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CHICAGO & NORTH WESTERN, ETC. v. UNITED TRANSP.

May 23, 1980

CHICAGO AND NORTH WESTERN TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, A CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED TRANSPORTATION UNION, A VOLUNTARY ASSOCIATION, D.C. DEERING, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS INTERNATIONAL VICE PRESIDENT, G.R. MALONEY, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS GENERAL CHAIRMAN, R.H. KOEPKE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS GENERAL CHAIRMAN, T.Q. RYAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS GENERAL CHAIRMAN, R.D. DARSIE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS GENERAL CHAIRMAN, D. MARKGRAF, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS VICE GENERAL CHAIRMAN, D. HINRICHSEN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS LOCAL CHAIRMAN, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This is an action seeking damages and declaratory and injunctive relief under the Railway Labor Act (the Act), 45 U.S.C. § 151-160. Jurisdiction is based on 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 1337.

Plaintiff is Chicago and North Western Transportation Co., a carrier within the meaning of the act. 45 U.S.C. § 151. Defendants are United Transportation Union (UTU), the collective bargaining representative of certain classes of employees, including firemen, hostlers, outside hostler helpers, conductors, trainmen and yard service employees, and various officials of the UTU. Defendants are sued in their individual and representative capacities.

The matter is before the Court on plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction prohibiting a threatened strike by the UTU. The action involves the interpretation of three rules which are part of the pertinent collective bargaining agreements and which provide that a reasonable time for meals en route will be allowed.*fn1 Specifically, the controversy arises out of the application of those rules to situations in which employees request en route stops enabling them to eat at restaurants.

Defendants argue that because plaintiff has refused to permit meals en route, it has violated the collective bargaining agreements and the numerous awards generated by the interpretation of the meals rules. Thus, according to defendants, all conciliatory efforts required by the Act have been exhausted and defendants are entitled to pursue self help remedies, that is, to strike. In addition, defendants charge that plaintiff has violated the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C. § 108, in that it has not made every reasonable effort to settle the dispute through negotiation, and that, therefore, this Court is without jurisdiction to grant injunctive relief. 29 U.S.C. § 101.

Plaintiff's position is that this controversy involves a minor dispute, the resolution of which is beyond the scope of this Court's jurisdiction. Plaintiff also asserts that defendants are not entitled to resort to self help measures to resolve minor disputes and, therefore, because a strike would be unlawful, it should be enjoined.

Since the nature of the dispute triggers distinct procedural mechanisms which, in turn, determine substantive rights, Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Ry. v. Burley, 325 U.S. 711, 722-28, 65 S.Ct. 1282, 1289-92, 89 L.Ed. 1886 (1945), the threshold issue here is whether the controversy over the meal en route rules involves a major or minor dispute. Generally, a major dispute concerns the formation of a collective bargaining agreement or the change in terms of a collective bargaining agreement. In contrast, a minor dispute involves the interpretation of an agreement already in existence or the application of its provisions to a particular situation. Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Ry. v. Burley, 325 U.S. 711, 723, 65 S.Ct. 1282, 1289, 89 L.Ed. 1886 (1945); Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific R.R. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, 397 F.2d 541, 543 (7th Cir. 1968), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 1022, 89 S.Ct. 630, 21 L.Ed.2d 566 (1969).

Some background facts will illuminate the parties' arguments and the nature of the dispute. The meals en route rules have been a part of the collective agreements for over fifty years. During that time, disputes have arisen over the proper application of those rules as they pertain to employees taking meals at restaurants during over-the-road trips which, of course, necessitates stopping the train. Most recently, in April of 1979, following unsuccessful negotiations between the parties, a strike threat was communicated by the UTU. Plaintiff filed suit in this Court seeking a temporary restraining order, which was granted. As an agreed condition of that order, the dispute was submitted to Special Board of Adjustment No. 235 (SBA No. 235). The result was Award No. 2371 in which SBA No. 235 intended to set forth general guidelines for the application of the meals en route rules.

In the Award, the SBA No. 235 stated that once proper notice is given requesting a stop, "except in exceptional circumstances, the carrier will be in violation of the rules" unless a reasonable time for meals is allowed. The Board expressly declined to further define "exceptional circumstances." Instead, it relied on examples cited in a prior Award, Award No. 2314, which included "isolated instances caused by particular operating conditions . . . or a very short trip."

By claiming that plaintiff disregards all requests for meal stops, defendants posit that plaintiff is attempting to change the terms of the collective bargaining agreements, which constitutes a major dispute.

However, the evidence presented at the hearing demonstrates that the plaintiff has attempted to comply with the interpretation of the meals rule set forth in Award No. 2371. Shortly after the Award was issued, plaintiff sent a memorandum to its division managers explaining the Board's interpretation of the meals rules and the obligations of the carrier under the Award. In addition, personal meetings with transportation officers and dispatchers took place in which the award was discussed and an attempt was made to resolve operational difficulties resulting from the application of the award.

Plaintiff admits that some violations of the meals en route rules have occurred. In three situations, plaintiff determined that stop requests were improperly denied,*fn2 and took measures to rectify its procedures by prohibiting local officials to issue blanket instructions that the trains could not stop.

Whether plaintiff's position has merit or not need not be determined by this Court for it is clear from the recitation of these facts that plaintiff is not attempting to change the terms of the collective bargaining agreements. Indeed, it fully recognizes its obligations under the existing agreements. It merely seeks further illumination of the Award's provisions. Moreover, although defendant assert that some 70 violations of the meals en route rule have been reported to the UTU, there is no evidence that those claims have been verified or subjected to the initial grievance procedures. Thus, the only ripe claims are those three cases involving ...


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