ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY (D.C. Civil No. 84-0521)
Before: ADAMS, GIBBONS, and STAPLETON, Circuit Judges.
This is an action brought by employees against their employer, New Jersey Transit Operations, Inc. (NJT), alleging a violation of an implementing agreement and a collective bargaining agreement under which NJT took over the operation of certain New Jersey commuter rail lines from the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) and their union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Local 604 and 748 (Union), for allegedly breaching its duty of fair representation. The district court dismissed the employees' claim against NJT on jurisdictional grounds and granted summary judgment in favor of the Union. We affirm.
Plaintiffs are electricians employed by NJT and members of the Union, which is the exclusive collective bargaining representative for NJT employees in the electricians' craft. The plaintiffs formerly worked for Conrail and two of Conrail's predecessor railroads: the Erie Railroad, and the Central Railroad of New Jersey. On January 1, 1983, the plaintiffs became employees of NJT when NJT took over certain commuter rail operations from Conrail pursuant to the Northeast Rail Service Act of 1981, 45 U.S.C. §§ 1101-1116 (1982). To accomplish this takeover, NJT entered into an implementation agreement with Conrail and the Union, as required by section 508 of the Rail Passenger Services Act, 45 U.S.C. § 588 (1982). The implementing agreement provided that former Conrail employees would retain seniority reflective of the dates of their earliest employment with either Conrail or one of its predecessor railroads. The Rail Passenger Service Act also required that once an implementing agreement was established, NJT and the Union were to negotiate new collective bargaining agreements. See 45 U.S.C. § 590 (1982). Following the imposition of the implementing agreement, NJT and the Union negotiated and agreed upon two collective bargaining contracts -- one covering electricians in the Maintenance of Equipment Department and one for electricians in the Electric Traction Department. These agreements provide for seniority by department.
The distinction between these two departments, both of which employ electricians, arises out of an historical practice. Because the Lackawanna Railroad, another predecessor of Conrail, was electrified, it had separated the work of maintaining and repairing its electrical power lines and substation (referred to as electric traction work) from the electrical maintenance and repair work on locomotives and passenger railroads (referred to as maintenance of equipment work). Electricians employed within the Electric Traction Department were also responsible for maintaining and repairing the electrical work at stations, bridges, and buildings. (This work is referred to as maintenance of facilities.) The Erie and Central New Jersey, by contrast, were not electrified and therefore electricians were separated by geographic locations, not job functions. Accordingly, while Lackawanna electricians were limited to their job function, some Erie and Central New Jersey electricians performed both equipment and facility repair work. These distinctions continued after Erie merged with Lackawanna in 1960 and after Conrail assumed operational control of both the Erie-Lackawanna and Central New Jersey in 1976.
When NJT took over Conrail's operations, it continued to separate the maintenance of equipment function from the electric traction function. NJT, therefore, created two departments: Maintenance of Equipment and Electric Traction. In addition to the responsibility for the maintenance of electric traction, the Electric Traction Department was given primary responsibility for the maintenance of facilities. Hence, when NJT and the Union negotiated new collective bargaining contracts, they created separate agreements for each department. During negotiations over the agreements, it was discovered that eight electricians in the Maintenance of Equipment Department were performing the maintenance of facilities work they had historically done on the Erie and Central New Jersey lines. The plaintiffs are among these eight electricians. NJT and the Union were unable satisfactorily to agree on the status of these employees and are still in the process of resolving this issue. In the meantime, however, the electricians assigned to the Maintenance of Equipment Department, but performing the maintenance of facilities tasks they have historically done, have been kept on the Maintenance of Equipment seniority list. Apparently, since NJT's takeover more maintenance of facilities work has been generated and that work has been assigned to the Electric Traction Department. As a result, although the plaintiffs have continued to do the work they historically performed, electricians in the Electric Traction Department have had more overtime assignments per employee then plaintiffs have had. Moreover, because seniority is based on department time electricians in the Electric Traction Department who have less company seniority then plaintiffs would be senior to plaintiffs if plaintiffs transferred to the Electric Traction Department.
Believing that their seniority rights were being violated, plaintiffs filed grievances with both the Union and NJT. The plaintiffs allege, and we accept as true in the context of this summary judgment proceeding, that neither the Union nor NJT acted on those grievances. Plaintiffs, therefore, brought this suit charging NJT with a breach of contract and the Union with two breaches of its duty of fair representation.
As best we can make out, the plaintiffs' complaint alleges that both the implementing agreement and the collective bargaining agreement covering electricians in the Maintenance of Equipment Department require seniority by craft. Therefore, plaintiffs claim the NJT breached these arguments by creating a separate seniority roster for electricians in the Electric Traction Department. The district court, however, never reached the merits of this claim because it found that the dispute was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Rail Adjustment Board (NRAB) and that plaintiffs' action against NJT lay with that administrative body. Masy v. New Jersey Transit Rail Operations, Inc., No. 84-521, slip op. at 3 (D.N.J. Sept. 7, 1984).
The plaintiffs argue that section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. § 185 (1982), provides the jurisdictional grant for their suit against NJT. The district court, however, correctly held that the LMRA expressly excludes employees and employers governed by the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. §§ 151-188 (1982), from its coverage. See 29 U.S.C. § 152(2), (3) (1982); Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Jacksonville Terminal Co., 394 U.S. 369, 376, 22 L. Ed. 2d 344, 89 S. Ct. 1109 (1969). Hence plaintiffs' federal claim against NJT must rely on the Railroad Labor Act.
Section 3 of the Railroad Labor Act provides for the administrative adjudication by the NRAB of minor disputes between employees and a railroad that grow out of grievances or an interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement. 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (i) (1982). In most cases, the administrative procedures provided by the Railroad Labor Act are considered the exclusive procedures available to employees who have minor disputes with a railroad. See Andrews v. Louisville & Nashville Railroad, 406 U.S. 320, 322, 32 L. Ed. 2d 95, 92 S. Ct. 1562 (1972). There are, however, three exceptions to the exclusive jurisdiction of the NRAB: "(1) when the employer repudiates the private grievance machinery; (2) when resort to administrative remedies would be futile; and (3) when the employer is joined in a [duty of fair representation] claim against the union." Sisco v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 732 F.2d 1188, 1190 (3d Cir. 1984). The plaintiffs' seniority dispute with NJT involves and interpretation of the collective bargaining agreements, as well as an interpretation of the implementing agreement, and is a minor dispute governed by section 3 of the ...