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
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
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
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
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