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CONRAIL v. AMERICAN TRAIN DISPATCHERS ASSN.

October 15, 1982

CONSOLIDATED RAIL CORPORATION
v.
AMERICAN TRAIN DISPATCHERS ASSOCIATION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GILES

 GILES, J.

 Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) and the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA), come before the court on cross motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, Conrail's motion for summary judgment is granted and ATDA's motion is denied.

 ATDA entered into a collective bargaining agreement with Conrail's predecessor, the Pennsylvania Railroad. Conrail, a product of the Regional Railway Reorganization Act of 1973, 45 U.S.C. §§ 701, 741 (1976) (RRR Act), was required to assume all of the obligations under that collective bargaining agreement. 45 U.S.C. § 774. In 1977, Conrail consolidated and rearranged certain train dispatching districts. Some of its offices were closed and employees were transferred. Conrail advised ATDA that its actions were taken pursuant to section 503 of the RRR Act which provides that "the corporation [Conrail] shall have the right to assign, allocate, reassign, reallocate and consolidate work properly performed on the rail properties acquired pursuant to the provisions of this Act . . . ." 45 U.S.C. § 773. However, Conrail admits that the reorganization was effectuated without the thirty (30) day notice to ATDA required under the collective bargaining agreement. Nor was a written agreement reached between the parties with regard to the seniority of the affected employees, also a requirement of the agreement. In response to Conrail's actions, ATDA submitted a claim to the National Railroad Adjustment Board (NRAB) on behalf of three dispatchers adversely affected by the rearrangement of territories. When NRAB reached a deadlock in the three cases, two were assigned to one neutral referee and the third was assigned to another referee. The first referee found Conrail in violation of the collective bargaining agreement and entered an award for the aggrieved dispatchers. However, the other referee ruled that the NRAB had no jurisdiction over the matter, pointing to the fact that the parties had established Special Adjustment Board 880 to resolve disputes under the RRR Act. ATDA appeals from this latter decision while Conrail contests the two awards granted by the first referee, arguing that NRAB had no jurisdiction.

 DISCUSSION

 The district court's review of NRAB's decisions is very narrow. An order may be set aside "for failure of the division [of NRAB] to . . . conform or confine itself to matters within the scope of the division's jurisdiction . . . ." 45 U.S.C. § 153, First (1976). Thus, this court can determine if the NRAB has exceeded its jurisdiction. Northwest Airlines v. ALPA, 174 U.S. App. D.C. 196, 530 F.2d 1048, 1050, (D.C. Cir. 1976) cert. denied, 426 U.S. 942, 49 L. Ed. 2d 394, 96 S. Ct. 2663 (1976).

 Over the years a tremendous number of disputes inundated NRAB. Thus, in 1966 Congress added a second part to section three, 45 U.S.C. § 153, in an endeavor to alleviate the backlog of pending cases. See [1966] U.S. Code Cong. & Ad. News 2285, 2285-2290. This second part gave parties the option to go before NRAB or to establish their own specialized adjustment boards. This section reads:

 
Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent any individual carrier, system, or group of carriers and any class or classes of its or their employees, all acting through their representatives, selected in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, from mutually agreeing to the establishment of system, group, or regional boards of adjustment for the purpose of adjusting and deciding disputes of the character specified in this section. In the event that either party to such a system, group, or regional board of adjustment is dissatisfied with such arrangement, it may upon ninety days' notice to the other party elect to come under the jurisdiction of the Adjustment Board.

 45 U.S.C. § 153. Those courts to address the issue have held that NRAB's jurisdiction is "co-existent" with that of the specialized adjustment boards established under section three, second. See Baltimore and Annapolis R. Co. v. National Mediation Bd., 321 F. Supp. 51, 57 (D. Md. 1970); Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway Co. v. National Mediation Bd., 307 F. Supp. 417, 420 (N.D. Ill. 1969, aff'd. 435 F.2d 339, (1970), cert. denied, 402 U.S. 944, 29 L. Ed. 2d 113, 91 S. Ct. 1621 (1971); Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers v. Denver & Rio Grande Western R.R. Co., 290 F. Supp. 612, 620 (D. Col. 1968), aff'd 411 F.2d 1115 (10th Cir. 1969). The court in Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Ry. Co., noted: "it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Congress established two separate procedural devices for dealing with the identical subject matter. Certainly, the subject matter jurisdiction of the special board is co-extensive with that of the Adjustment Board." 307 F. Supp. at 420.

 In an effort to save the already declining rail industry, Congress enacted the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973, referred to above. Title V of the Act, sections 501-09, 45 U.S.C. § 771-80 *fn1" covers employee protection. Section 507 of this Act, 45 U.S.C. § 777, is patterned after the second part of section three of the Railway Labor Act, quoted above, which also allows the parties to establish special adjustment boards to decide disputes arising under the Act. It was pursuant to this section that Conrail and ATDA established Special Adjustment Board 880. Section 507 provides:

 
Any dispute or controversy with respect to the interpretation, application, or enforcement of the provisions of this title . . . [with certain exceptions not relevant here] which have not been resolved within 90 days, may be submitted by either party to an Adjustment Board for a final and binding decision thereon as provided in section 3 Second, of the Railway Labor Act [ 45 USCS § 153], in which event the burden of proof on all issues so presented shall be upon the Corporation or, where applicable, the Association.

 45 U.S.C. § 777. The language of this section is instructive. From the reference to section 3 second, it is apparent that the jurisdiction of a section 507 special board is the same as a board established under section 3, second. Since the case law indicates that the jurisdiction of a section 3, second special board is "co-existent" with that of NRAB, the conclusion follows that parties to a labor dispute arising under the RRR Act have a choice between NRAB and Special Boards established under section 507.

 The use of the word "may" in section 507 buttresses the conclusion that jurisdiction is not exclusively held by Special Board 880. The establishment of special boards is permissive; if none is ...


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