The opinion of the court was delivered by: KNOX
It is trite to point out that the federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and that they possess only such powers as are granted to them by the Constitution and laws of the United States. This principle is often overlooked, however, by counsel and litigants alike and the instant case is another illustration.
Suit here has been brought by Local Union No. 67 of the International Union of United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink & Distillery Workers of America, AFL-CIO by Trustees ad litem and by certain individuals, residents of Pennsylvania, on behalf of themselves and other workers holding similar contracts against the Duquesne Brewing Company of Pittsburgh, a Pennsylvania business corporation. It is alleged that in 1957 the defendant entered into employment contracts with 68 individuals agreeing to give them employment until retirement age or until voluntary retirement, quitting or discharge for cause, at rates of pay to be specified in the current collective bargaining agreements, if any. A copy of one of these agreements is appended hereto. (Appendix I).
It is noted that this unusual agreement is between the Brewing Company and the employees only and is signed on behalf of the company by an attorney whose authority is not stated. It is "approved" by the union which is not a party to it.
Plaintiff alleges that the defendant has closed its plant in Pittsburgh and discharged plaintiffs and other employees as of November 30, 1972. Relief is sought by way of an injunction to restore plaintiffs to their employment under the agreement and to continue the same during the balance of the contract with appropriate rates of pay and fringe benefits and to refrain from discharge except under the terms of the agreement. Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction which is now before us.
Plaintiffs concede that there is no diversity jurisdiction here and that the court's jurisdiction must attach if at all under Section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act (29 U.S.C. § 185).
We determine that this Act does not give us jurisdiction of this controversy, that jurisdiction is vested in the appropriate state court and hence this action must be dismissed without prejudice.
Separate contracts of employment such as this are not necessarily illegal, but cannot affect the collective bargaining procedures under the National Labor Relations Act. J.I. Case Co. v. NLRB, 321 U.S. 332, 88 L. Ed. 762, 64 S. Ct. 576 (1943). Here the union has approved these agreements and they may be held good and binding under state law as long as they do not prevent collective bargaining nor "defeat or delay the procedures prescribed by the National Labor Relations Act" (321 U.S. at 337). The Union's approval may indicate there is no problem as to enforceability here but this does not give us jurisdiction of what is otherwise a suit for violation of a simple employment contract, jurisdiction of which is vested in the state courts, absent diversity and the minimum jurisdictional amount of $10,000.
Under Section 301(a) (29 U.S.C. § 185) there must be a suit "for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization" to give jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals for this Circuit has spoken in no uncertain terms of this requirement in Adams v. Budd Co., 349 F.2d 368 (3d Cir. 1965). There suit was brought by individual employees against the company and the union under Section 301 claiming they were denied seniority rights under prior individual agreements. The court clearly held that in this respect Section 301 only confers jurisdiction for violation of an agreement between a labor organization and an employer, not over suits by individual employees with contracts with the employer.
"Union's contention is well-taken.
"The distilled essence of the plaintiffs' position is that they can enforce, under Section 301(a), their 'contract of hire' super-seniority rights, accorded under Budd's pre-labor contract policy, even though subsequently negotiated collective bargaining agreements bargained away such rights.
"The plaintiffs seem to be oblivious of the fact that Section 301(a) only creates federal jurisdiction, in the absence of diversity of citizenship, with respect to 'suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor ...