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Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

February 17, 2017

BROTHERHOOD OF LOCOMOTIVE ENGINEERS AND TRAINMEN (GENERAL COMMITTEE OF ADJUSTMENT, CENTRAL REGION), et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD CO., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Honorable Edmond E. Chang United States District Judge.

         Three divisions of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a union of trade engineers, brought this action against Union Pacific Railroad for violations of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 151, et seq. R. 4, Compl.[1] The Brotherhood claims that Union Pacific, which employs Brotherhood members, violated the Act when the railroad implemented a new disciplinary policy-one that allegedly conflicts with the parties' collective bargaining agreements-without first bargaining to impasse. Id. ¶¶ 2-3. The Brotherhood also claims that Union Pacific violated the Act's prohibition on direct dealing by soliciting employee input before implementing the new policy. Id. ¶¶ 7, 45.

         The parties have filed dueling motions: the Brotherhood seeks a preliminary injunction against the implementation of the new disciplinary policy, R. 24, Pl.'s Mot. for Prelim. Inj., and Union Pacific seeks dismissal of the Complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and also asks for judgment on the pleadings, R. 16, Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss. For the reasons discussed below, the motion to dismiss is granted (though not on all the grounds sought by the railroad) and the motion for preliminary injunction is denied.

         I. Background

         For the purposes of the motion to dismiss, the facts alleged in the Complaint are accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Union Pacific is a Class I Rail Carrier, Compl. ¶ 9, and is subject to the Railway Labor Act, see 45 U.S.C. § 151. It employs locomotive engineers who are unionized under various divisions of the Brotherhood. Compl. ¶ 8. The Brotherhood and Union Pacific (or their various predecessors-in-interest) have entered into a number of collective bargaining agreements over the years. Id. ¶¶ 12, 27; R. 17-1, Phillips Aff. ¶¶ 4-6; see also R. 4-2, Compl. at Exh. B, 1996 Sys. Agmt.; R. 17-21, Phillips Aff. at Exh. T, S. Pac. W. Lines Agmt.

         One of those agreements, the Southern Pacific Western Lines Agreement, [2]contains a provision that addresses how long employee-disciplinary information can be kept in employee files:

Information concerning discipline more than five (5) years old contained in personal records will be expunged with the exception of suspension or dismissal involving violations of [Federal Railroad Administration] regulations or Safety Rules, which were upheld in arbitration.

         S. Pac. W. Lines Agmt. at 191 (the parties refer to this clause as “Article 18”). As its text says, Article 18 sets a general ban on keeping disciplinary records for longer than five years, but with an exception for violations of Federal Railroad Administration regulations and safety rules.

         In September 2015, Union Pacific issued a policy entitled Managing Agreement Professionals for Success (known by its acronym, “MAPS”). Compl. ¶ 16; R. 4-1, Compl. at Exh. A, MAPS Policy. Before issuing the policy, the railroad had polled its engineers on their preferred changes to existing discipline rules. Compl. ¶ 45. MAPS covers a number of human-resources-related topics, but this lawsuit centers around Section 3.2.1, a disciplinary rule that adopts a “three-strikes” approach for Federal Railroad Administration decertifications:

3.2.1. Multiple FRA Revocations: If an employee violates a decertification rule and there are two prior FRA license revocations on the employee's work history … the employee may be charged with violation of Rule 1.6 [governing prohibited conduct] under MAPS after evaluation of the employee's work history by the Superintendent and the Regional Vice President.

         MAPS Policy at 4. In a nutshell, when an engineer picks up a third Federal Railroad Administration license revocation, he or she is also subject to being fired. Compl. ¶ 28.

         MAPS went into effect without any negotiation between Union Pacific and the Brotherhood. Compl. ¶ 30. The Brotherhood quickly protested, but Union Pacific asserted its right to implement MAPS without consulting the Brotherhood first. Id. ¶¶ 31-33. This lawsuit followed.

         II. Legal Standard

         Union Pacific brings its motion to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(c). A Rule 12(b)(1) motion tests whether the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction, Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009); Long v. Shorebank Dev. Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 554 (7th Cir. 1999), while a Rule 12(c) motion tests the sufficiency of the plaintiff's claim for relief based on the pleadings, Hayes v. City of Chi., 670 F.3d 810, 813 (7th Cir. 2012). When reviewing a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Ezekiel v. Michel, 66 F.3d 894, 897 (7th Cir. 1995); Hayes, 670 F.3d at 813. A party may move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A motion for judgment on the pleadings is subject to the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Hayes, 670 F.3d at 813. Judgment on the pleadings is proper if it appears beyond doubt that the non-moving party cannot prove any set of facts sufficient to support his ...


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