite of handling his dispute "in the usual manner up to and including the chief operating officer of the carrier designated to handle such disputes." 45 U.S.C.A. § 153, First (i). The Board found that the "usual manner" of handling such disputes was the procedure prescribed by Rule 33 of the collective bargaining agreement with which Wilson had not complied.

The complaint alleges that the refusal of the Santa Fe to recognize the CIO agent as representative of Wilson and the refusal of the Board to take jurisdiction of his submission constituted a taking of property without due process of law and a violation of the Railway Labor Act. As a direct consequence of these acts, the CIO Local is alleged to have suffered a depletion of membership with the result that its charter was withdrawn by the CIO, making necessary its reorganization under the name of the Independent. The defunct Local is not a party to this suit.

The relief prayed for is as follows:

1. Judgment in favor of plaintiff Wilson against the Santa Fe for Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000.00) damages or his reinstatement with lost wages and costs of suit.

2. A declaratory judgment declaring that plaintiff Wilson or any other carrier employee having a grievance arising out of interpretation or application of a collective bargaining agreement has the right to negotiate with his employer through the Independent or such other representative as he may designate and to avail himself of the services and processes of the Board through such representative.

The action is said to arise under the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq., and the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C.A. § 2201.*fn2 As to the claim of plaintiff Wilson against Santa Fe for damages or reinstatement, diversity of citizenship and jurisdictional amount appear on the face of the complaint.

No motion has been made with respect to the alleged right of action asserted by plaintiff Wilson for damages and reinstatement for alleged wrongful discharge described in paragraph 1. For the purpose of considering the motions now before the Court, counsel for the carrier admits that Wilson has the right to maintain this action for breach of contract under the rule of Moore v. Illinois Central Railroad Company, 1941, 312 U.S. 630, 61 S.Ct. 754, 85 L.Ed. 1089.

With respect to the claim of both plaintiffs for declaratory relief summarized in paragraph 2 above, Santa Fe and System Federation have filed motions to dismiss on essentially the same grounds which are as follows:

1. The issue as to the right of the minority Independent union and its CIO predecessor to represent Wilson in the presentation of his grievance to the officers of the carrier, and the corollary right of Wilson to select such representative, is not justiciable.

2. There does not presently exist any actual controversy between either plaintiff and either Santa Fe or System Federation under the Declaratory Judgment Act for the reason that the alleged dispute concerning the right of representation has been mooted by Wilson's election to seek damages and reinstatement for wrongful discharge, and for the further reason ...


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