The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The following court-provided text does not appear at this cite in 545 F. Supp.]
AND NOW this 9th day of August, 1982, in accordance with the accompanying Opinion, IT IS ORDERED that JUDGMENT BE, and HEREBY IS, ENTERED for the DEFENDANTS and the case is hereby marked CLOSED.
In November of 1972, following an agreement reached between the Penn Central Transportation Company and representatives of the Transport Workers Union of America, thirteen men employed at Penn Central's Eastbound Running Repair Shop in Altoona, Pennsylvania, changed their place of work to a shop located in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, a town located some ten miles from Altoona. At the time of this agreement both the Penn Central Railroad and the Unions representing its employees were confronting enormous problems. At this time the Penn Central Railroad was one of the largest rail systems in the United States. It was, however, also one of the most financially troubled of America's beleaguered railroads. These financial troubles forced the Penn Central Railroad to declare bankruptcy and for a time threatened the very existence of the company.
These financial problems were a matter of great concern for the Unions representing workers employed by Penn Central. These Unions were justifiably worried regarding the job security of the many men and women who had worked for the railroad. Accordingly the Unions were attempting at every opportunity to preserve the jobs of all employees within the Penn Central system.
Given the enormity of the problems confronting both labor and management at this time, the transfer of these thirteen men from Altoona to Hollidaysburg would not appear to be a matter of any great moment. Yet this seemingly minor incident has triggered a dispute which has now continued for more than a decade. The principals in this dispute are the thirteen transferred employees; their employer, Penn Central (now Conrail); and the local and international unions representing these men. This dispute has been carried on in several forums; including the National Railroad Adjustment Board, the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. It is a controversy which has already inspired two opinions by this court; Goclowski v. Penn Central Transportation Company, 516 F. Supp. 1276 (W.D. Pa. 1981), Goclowski v. Penn Central Transportation Company, 423 F. Supp. 901 (W.D. Pa. 1976), and on one occasion has received full consideration by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Goclowski v. Penn Central Transportation Co., 571 F.2d 747 (3d Cir. 1977).
We are now prepared to write the final chapter in this long standing controversy. This case comes before the court for findings of fact and conclusions of law following a non-jury trial held November 30, 1981. At this trial all parties were afforded an opportunity to present evidence in the form of testimony and documentary exhibits and to argue the force and effect of the evidence presented. At the conclusion of this trial we directed that the parties file proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law along with any trial memoranda deemed necessary. Thus, all parties have been given a full opportunity to be heard on this matter.
Despite the length and complexity of its presentation this lawsuit appears to involve a relatively simple question. At the heart of this controversy lies the plaintiffs' allegation that the defendant Unions, acting in concert with the defendant Railroad, conspired to contract away the seniority rights of the men employed at the Eastbound Car Repair Shop. Upon a complete review of the testimony and documentary exhibits introduced before this court, along with the arguments and proposed findings submitted by counsel, we conclude that there is no merit to this allegation. Accordingly we will order judgment entered for the defendants in this matter.
The plaintiffs are some thirteen men who, in the fall of 1972, were employed by the Penn Central Transportation Company as carmen or car inspectors. These men worked at the Eastbound Car Repair Shop, which was part of Penn Central's Allegheny Division. The Allegheny Division was divided into two districts for the purpose of determining seniority -- the Eastbound District and the Westbound District. All of the plaintiffs herein had accrued seniority in the Eastbound District.
The defendant, Penn Central, was a large rail carrier and the employer of these men. Penn Central has since transferred its rail assets to the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail). The defendant Transport Workers Union of America is a labor union and an unincorporated association which was the authorized representative of the carmen and car inspectors employed by Penn Central. Local 2017 was a subordinate unit of the Transport Workers Union representing carmen employed in the Altoona area, including the plaintiffs. The individual named defendants were officers of the defendant unions at the time of this incident.
Sometime in the fall of 1972 Penn Central officials informed representatives of the union of their intention to close the Eastbound Car Repair Shop located in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and to convert that plant into a facility for performing programmed repairs on railroad cars. Because this action would effectively displace the thirty-three men then working at the Eastbound Plant the company wished to consult with the Union prior to taking any action.
As a result of these consultations an agreement was reached between the Union and management. This agreement, dated November 1, 1972, provided that the Eastbound Car Repair Shop would become a part of the Altoona Heavy Repair Seniority District. The agreement further provided that twenty of the carmen employed at the Eastbound Car facility would be surplussed and transferred to the Altoona Heavy Repair Shop. The agreement provided that none of these twenty men would lose any seniority rights as a result of this transfer. Rather the seniority of these transferred men would be dovetailed into the seniority roster of the Altoona Heavy Repair Shop.
Following this agreement the remaining employees at the Eastbound Car Repair Shop, including the plaintiffs, bid on and obtained work at a newly created shop called the Madden Shop. The Madden Shop was located in Hollidaysburg Pennsylvania, some ten miles from the former Eastbound Car Repair Shop. This shop was part of the Westbound Seniority District. For the most part the employees bidding on jobs at the Madden Shop had sufficient seniority within the Eastbound District to permit them to transfer to the Altoona Heavy Repair Shop. These men, however, elected not to accept such transfers. The choice of many of these thirteen men was dictated by economic considerations. If these men bid on jobs at the Madden Shop they would have an opportunity to work on what was called the wreck train. Members of the wreck train crew were able to earn substantial overtime, amounting to between $5,000 and $8,000 per year. Therefore, many of these thirteen employees bid on jobs in the Westbound District because they were interested in obtaining the overtime pay associated with those jobs.
This diminution of seniority rights seems to have had little concrete impact on the plaintiffs. Following their transfer to the Madden Shop, none of these men were furloughed by the company. They continued to work for Penn Central doing essentially the same work that they had previously performed at the Eastbound Shop. Many continue to be employed at the Madden Shop to this day.
It is undisputed that the November 1, 1972 agreement between the Railroad and the Union was never ratified by the affected employees. This failure to obtain ratification lies at the heart of this dispute. The plaintiffs contend that both the Union constitution and prior practice demanded that all agreements affecting employees' seniority rights be referred to the rank and file for ratification. According to the plaintiffs both the Union and management were aware of this limitation on their authority to enter into collective bargaining agreements affecting employees' seniority yet they chose to ignore it. The plaintiffs contend, therefore, that this collective bargaining agreement is invalid for failure to obtain the necessary ratification. In this lawsuit the plaintiffs pray for a declaratory judgment that the November 1st agreement is invalid and for damages arising out of the Union's and Company's breach of their duty of fair representation.
Given the nature of the plaintiffs' allegations it is clear that we cannot consider the events of October and November 1972 in isolation. Rather these actions must be seen as the product of a long history of dealings between Penn Central and the Transport Workers Union. Therefore, we must examine these ...