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Brady v. Trans World Airlines Inc.

decided: August 13, 1968.

VINCENT P. BRADY ET AL., APPELLANTS
v.
TRANS WORLD AIRLINES, INC. ET AL., APPELLEES



McLaughlin, Hastie and Forman, Circuit Judges.

Author: Forman

FORMAN, C.J.:

This litigation, protracted over more than eleven years, concerns the suit brought by Vincent P. Brady against his union. The International Association of Machinists (IAM),*fn1 for breach of its duty of fair representation, and his employer, Trans World Airlines, Inc. (TWA), for wrongful discharge violative of the Railway Labor Act.*fn2 In an order filed November 4, 1963, the United States District Court of the District of Delaware found against TWA and IAM on the issue of liability. By its order filed September 6, 1966, Mr. Brady was awarded damages by way of back pay and reinstatement in both his former employment and in his union membership. From these and previous orders TWA*fn2a and IAM*fn2b appealed. Mr. Brady has cross-appealed maintaining that the District Court erred, among other things, in so far as it limited the recoverable damages.*fn2c

The complicated factual background of this case has been amply set forth in the several opinions of the District Court.*fn3 Therefore the particular facts will be adverted to herein only as they are necessary for a general understanding of the several issues raised in these appeals.

In 1951, Mr. Brady, who was previously employed by TWA, was rehired as a line mechanic and worked at the Philadelphia International Airport until May 15, 1956, the date of the alleged wrongful discharge. During this period he was a member of Local Lodge 1776 of IAM. In October 1955, a campaign was begun to raise the membership dues of Local 1776. At the November 1955 meeting the lodge members voted to raise the dues for persons in Mr. Brady's classification from $3.00 to $3.25 per month. Many members of the lodge who like Mr. Brady, had not been present, complained to him, as a shop steward, about the dues increase because they had not received sufficient notice of the time and place of the November meeting. At the December meeting, the members adopted Mr. Brady's motion that the prior dues increase be rescinded; that the issue be brought before the next general membership meeting after the posting of due notices. Nevertheless, notices were not posted and the general membership meeting was not held in January.*fn4 In protest to what he considered to be an illegal dues increase, Mr. Brady refused to pay his monthly dues at the new rate. Frequently thereafter he tendered his dues at the old rate and since these tenders were always rejected the record indicates that his last dues payment was for November 1955.

In January 1956, Gerald C. Coleman became the financial secretary of Local Lodge 1776. Shortly after assuming his office, Mr. Coleman began a program to collect all back dues from members of the lodge. On February 15, 1956, he posted a list of the nine members who on that date still owed dues for two or more months. Mr. Brady was then listed as owing dues for December and January. This posted notice threatened the nine members with action from the district office unless the dues were paid within ten days. At the end of this ten day period, of those listed, only Mr. Brady, who continued to tender dues at the $3.00 rate, remained delinquent.

On March 3, 1956, Mr. Coleman cited Mr. Brady to Clifford Miller, General Chairman of District 142, which had jurisdiction over Local Lodge 1776, for his dues delinquency and sought discharge action. Mr. Brady received a letter dated March 13, 1956, from Mr. Miller advising him that he had not complied with the union security provisions of the TWA-IAM collective bargaining agreement and that unless he paid outstanding dues for four months including those of March, by March 28, he would be discharged from his employment by TWA. In response to this letter, on March 27, 1956, Mr. Brady tendered his dues book and a check for $10.50 to Mr. Coleman.*fn5 On instructions from Mr. Miller, Mr. Coleman wrote Mr. Brady on March 28 rejecting his tender as insufficient. For the first time, he demanded payment by April 4 of a $25.00 reinstatement fee, allegedly due pursuant to the IAM Constitution, and $9.75 for three months dues.

Mr. Brady feared that if he paid a reinstatement fee he would lose the five years seniority that he had accumulated with TWA. On April 3, 1956, Mr. Brady filed his first appeal with the TWA-IAM System Board of Adjustment (Board). On April 7, 1956, Mr. Coleman wrote to Mr. Miller advising him of Mr. Brady's failure to make payment as demanded. Mr. Miller, on April 9, 1956 certified to TWA that Mr. Brady should be discharged for violating the union security provision of the collective bargaining agreement. On April 10, TWA notified Mr. Brady of this certification.

At this point, Mr. Miller realized that Mr. Coleman had misunderstood the instruction given him and had mistakenly demanded in the letter of March 28, 1956, both a reinstatement fee and outstanding dues. Mr. Miller immediately cancelled Mr. Brady's discharge certification and on April 11, wrote to Mr. Brady explaining Mr. Coleman's error and demanding only payment of the $25.00 reinstatement fee by April 26. Mr. Brady answered Mr. Miller's letter by offering to pay all dues outstanding but requesting that he should be permitted to forego the reinstatement fee. Mr. Miller rejected this offer and again demanded the reinstatement fee. On April 24, Mr. Brady filed his second appeal to the Board arguing that he had not violated the union security provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. This appeal was dismissed at a hearing on May 4 as premature since it had been filed prior to May 1, 1956, the date of a second certification for discharge which Mr. Miller had sent to TWA. On May 5, 1956, Mr. Brady made a third appeal to the Board protesting the May 1 certification. A hearing was held on May 14,*fn6 and the Board ruled that the discharge was proper under the union security provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. Accordingly, Mr. Brady was discharged from his employment by TWA effective May 15, 1956.

