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The Belt Railway Company of Chicago v. United Transportation Union

April 3, 2012


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


This case follows an arbitration award issued by Public Law Board No. 7304 ("Board" or "PLB 7304"). Plaintiffs, The Belt Railway Company of Chicago ("Belt Railway") and Union Pacific Railroad Company ("Union Pacific," collectively "Plaintiffs") argue that the award should be vacated pursuant to Section 3 First (q) of the Railway Labor Act ("RLA"), 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (q). Belt Railway and Union Pacific submit that, despite the narrowness of judicial review of an arbitration award, there are two separate reasons for us to vacate this award: (1) by binding Union Pacific and not providing it with notice, the Board acted beyond its jurisdiction, and (2) by failing to provide Union Pacific with notice the Board also violated the RLA. Defendant United Transportation Union ("UTU") conversely argues that the award should be enforced under Section 3 First (p) of the RLA, 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (p). Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment.

After setting forth a brief history of this dispute, we address first whether the Board exceeded its jurisdiction when deciding the merits, and second whether the Board's failure to provide notice to Union Pacific is sufficient reason to vacate the Award. We answer both in the negative and grant summary judgment to UTU.


Union Pacific is a carrier by rail and operates a rail transportation system. (Pl. Statement of Material Facts ("SOF") ¶ 2.) Belt Railway is a carrier of rail that conducts interchange of rail traffic among other railroads in and around the Chicago area; its customers include all of the large U.S. freight railroads, including Union Pacific. Belt Railway is also owned by six major rail carriers, including Union Pacific. (Id. ¶ 1.) Belt Railway trainman crew the trains on the Belt Railway networks, and Defendant UTU represents trainman employed by Belt Railway. (Pl. SOF ¶¶ 3--4.)

The PLB Award in question stems from the Board's interpretation of a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") between Belt Railway, UTU, and a second union that represents Belt Railway locomotive engineers, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers ("BLE"). The contract reads in its entirety:

This will confirm our understanding and Agreement with respect to the proposed Reciprocal Interchange of cars between The Belt Railway Company of Chicago at Clearing Yard and the Chicago and North Western at Proviso Yard.

It is agreed that the Belt crews will deliver and pull interchange traffic to Proviso Yard for a period of three (3) months commencing April 1, 1990. The Chicago and North Western crews will pull and deliver interchange traffic to clearing Yard commencing July 1, 1990.

It is understood that the reciprocal interchange will rotate every three (3) months between the named railroad properties.

This Agreement signed at Chicago, Illinois this 26th day of March, 1990.

(Record of Proceedings, Ex. 2-C (MOU).) The Agreement was subsequently amended to allow for a four month, rather than three month, rotation. The contract was signed by representatives from Belt Railway, BLE, and UTU. Chicago and North Western Railroad ("CNW") was not a signatory to the contract. (Pl. SOF ¶¶ 7--10.) In 1995, Union Pacific acquired 100% of CNW; Union Pacific never became a signatory to the contract. (Def. SOF ¶ 7.)

In 2006, Union Pacific conducted a financial analysis of the reciprocal arrangement and concluded that Union Pacific could do the interchange work with its own crews at a lower cost. Thus, Union Pacific stopped requesting puller services from Belt Railway and began exclusively using its own employees to perform the interchange work between Proviso Yard and Clearing Yard. "It is the implementation of this financial analysis action on the part of the [Union Pacific] and its handling of interchange traffic by its own [Union Pacific] crews both to and from the [Belt Railway] that is the crux of the dispute in this case." (Record of Proceedings, Ex. 4 at 2 (Award).)

UTU subsequently filed a claim against Belt Railway alleging that the use of Union Pacific employees to pull Union Pacific trains to Proviso Yard violated the MOU. (Pl. SOF ¶ 16.) After processing the claim in accordance with the relevant procedures, UTU and Belt Railway agreed to establish a Public Law Board to hear the dispute. (Pl. SOF 17.)

In front of the Board, UTU alleged that "the Carrier [Belt Railway] unilaterally abolished [a] train assignment that was operated daily by [Belt Railway] crews . . . the Carrier allowed this train to be operated by a [Union Pacific] crew in violation of the agreement . . . and claimant was denied the right to work." (Record of Proceedings, Ex. 4 at 2--3 (PLB Award).) In support of this claim, UTU argued that the purpose of the MOU was to provide for an interchange/transfer service to be mutually shared by crews of Belt Railway and CNW/UP. Further, it argued "the fact that [Union Pacific] is not a party to the MOU does not give [it] authority to dictate who will provide ...

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