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INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO v. OIL COMPANY OF INDIANA

United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division


December 3, 1981

OIL, CHEMICAL AND ATOMIC WORKERS INTERNATIONAL, UNION, AFL-CIO, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
STANDARD OIL COMPANY OF INDIANA AND AMOCO PRODUCTION COMPANY, DEFENDANTS

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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This action was instituted by the plaintiffs, Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union ("OCAW"), AFL-CIO and OCAW Local 4-100 (hereinafter "Union") against the defendants, Standard Oil Company of Indiana and Amoco Production Company (hereinafter "Company") seeking to enforce the terms of a collective bargaining agreement entered into by and between the Company and OCAW Local 4-14. It is the Union's position that it is the successor to Local 4-14 as a result of the July 1, 1980, merger of six OCAW locals, including Local 4-14, into the new Local 4-100. The Union alleges that, effective October 12, 1981, the Company repudiated the collective bargaining agreement and withdrew recognition of the Union as bargaining agent for the employees covered by the agreement. In place of the collective bargaining agreement, the employer unilaterally instituted a set of "operating policies" to govern wages, hours, and other conditions of employment.

On November 17, 1981, the Union moved this Court for a temporary restraining order asking that the Company be required to provide employees with access to and the right to representation by the Union in connection with disputes or grievances with the Company. On the same date, the Company filed a motion to dismiss the Union's complaint. The Court entered and continued the Union's motion for a temporary restraining order pending its ruling on the Company's motion to dismiss. Hence, this matter is now before the Court on the Company's motion to dismiss.

The Company argues that this cause should be dismissed both for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for improper venue.*fn1 The former ground is based on the Company's contention that this cause involves an issue of representation, namely, the determination of whether Local 4-100 succeeds to the rights of Local 4-14 under the collective bargaining agreement, which issue is committed to the exclusive jurisdiction National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). For the reasons stated herein, we agree.

[1, 2] Section 9(b) of the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 159 (b) vests in the NLRB exclusive jurisdiction to determine questions of representation in the context of collective bargaining. E.g., West Point-Pepperell v. Textile Workers Union of America, 559 F.2d 304, 307 (5th Cir. 1977); Gordon v. Laborers International Union of America, 490 F.2d 133, 138 (10th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 419 U.S. 836, 95 S.Ct. 63, 42 L.Ed.2d 62 (1974). Yet, § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185 vests in the federal district courts jurisdiction over suits for violation of contracts between employers and labor organizations representing employees in industries affecting commerce. Therefore, for purposes of determining jurisdiction the question is whether this action should be characterized as one for breach of contract or as one involving the question of representation.*fn2 The correct determination in our view is that the latter characterization is the proper one.

Where the very existence of a collective bargaining agreement depends on the resolution of a representation question, the jurisdiction of the NLRB under § 9 of the NLRA must take precedence over the jurisdiction of this Court under § 301 of the LMRA. Couchigian v. Rick, 489 F. Supp. 54, 57 (D.Minn. 1980). In fact, the issue of union successorship, which forms the basis of the representation question in the instant suit, is one which the courts have held to be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the NLRB, West Point-Pepperell v. Textile Workers Union of America, 559 F.2d 304, 307 (5th Cir. 1977); Local 25 v. Carrollton Motor Inn, 96 LRRM 2549, 2552 (D.D.C. 1977), or at the very least, is a matter which justifies great deference to the NLRB for making the initial determinations. International Woodworkers v. Ketchikan Pulp, 611 F.2d 1295, 1299 (9th Cir. 1980).

Accordingly, the Company's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) is granted.*fn3 It is so ordered.


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