After unsuccessfully seeking a rehearing by the Board, on the charge that Mr. Miller had misrepresented facts at the hearings of May 4 and May 14, Mr. Brady, on April 22, 1957, filed a complaint in the District Court charging IAM with hostile discrimination in breach of its duty of fair representation and TWA with wrongful discharge in violation of the Railway Labor Act. Mr. Brady sought relief against IAM and TWA by way of reinstatement in the union and in his employment together with compensatory and punitive damages.

I.

At the outset, both IAM and TWA challenge the subject matter jurisdiction of the District Court. They submit that pursuant to section 204 of the Railway Labor Act,*fn7 Article XII of the TWA-IAM collective bargaining agreement established a System Board of Adjustment to adjust and decide disputes or grievances arising out of the interpretation and application of the agreement. Paragraph (k) of Article XII provides that decisions of the Board in cases properly before it shall be final and binding on the parties. Article XXVI(f), one of the union security provisions, gives an employee the right to appeal his discharge to the Board. Several cases are cited which uphold the finality of adjustment board decisions and circumscribe their reviewability by the courts.*fn8

Focusing on these contractual provisions, it is argued that Mr. Brady elected to appeal to the Board, that hearings were held by that body on May 4 and May 14, 1956, and that Mr. Brady's discharge was determined to be proper under the collective bargaining agreement. Having elected to take this appeal to the Board, the assertion is made that its adverse decision is final and binding on Mr. Brady and that the courts may not review the merits of that decision. This argument, which seeks to sustain the Board's ruling, and to foreclose judicial review of the dispute, was properly rejected by the District Court.

The complaint in this case, as amended, charges IAM, which throughout the period in question was the plaintiff's exclusive bargaining agent, with hostile discrimination in refusing to accept tender of Mr. Brady's dues because of claimed delinquency, terminating his union membership and wrongfully citing him for discharge from his employment with TWA, actions which, it is alleged, IAM did not take against other members of Local Lodge 1776 who were said to be delinquent in the payment of their dues. Furthermore, IAM is charged with hostile discrimination in misrepresenting the facts pertaining to Mr. Brady's alleged dues delinquency at the hearings before the Board. These allegations make it clear, as the District Court noted, that plaintiff's controversy is primarily with his bargaining agent rather than his employer.

The propriety of disregarding the ruling of the Board is justified by an examination of the Board's statutory jurisdiction. Section 204 of the Railway Labor Act*fn9 authorizes the establishment of air carrier adjustment boards and sets forth their jurisdiction as follows:

"The disputes between an employee or group of employees and a carrier or carriers by air growing out of grievances, or out of the interpretation or application of agreements concerning rates of pay, rules, or working conditions, . . . may be referred by petition of the parties or by either party to an appropriate adjustment board, . . ."

Subsequent language of this section limits the jurisdiction of air carrier adjustment boards to that granted to railway carrier adjustment boards as provided in section 3 of the Railway Labor Act.*fn10 The jurisdiction of railway carrier adjustment boards has been construed as encompassing disputes between employees and their employers, but not disputes between employees and their bargaining representatives. In Conley v. Gibson,*fn11 union members brought a suit against their bargaining agent for breach of its duty of fair representation. Their complaint was dismissed on the ground that the adjustment board had exclusive jurisdiction over the controversy. The Supreme Court reversed, stating:

"But § 3 First (i) by its own terms applies only to 'disputes between an employee or group of employees and a carrier or carriers.' This case involves no dispute between employee and employer but to the contrary is a suit by employees against the bargaining agent to enforce their statutory right not to be unfairly discriminated against by it in bargaining. The Adjustment Board has no power under § 3 First (i) or any other provision of the Act to protect them from such discrimination."*fn12

The District Court, relying on Conley, correctly ruled that since the Board was without jurisdiction to hear Mr. Brady's claim, which essentially charges IAM with hostile discrimination, the Board's decision could not bar judicial review of the merits of that controversy. That the employer was joined to afford complete relief and that the dispute may incidentally involve construction or interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement does not change the basic fact that the Railway Labor Act does not authorize adjustment boards to hear an employee's dispute against his union.

There is good reason for denying the jurisdictional authority of adjustment boards in so far as controversies between employees and their bargaining representatives are concerned. The membership of such boards is designed to give representation to management and to the union.*fn13 Normally the board's composition would present no problem since its express statutory authority is to hear grievances between employees and their employers arising out of the collective bargaining agreement. In such a dispute the employee would expect his union, acting under its duty to prosecute fairly the grievances of its members, to represent him before the board. This scheme, however, overlooks the possibility that the union's interest might conflict with the employee's and this is especially so in cases where the employee is charging the union with hostile discrimination. In such circumstances, the union can hardly be expected to press the employee's claim vigorously and forthrightly. The District Court's statement on this point bears reiteration:

"It is simply repugnant to our standards of fundamental fairness and totally unrealistic to require an employee to submit a dispute he has with his bargaining agent for final determination to persons ...


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