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BURLINGTON NORTHERN v. AMERICAN RY. SUPER. ASS'N

United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois


June 22, 1973

BURLINGTON NORTHERN, INC., A CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF AND COUNTER-DEFENDANT,
v.
THE AMERICAN RAILWAY SUPERVISORS ASSOCIATION ET AL., DEFENDANT AND COUNTER-PLAINTIFF.

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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This cause comes on the plaintiff and counter-defendant's motion to dismiss the counter-claim and the defendant, counter-plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on the issue of the counter-defendant's liability.

The plaintiff and counter-defendant, Burlington Northern, Inc., ("Burlington Northern") is a Delaware corporation, engaged in the business of transporting freight and passengers by rail in interstate commerce, and is a "carrier" as defined in Section 1 of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 151.*fn1 The defendant and counter-plaintiff, The American Railway Supervisors Association ("ARSA") is an incorporated labor organization with headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. The plaintiff initiated the instant action against ARSA and other defendants seeking, inter alia, a declaration that plaintiff is not required to bargain, arbitrate or otherwise treat ARSA as the representative of any of plaintiff's employees and an order enjoining ARSA from further prosecuting its demand for arbitration of the parties' disputes alleged herein.*fn2

On August 21, 1972 this Court held that it was without jurisdiction to entertain the instant complaint involving a representation dispute under the R.L.A.*fn3 See Burlington Northern, Inc. v. American Railway Supervisors Association, 350 F. Supp. 897 (N.D.Ill. 1972).

The only part of the instant action which remains is the defendant ARSA's counter-claim against the plaintiff Burlington Northern. The defendant and counter-plaintiff ARSA, in the counterclaim, seeks an order compelling Burlington Northern to submit the parties' disputes to arbitration under the Burlington Northern merger protection agreement and an award of damages for Burlington Northern's alleged refusal to arbitrate.*fn4

The plaintiff, counter-defendant Burlington Northern, in support of its motion to dismiss the counter-claim, contends:

  1.  On August 21, 1972 this Court ruled that the
      issues presented by the complaint in this
      case are within the exclusive jurisdiction of
      the National Mediation Board and therefore
      the Court lacks jurisdiction to determine
      those issues.

  2.  In its counter-claim, ARSA sought a contrary
      determination of the same issues. Thus, the
      counterclaim sought a judgment declaring that
      Burlington Northern is required to submit the
      parties' disputes to arbitration and sought
      an order requiring Burlington Northern to
      submit to such arbitration and to pay damages
      for failing to do so.

  3.  Accordingly, the Court's ruling that it lacks
      jurisdiction to determine the issues
      presented by the complaint is equally
      applicable to the only claim asserted in the
      counter-claim.

The defendant and counter-plaintiff ARSA, in support of its motion for summary judgment as to liability on the counter-claim, and in opposition to Burlington Northern's motion to dismiss contends that the Court has jurisdiction over the counter-claim and should adjudicate that Burlington Northern is liable to ARSA for damages.

It is the opinion of this Court that in accordance with this Court's prior ruling it does not have jurisdiction at the present time over the instant counter-claim because essential to the proper disposition of the counter-claim for damages is the resolution of the representation question presented by the instant complaint which can only be determined by the National Mediation Board (NMB). See Burlington Northern, Inc. v. American Railway Supervisors Association, supra. Obviously, ARSA cannot recover damages for Burlington Northern's failure to recognize it as the representative of any Burlington Northern employees if ARSA is not entitled to recognition.

More specifically, the threshold question presented by ARSA's counter-claim for damages is whether the Burlington Northern must recognize ARSA as the bargaining representative of the employees that ARSA claims to represent. This Court has previously held that it lacks jurisdiction to determine that very question. Only the NMB can properly determine and resolve this representation dispute. Burlington Northern, Inc. v. American Railway Supervisors Association, supra.

Since the Court lacks jurisdiction to decide that ARSA does not represent the employees, it also lacks jurisdiction to decide that ARSA does represent the employees. Before claiming damages for non-recognition ARSA should obtain a determination by the NMB of the threshold question upon which damages are predicated, namely its right to recognition as a representative of Burlington Northern's employees. Thus the counter-claim should be dismissed.

Accordingly, it is hereby ordered that the plaintiff-counter-defendant's motion to dismiss the counter-claim is granted.


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