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United Transportation Union v. Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Co.

decided: August 24, 1976.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division - No. 74 C 3149 Joel M. Flaum, Judge. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division - No. 75 C 719 Richard B. Austin, Judge.

Fairchild, Chief Judge, Tone and Bauer, Circuit Judges.

Author: Tone

TONE, Circuit Judge.

The issue in these two cases is whether Congress has provided for judicial review of "denial awards," i.e., decisions denying relief, made by special boards of adjustment, usually called "public law boards,"*fn1 created pursuant to the second paragraph of § 3, Second of the Railway, Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 153, Second. In each case a public law board entered a decision adverse to the petitioner, an employee in one case and a union in the other, and the petitioner sought review in the District Court. In each case that court, considering itself bound by dictum in Brotherhood of Railway, Airline and Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express and Station Employees v. Special Board of Adjustment No. 605, 410 F.2d 520 (7th Cir. 1969), cert. denied, 396 U.S.887, 24 L. Ed. 2d 162, 90 S. Ct. 177 (1969), dismissed the action for want of jurisdiction, on the ground that § 3, Second, provides only for enforcement, and not review, of public law board awards. We reverse these judgments.

The issue before us has arisen because of the inartful wording of the second paragraph of § 3, Second, which was a part of the 1966 Amendments to the Railway Labor Act, Pub. L. No. 89-456, § 1, 80 Stat. 208. That paragraph provides for the creation of special boards of adjustment, or public law boards, upon demand of either a carrier subject to the Act or the representative of any craft or calss of employees. The board consists of one member designated by the carrier, one member designated by the employee representative, and, if requested by either party, a neutral member appointed by the National Mediation Board. The kinds of cases the public law board may consider are defined in the agreement establishing the board. They may be "disputes otherwise referable to the [National Railroad] Adjustment Board," or any disputes which have "been pending before the Adjustment Board for twelve months." 45 U.S.C. § 153, Second. The National Railroad Adjustment Board has jurisdiction over so-called minor disputes, i.e., "controversies over the meaning of an existing collective bargaining agreement in a particular fact situation, generally involving only one employee." Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Chicago River & Indiana Railroad Co., 353 U.S. 30, 33, 1 L. Ed. 2d 622, 77 S. Ct. 635 (1957). The provision for judicial review of public law board awards, which gives rise to the issue before us, is contained in the following language:

"Such awards shall be final and binding upon both parties to the dispute and if in favor of the petitioner, shall direct the other party to comply therewith on or before the day named. Compliance with such awards shall be enforcible by proceedings in the United States district courts in the same manner and subject to the same provisions that apply to proceedings for enforcement of compliance with awards of the Adjustment Board." 45 U.S.C. § 153, Second.

The provisions for judicial review of Adjustment Board awards, which allow awards to be set aside only for failure to comply with the requirements of the Act, lack of jurisdiction, or fraud or corruption, are separated into two subsections, § 3, First, (p) and (q), 45 U.S.C. § 153, First, (p) and (q). The first provides that an award against a carrier may be enforced in a judicial proceeding brought by the person benefited by the award and that in that proceeding the carrier may attack the award. Subsection (p). This provision corresponds to some extent with the provision in the second paragraph of § 3, Second, quoted above. The second Adjustment Board review provision permits judicial review on behalf of either an employee or group of employees or a carrier aggrieved by an Adjustment Board award. Subsection (q). There is no provision in the second paragraph of § 3, Second, that corresponds to subsection (q). The absence of such a provision, the appellee carriers*fn2 argue, means that judicial review is not available except to enforce an award in favor of an employee against a carrier.

In the Clerks, case, supra, this court held that a district court lacked jurisdiction to review the decision of a private disputes committee created before the 1966 amendments were enacted. The court observed that § 3, Second, was not applicable, but went on in dictum*fn3 to state that this provision

"even if otherwise applicable, cannot be the basis of jurisdiction here since it vests authority in the district courts only to enforce but not to review awards of special boards." 410 F.2d at 523.

The District Court in the cases at bar understandably and properly deferred to this dictum. We now hold, however, that district courts have jurisdiction under § 3, Second, and § 3, First, (q), to review awards of public law boards.

The legislative history of the 1966 amendments leaves no doubt that Congress intended to afford parties before a public law board, the same opportunities for judicial review that are available to the parties for an Adjustment Board award. The Senate Report states:

"The bill also provides that judicial review of orders of the National Railroad Adjustment Board, and of boards established under this legislation, relating to minor disputes in the railroad industry would be available to either party but limited to the determination of questions traditionally involved in arbitration legislation . . .." Sen. Rep. No. 1201, 89th Cong., 2d Sess., 1966 Code Cong. & Adm. News at 2289.

The remarks made during the House debate by Congressman Staggers, Chairman of the House committee which reported the bill, are to a similar effect. 112 Cong. Rec. 2748-2749 (1966).

Limiting judicial review to awards against carriers would have created an anomaly. Public law boards were given jurisdiction not only over disputes otherwise referable to the National Railway Adjustment Board but also over disputes which had been pending before that board for more than one year. There could be no rational basis for providing that if such a dispute is referred to a public law board instead of the Adjustment Board, initially or in order to ...

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