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Local 7-210 v. Union Tank Car Co.

decided: March 7, 1973.

LOCAL 7-210, OIL, CHEMICAL AND ATOMIC WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
UNION TANK CAR COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Swygert, Chief Judge, Hastings, Senior Circuit Judge, and Pell, Circuit Judge.

Author: Hastings

HASTINGS, C.J.:

On April 6, 1971, pursuant to § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, as amended, Title 29, U.S.C.A. § 185, plaintiff-appellant, Local 7-210, Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union, AFL-CIO (OCAW), filed an action in the federal district court against defendant-appellee, Union Tank Car Company (Company). It sought thereby to enforce compliance with the provisions and award of a decision by Labor Arbitrator Harry Platt.

This action was the culmination of the tortuous course of a labor dispute between the parties. The administrative procedures included an initial and final decision by Arbitrator Platt, a succession of unfair labor practice charges, representation petitions and unit clarification petitions before the National Labor Relations Board and a decision by Impartial Umpire David Cole under the AFL-CIO Internal Disputes Plan.

For many years the Company had been engaged in the manufacture of railway tank cars for lease and sale and in the repair and maintenance of completed tank cars at plants located throughout the United States, including facilities involved here located at East Chicago and Whiting, Indiana.

The facility in East Chicago was located on Tod Avenue. Until the latter part of 1969, it was primarily used in the manufacture (fabrication) of tank car shells. Aside from some tank car finishing functions there, the usual procedure was to ship the tank car shells to its Whiting plant for finishing. In 1961, the Whiting facility had been engaged principally in the repair and maintenance of damaged tank cars.

In 1966, the Company acquired a vacant facility, known as Plant No. 1, in East Chicago, across the street from its Tod Avenue plant. It then began remodeling Plant No. 1 with the intention of building, for the first time, an integrated manufacturing facility where new tank cars could be completely manufactured in one place. At that time the Company claimed it had no intention of curtailing the finishing operations at Whiting but did plan to engage in finishing operations at Plant No. 1 when it was ready. In late 1969, because of financial reasons, such as market projections, general economic forecasts and orders, the Company decided, sometime after Plant No. 1 was completed, that it would not be feasible to maintain Whiting as a finishing operation. Accordingly, in early 1970, the major portion of the finishing operation was curtailed there and Whiting went back to being a repair and maintenance facility. By late 1970, finishing work at Whiting ceased.

In the meantime, fabrication work commenced at Plant No. 1 in 1968 and was timed with the phase-out of the Tod Avenue plant. It was accomplished by the transfer of employees from Tod Avenue. By August 1970, peak employment at Plant No. 1 was reached. This included 200 employees working in the finishing operation, some of whom had been transferred from Whiting.

Beginning in 1945, when the Tod Avenue plant in East Chicago was owned and operated by Graver Tank and Manufacturing Company, and continuing from 1957, when it was acquired by the Company, the production and maintenance employees in East Chicago were and still are represented by Local 374, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers, AFL-CIO (Boilermakers). Likewise, at all times relevant here, the employees performing finishing and repair and maintenance work at Whiting were represented by OCAW. Boilermakers and OCAW were parties to separate collective bargaining agreements with the Company at all material times. All employees at Plant No. 1 were covered by the Boilermakers' contract. After notifying OCAW of its intention to curtail the Whiting operations, the Company and OCAW were unable to resolve their differences, OCAW taking the position that the Company was required to apply the OCAW agreement to the finishing operations at Plant No. 1. The above mentioned labor administrative procedures resulted.

The ruling of Arbitrator Platt sought to be enforced in the instant § 301 complaint was:

"(a) Contingent upon a determination by the National Labor Relations Board that it would not violate the provisions of the NLRA, the Company is directed to apply the existing OCAW Agreement to the finishing operations performed in Plant No. 1.

"(b) The Company is directed to reimburse and make whole all OCAW-represented employees for all lost wages and benefits, including health and welfare and retirement benefits, caused by the violation of Article II, Section 1 as heretofore determined."

Defendant Company filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and for summary judgment. Plaintiff OCAW filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. Subsequently, OCAW advised the district court, as it does now on this appeal, that it no longer seeks to enforce that part of the Platt award requiring the application of the OCAW contract at Plant No. 1 as set out in part (a), supra. OCAW no longer asserts any claim for representative status at Plant No. 1 or any bargaining right or the right to negotiate a new agreement with the Company. It merely seeks to enforce part (b) of the award requiring the reimbursement and "make whole" remedy for former OCAW-represented employees.

OCAW's action in not further asserting any right to apply the existing OCAW agreement to the finishing operations performed in Plant No. 1 is but a compelled recognition of the determination by the National Labor Relations Board on April 28, 1971, that the employees, including those previously employed at Whiting and now employed at Plant No. 1, were properly within the Boilermakers' unit and that the "appropriate unit of Plant No. 1 is a plantwide production and maintenance unit, including the finishing operations and that the employees in this unit are presently, and have been since June 1969, represented by the Boilermakers as their exclusive bargaining representative." In short, in making its ruling on April 28, 1971, the NLRB had the entire situation before it*fn1 and pre-empted the field and chose to determine OCAW's rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

In substance, OCAW contends that the two provisions in the Platt award are separable and that the contingency upon an NLRB determination in part (a) is limited to that section and does not cover the remedial directions in part (b). The Company makes the opposite contention. Viewed as a common law breach of contract question, a persuasive argument could be made for OCAW's position. However, we are in agreement with the district court that this case must be decided within the context of the Labor Act. If so, the action taken by the NLRB cannot be restricted to the representation matter, but it must be said to embrace all other matters, such as working conditions, wages and the like which are implicit in the rights accorded the certified representative of the employees at the plant covered by the collective bargaining agreement there in force.

The Company did not apply the OCAW contract to Plant No. 1 because it could not legally do so, for such would have been an unfair labor practice. Having acted in accord with the NLRB decision, how may the Company be liable for damages for refusing to violate the law? There was no breach of contract because OCAW's contract was never in force at Plant No. 1.

On August 4, 1970, Arbitrator Platt specifically ruled: "The Company violated Article II, Section 1 of the Agreement by failing to apply the OCAW Agreement to the finishing operation when it was moved from the Whiting Plant to Plant No. 1." This, of course, is in direct conflict with the later NLRB ruling, and OCAW has now abandoned any claims under part (a) of the Platt award. The remedial direction in part (b) of the Platt award is "to reimburse and make whole all OCAW-represented employees" for losses "caused by the violation of Article II, Section 1 as heretofore determined." This, too, is in direct conflict with the later NLRB ruling and cannot be separated from the contingency in part (a). Since there were never any OCAW-represented employees at Plant No. 1, ...


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