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Railroad Yardmasters of America v. Pennsylvania Railroad Co.

July 1, 1955


Author: Staley

Before GOODRICH, KALODNER and STALEY, Circuit Judges.

STALEY, C.J.: The defendant, Pennsylvania Railroad Company (Railroad), appeals from an order granting a preliminary injunction prohibiting it from giving effect to an agreement changing the wages, rules, and working conditions of its yardmasters. Prior to the order, the court had dismissed the railroad's motion to dissolve a temporary restraining order which had been issued.

For many years the Railroad Yardmasters of America (Union), a national labor organization for the purposes of the Railway Labor Act, has represented the defendant's employees in the craft or class of yardmasters. Its negotiations with the Railroad were customarily carried on by a General Grievance Committee (Committee), whose head was known as the General Chairman. After a series of conferences, the Railroad and the Committee executed an agreement on September 30, 1954, the provisions of which were to be put into effect on November 1st of that year. On October 1, 1954, Schoch, the Grand President of the Union, was informed of the negotiations and of the agreement which had resulted. He thereupon advised the Railroad that the agreement could not become effective without his approval, which he declined to give. On October 19, 1954, the Railroad advised the Union that it would put the agreement into effect on November 1, 1954, despite Schoch's disapproval. On October 29, 1954, having been advised by Schoch of the urgency of the situation, the National Mediation Board notified both parties that it was proffering its services and that it would arrange for future conferences. The Railroad deferred the effective date of the changes until November 10, 1954, to permit the Board to review the case. The Board has taken no further action. When the Railroad thereafter threatened to put the agreement into effect, the action in the district court was commenced, and a temporary restraining order was issued.

After a hearing, the district court, upon a finding that irreparable harm would result to the Union and that the working conditions of the yardmasters would become chaotic, issued a preliminary injunction. The Railroad contends that because of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, the district court does not have jurisdiction to grant injunctive relief in this labor dispute. We do not agree.

The Union requested an injunction because the Railroad threatened to commit acts in violation of Section 2, Seventh, and Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act.*fn1

Section 2, Seventh, prohibits a carrier (here the defendant Railroad) from changing rates of pay, rules, or working conditions as embodied in agreements, unless such changes are made in the manner prescribed in such agreements or in Section 6 of the Act.

The Union claimed that the Railroad threatened to make changes which would affect wage rates and that the changes were not being made as prescribed in any agreement, nor were they being made as provided in Section 6.

If the Union's contentions are correct, the effect of an injunction is to proscribe a threatened violation of the explicit command of the Railway Labor Act. Under such circumstances, it is clear that the prohibitions of the Norris-LaGuardia Act that injunctions in "labor disputes" shall not issue, is not applicable. Virginian Railway Co. v. System Federation, 300 U.S. 515 (1937); Graham v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, 338 U.S. 232 (1949); Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Howard, 343 U.S. 768 (1952); Rolfes v. Dwellingham, 198 F.2d 591 (C.A.8, 1952).

The Railroad's next contention is that the district court erred when it issued the injunction because the evidence clearly showed no threatened violation of the Railway Labor Act. There would be no threatened violation if (1) the alleged September 30, 1954, agreement was a valid and binding agreement, or if (2) the Railroad had complied with the explicit requirements of Section 6 concerning notices and conferences before the implementation of changes. These were the two basic issues before the district court.

In reviewing the district court's tentative determination of these issues, the Railroad asks that we ignore the district court's conclusions because it says that the nature of the essential evidence was such that this appellate court is competent to draw its own conclusions. We do not agree with the Railroad that all the essential evidence was undisputed and therefore only ultimate conclusions remain to be drawn. But, this aside, what we are asked to do would, in effect, transform the court of appeals into a district court for the purposes of deciding the merits of the controversy in the first instance. The district court has issued a preliminary injunction "until further hearing or further order of this court." What additional evidence or legal argument might be forthcoming upon further hearing is pure speculation at this time. "The judge's legal conclusions, like his fact-findings, are subject to change after a full hearing and the opportunity for more mature deliberation. For a preliminary injunction - as indicated by the numerous more or less synonymous adjectives used to label it - is, by its very nature, interlocutory, tentative, provisional, ad interim, impermanent, mutable, not fixed or final or conclusive, characterized by its for-the-time-beingness." Hamilton Watch Co. v. Benrus Watch Co., 206 F.2d 738, 742 (C.A.2, 1953).

We are now reviewing the propriety of the issuance of a preliminary injunction. At this stage, we are concerned only to find out if the Union "has ... raised questions going to the merits so serious, substantial, difficult and doubtful, as to make them a fair ground for litigation and thus for more deliberate investigation." Hamilton Watch Co. v. Benrus Watch Co., supra at p. 740. Where, as here, the harm to the Railroad from the injunction can be adequately measured in dollars, while the harm to the Union if the injunction is refused is irreparable, the raising of the substantial and serious doubts is at least sufficient to justify the issuance of a temporary injunction. Hamilton Watch Co. v. Benrus Watch Co., supra; Buffington v. Harvey, 95 U.S. 99 (1887); Doeskin Products, Inc. v. United Paper Co., 195 F.2d 356 (C.A.7, 1952).

Thus, if, on the record, there is a serious and substantial question as to (1) the validity of the September 30, 1954, agreement, and (2) the Railroad's compliance with Section 6 requirements, the issuance of the preliminary injunction was proper.

As to the valid and binding effect of the September 30, 1954, agreement, after hearing witnesses, the district court found:*fn2

"6. All contracts heretofore reached between the plaintiff and the defendant have been subject to approval of such contracts by the Grand President of the plaintiff, and to the knowledge of the defendant no officer or representative of the plaintiff is authorized to enter into a final contract with the defendant or any other carrier, except with the ...

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