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PITTS v. NATIONAL R.R. PASSENGER CORP.

January 9, 1985

JAMES PITTS AND RAYMOND NORTHERN, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORP., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William T. Hart, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Presently before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Both sides have relied on matters outside the pleadings, but this court will treat the motion as a motion to dismiss and hence only the facts of the complaint are considered (and, of course, treated as true for purposes of this motion).

I. The Facts

Plaintiff James Pitts worked for defendant Amtrak from 1977 until he was fired on March 4, 1983. He was reinstated in 1984 and apparently still works at Amtrak. Since late 1980 or early 1981 he has been chairman of Local 2600 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The complaint alleges that Pitts is a vigorous advocate of both the rights of his Local's members and the need for competency and efficiency in the 16th Street diesel shop. In line with his vigorous advocacy, he allegedly reported, on numerous occasions, instances of unfair treatment of employees and inefficient management.

Plaintiff Raymond Northern worked for Amtrak from 1980 until he was fired on July 22, 1983. During his employment he was a member of Local 794 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Though never an officer as is Pitts, Northern allegedly supported his union and used its services in disciplinary and other proceedings.

Both plaintiffs worked at a facility known as the 16th Street diesel shop, which was managed by defendant James Brown. The other individual defendant, Michael Hagen, is Amtrak's Midwest Regional Director of Labor Relations.

The complaint alleges that defendant Brown vigorously opposed Pitts and the unions that represent 16th Street diesel shop employees. Brown allegedly plotted with unknown other Amtrak management personnel to subvert the internal system (set up by the collective bargaining agreement) of investigation and hearings designed to ensure each employee a fair hearing before discipline or dismissal. This subversion was allegedly accomplished in several ways. First, Brown and his unknown cohorts are alleged to have deliberately charged employees with unfounded infractions, so that the unfounded discipline which resulted would be considered in later disciplinary actions. Second, Brown and the unknown others are said to have controlled those who make the initial determination of guilt. Through that control, they got employees suspended without pay regardless of guilt, so that the lack of salary pending any further proceedings coerced the employee into signing an admission of guilt and a waiver of backpay. This technique of coercion was allegedly enhanced by flooding the disciplinary system with knowingly unfounded cases to increase the delay between suspension and final disposition. Finally, Brown allegedly used a lengthy appellate process "to wear down employees so that they would be more amenable to do the bidding of Defendants" (complaint, par. 22(d)).

Regarding the firing of Pitts, the complaint alleges that its immediate cause was an incident in which Pitts was properly representing two union members in a confrontation with management. Pursuant to the above-described plot, Brown was in control behind the scenes of Pitts's disciplinary hearing, and ordered Pitts fired. The complaint further alleges that several improper motives were behind his firing. Brown and Hagen allegedly harbored anti-union animus and were trying to break the union by punishing union members for union activities. Brown, Hagen and the unknown others also thought that by firing Pitts for discipline infractions they could discredit a report about to be issued by the local Productivity Council (of which Pitts was a member) which was critical of the disciplinary proceedings at the 16th Street diesel shop. Hagen reviewed the decision and upheld it. On appeal, however, the Public Law Board reversed Hagen's affirmance and ordered Pitts reinstated without loss of seniority, but refused to order back pay and accrued benefits.

Regarding Northern's firing, the complaint alleges that he had been charged twice before with infractions and had been fired in 1982 but then reinstated without notice that his prior violations were not going to be removed from his file. On February 2, 1983, a hearing was held concerning Northern's alleged failure to properly service certain equipment. Northern allegedly did not receive proper notice of the hearing. Pursuant to the above-alleged plot, Brown controlled the hearing and ordered Northern fired. The firing of Northern was allegedly the result of Brown's animus toward unions and his effort to break the union by punishing members for union activity. Northern's firing was also allegedly in retaliation for asserting his right to a fair hearing and for filing a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights in connection with his 1982 dismissal.

Both plaintiffs allege that they have suffered various damages, pecuniary and emotional, as a result of the above acts of defendants. Northern also asserts that because of the corruptness of the disciplinary system it would be futile to pursue his right of appeal to the Public Law Board.

II. Discussion

Counts 1 and 3

Counts 1 and 3 are here treated together since they have the same legal basis and differ only in that count 1 is phrased as a class action with Pitts and Northern as the named representatives while count 3 is brought by Pitts as the duly appointed union representative of the unnamed plaintiffs. Counts 1 and 3 incorporate all of the foregoing facts and are based on that part of the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 ("RPSA"), 45 U.S.C. § 501-645, that provides:

  If [Amtrak] engages in or adheres to any action,
  practice, or policy inconsistent with the policies
  and purposes of this chapter, obstructs or interferes
  with any activities authorized by this chapter,
  refuses, fails, or neglects to discharge its duties
  and responsibilities under this chapter, or threatens
  any such violation, obstruction, interference,
  refusal, failure, or neglect, the district court of
  the United States for any district in which the
  Corporation or other person resides or may be found
  shall have jurisdiction, except

  as otherwise prohibited by law, . . . upon petition
  of any employee affected thereby, . . . to grant such
  equitable relief as may be necessary or appropriate
  to prevent or terminate any violation, conduct, or
  threat.

45 U.S.C. § 547.

As is evident from the wording of the statute, § 547 provides a federal cause of action for violations of the chapter in which it appears; namely, Chapter 14, the Rail Passenger Service Act. Chapter 14 is the statute through which Amtrak took over intercity rail passenger service. The only provision in Chapter 14 imposing a duty on Amtrak in favor of its employees is § 565, which provides that the interests of rail employees affected by a discontinuance of rail service (defined to include a transfer of operations to Amtrak) in a particular location shall be protected. See, e.g., Congress of Railway Unions v. Hodgson, 326 F. Supp. 68 ...


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