The opinion of the court was delivered by: CLARY
Plaintiffs were employes of defendant Progress Manufacturing Company, Inc., and were represented by defendant labor organizations. Plaintiffs, with numerous other employees, engaged in a series of work stoppages, the last one occurring on October 28, 1958. All of the employees, some 900, who were engaged in this walkout were suspended. However, all but 150 of them were later rehired. Plaintiffs were among those finally dismissed from the company's employ because of their participation in the walkout.
In December, 1958 and January, 1959, unfair labor practice complaints were filed with the National Labor Relations Board by a number of discharged employees, some of whom are also plaintiffs in this action. These complainants alleged that Progress had restrained them in their exercise of Section 7 rights by discharging them for engaging in concerted activity. The Board dismissed these actions as being without merit. In 1963, plaintiffs herein commenced an action similar to the present one in the Common Pleas Court of Philadelphia County, still pending.
The present suit was filed on July 22, 1964 alleging that plaintiffs were discharged pursuant to an unlawful conspiracy between defendants; that defendant company discriminatorily discharged plaintiffs, and defendant labor unions unfairly refused to "process grievances, obtain arbitration or file charges with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of plaintiffs . . .". Complaint, par. 21. Such actions on the part of defendants were allegedly done in violation of the collective bargaining agreement, plaintiffs' individual contracts of hire, and the National Labor Relations Act. Complaint, pars. 18, 20, 22. Moreover, the complaint alleges that defendant labor union breached its duty "of fair representation". Complaint, pars. 13, 18. Therefore, according to plaintiffs, this suit is brought under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act specifically for a violation of a contract between an employer and a labor organization. Complaint, par. 23.
The case is presently before the Court on defendants' alternative motions to dismiss or for a more definite statement. For the reasons given below, the Court has concluded that defendants' motions to dismiss will be granted.
One of the central principles of our National Labor law has been the relegation to the National Labor Relations Board of the primary responsibility for the enforcement of employer and employee duties under such law. As the Supreme Court stated in San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 245, 3 L. Ed. 2d 775, 79 S. Ct. 773 (1959):
"It is not for us to decide whether the National Labor Relations Board would have, or should have, decided these questions in the same manner. When an activity is arguably subject to § 7 or § 8 of the Act, the States as well as the federal Courts must defer to the exclusive competence of the National Labor Relations Board if the danger of state interference with national policy is to be averted ".
There are two major policies behind this rule. The first is a fear that a mere multiplicity of tribunals and procedures would produce incompatible or conflicting adjudications leading to confusion in the area of labor law. Garner v. Teamsters Union, 346 U.S. 485, 490-91, 98 L. Ed. 228, 74 S. Ct. 161 (1953). Secondly and more importantly, Congress has made the affirmative decision to entrust the administration of the nation's labor policy "to a centralized administrative agency, armed with its own procedures, and equipped with its specialized knowledge and cumulative experience ". San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, supra, at 242.
The facts pleaded in this complaint, if proven, make out at least a prima facie case that the union breached its duty of "fair representation" which it owed to plaintiffs. The concept of this duty was first developed in a line of Federal Court cases commencing with Steele v. Louisville N.R.R., 323 U.S. 192, 89 L. Ed. 173, 65 S. Ct. 226 (1944).
These cases reasoned that since the union had been granted an exclusive bargaining position by Federal law, that law had an obligation to insure that the union did not abuse its position.
Reasoning from this, the National Labor Relations Board held in Miranda Fuel Co., 140 NLRB 181, enforcement denied, 326 F.2d 172 (2 Cir., 1963) that a breach by a labor union of this duty constitutes a violation of Sections 8(b)(1)A and 8(b)(2) of the National Labor Relations Act. Moreover, an employer, in acquiescing in such action, also was held to violate the Act. The Second Circuit, by reversing the decision, held that this was not law in the Courts under its jurisdiction. However, in the absence of any decision by the United States Supreme Court
or the Third Circuit Court of Appeals concerning the Miranda doctrine, a breach of a union's duty of fair representation is at least arguably an unfair labor practice in our jurisdiction.
Therefore, unless some exception can be found to bring this case outside the rule of preemption, this Court must defer to the primary cognizance of the National Labor Relations Board. This is so whether we characterize the complaint as one involving the tort of unlawful conspiracy
or as sounding in contract.
Moreover, the logic of the preemption doctrine would seem to exclude an action brought under the Steele doctrine for redress of a breach of the union's duty of fair representation.
However, plaintiffs argue that this action is not preempted by the primary jurisdiction of the Board because it is brought under Section 301 of the National Labor Relations Act. Section 301 states that:
"Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district Court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties." 29 U.S.C. 185(a).
It is now clear that an individual union member has the right to sue under this Section for a breach of the collective bargaining agreement. Smith v. Evening News Assn., 371 U.S. 195, 200, 9 L. Ed. 2d 246, 83 S. Ct. 267 (1962). The Court in that case read the word "between" in Section 301 as referring to contracts between a union and an employer, rather than suits between a union and an employer. Moreover, an employee may join his union together with the employer in such a suit. Humphrey v. Moore, supra, at 343; International ...