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TAYLOR v. SWAN

June 29, 1955

HARRY TAYLOR ET AL.
v.
O.E. SWAN ET AL., STATE OF CALIFORNIA, INTERVENING DEFENDANT.



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

This case is before the court on the motions for summary judgment filed by the plaintiffs, by the United States in support of the plaintiffs and by the State of California, intervening defendant. All of the parties are agreed that there is no issue of fact outstanding and that the case is ready for decision on the legal issues raised. Affidavits and briefs have been filed in support of the several motions, and the court has heard oral argument.

An account of the events which led to this action is necessary for an understanding of the issues.

On September 1, 1942, the California Board of State Harbor Commissioners (Harbor Board), which operates the state-owned State Belt Railroad, entered into an agreement covering rates of pay and working conditions with two railroad unions — the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen and the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen. The five plaintiffs in this action were at all material times employees of State Belt and members of one of the two Brotherhoods.*fn1 Grievances arose between each of the plaintiffs and State Belt respecting either wages claimed to be due, or proper classification, or seniority rights. After unsuccessful attempts at settlement at the carrier level, the Brotherhoods on behalf of the plaintiffs filed claims with the First Division of the National Railroad Adjustment Board. These claims were duly docketed with the Board on various dates between 1949 and 1951. The Adjustment Board was created by the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq., to hear and make awards in

  "disputes between an employee or group of employees
  and a carrier or carriers growing out of grievances
  or out of the interpretation or application of
  agreements concerning rates of pay, rules, or working
  conditions * * *." 45 U.S.C.A. § 153 First
  (i).

The Board, and each division thereof, is composed of equal numbers of representatives of the carriers and of the labor organizations.

In the meantime, while the plaintiffs' claims were pending before the First Division of the Board, the State of California brought suit against the two Brotherhoods in the courts of that state seeking a declaration that the state was not subject to the provisions of the Railway Labor Act and that the contract of September 1, 1942, was invalid. On July 19, 1951, the Supreme Court of California handed down a decision, State v. Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, 37 Cal.2d 412, 232 P.2d 857, in which it held both that the Railway Labor Act was not intended to apply to the state-owned and operated State Belt Railroad and that the collective bargaining agreement was invalid under California law. The first holding evolved from a lengthy analysis of the traditional relationship between a governmental body and its employees under which wages and working conditions have always been established by statute and administrative regulation, never by collective bargaining. The court concluded that Congress had shown no intent to engage in such an "unprecedented interference" with this tradition, 232 P.2d at page 861. In holding the contract invalid, the court said that the Harbor Board was not authorized to bind the state to any particular wage rates without the approval of the Department of Finance, as required by Section 18004 of the Government Code.

    "The Department of Finance is given general powers
  of supervision over all matters concerning the
  financial and business policies of the state. * * *
  The purpose of such legislation is to conserve the
  financial interests of the state, to prevent
  improvidence, and to control the expenditure of state
  money by any of the several departments of the
  state." 232 P.2d at page 863.

The Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari in this case, 1951, 342 U.S. 876, 72 S.Ct. 166, 96 L.Ed. 658.

Following this decision, the five carrier members of the First Division of the Adjustment Board directed a letter on February 25, 1952, to the five labor members in which they called attention to the California court's ruling. The letter concluded:

    "Therefore this Division has no jurisdiction and
  this is to advise you that the Carrier Members will
  not participate in the handling of the following
  State Belt Railroad of California dockets other than
  to dismiss them".

The claims filed by the five plaintiffs in this case were among those listed.

Faced with this administrative deadlock, the plaintiffs whose grievances were left pending and unresolved filed this suit for an injunction to compel the members and the executive secretary of the First Division of the Adjustment Board to take jurisdiction of their claims and to consider and decide them consistently with the provisions of the Railway Labor Act. The plaintiffs do not — and clearly they would have no right to — seek to require the Board or any of its members to decide the grievances in a particular way.*fn2 They ask only that the Board decide them in some way.

In their answer and briefs the defendant carrier members have argued that the plaintiffs brought the wrong action against the wrong parties. The correct action, it is said, would have been a suit for declaratory judgment against the state of California seeking a statement, or restatement, of the rights of the Brotherhoods and State Belt. The carrier members contend that in any event the Board, by the action of the carrier members, has concluded, correctly, that the questions raised by these submissions are not the kind which it was intended to resolve and that its conclusion to this effect cannot be reviewed in any manner by a court.

The State of California, which was given leave to intervene as a defendant, relies chiefly on the principles of res judicata in support of its motion for summary judgment. The California decision, it says, was conclusive on these parties as to the applicability of the Railway Labor Act and the validity of the contract, and the carrier members properly followed that decision. California has also argued that the jurisdiction of the Adjustment Board extends only to valid and existing collective bargaining contracts and that it has no jurisdiction to decide the question of validity, that an award on these claims, if ultimately made, could not be enforced against the state because of the Eleventh Amendment, and that the 1942 ...


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