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LIEUT. THOMAS CUMMINGS v. NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION (AMTRAK) (03/30/87)

decided: March 30, 1987.

LIEUT. THOMAS CUMMINGS, LIEUT. JOHN GALLAGHER, LIEUT. RONALD STACHOWSKI, LIEUT. WILLIAM BOLAND, LIEUT. STEPHEN MCGOVERN, LIEUT. JOHN RYAN, LIEUT. KURT KEMMESSIES, LIEUT. MICHAEL AMICO, SGT. NEVILLE BOOTH, LIEUT. MICHAEL SERFESS, LIEUT. LAWRENCE CLARK, LIEUT. JOHN RIGGIN, LIEUT. HAROLD PLUDE, LIEUT. ROBERT SLIMBOCK, LIEUT. HARRY HALBE, LIEUT. JOHN GRIFFIN, SGT. VAUGHN CARVER, SGT. CHARLES YAGER, SGT. GERALD ADAMS, SGT. STEPHEN WARNER, SGT. CARL GUSTAFSON, SGT. RICHARD YOST, SGT. ROBERT CROWLEY, SGT. FRANK RAPINESI, AND SGT. ROBERT COULSON, APPELLANTS,
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION (AMTRAK), APPELLEE



Appeal from Order of Superior Court of Pennsylvania Filed April 19, 1985, at No. 3634 Philadelphia, 1982, Affirming Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County Filed September 20, 1982 at No. 78-12717, 343 Pa. Superior Ct. 137, Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ.

Author: Hutchinson

[ 514 Pa. Page 231]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellants appeal by allowance a Superior Court order which affirmed a judgment n.o.v. entered by Delaware County Common Pleas. Appellants sued claiming that appellee, AMTRAK, promised them full time supervisory positions in its police force and breached that promise by later demoting them. In reliance, they quit other jobs as security or police officers. The court returned a verdict in appellants' favor. However, Common Pleas subsequently held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because appellants'

[ 514 Pa. Page 232]

    claims are governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. ยงยง 151-88. Thus, they are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Railroad Adjustment Board (Board). Accordingly, it granted AMTRAK's motion for judgment n.o.v., 343 Pa. Super. 137, 494 A.2d 393.

We hold that appellants' individual claims are separate and distinct from those governed by the RLA and, therefore, are not within the Board's jurisdiction over claims arising under railway labor agreements. Appellants' claims for breach of individual employment contracts and misrepresentation are cognizable under our state law. The judgment n.o.v. Common Pleas entered was improper and must be reversed.

AMTRAK was created by an act of Congress in 1970. In 1976, it exercised a statutory option*fn1 and purchased properties from the trustees of the bankrupt Penn Central Railroad. It took responsibility for operating and maintaining these properties; security was one of these responsibilities. AMTRAK had to establish an operating railroad police force in short order. To do so it recruited experienced police and security professionals from government and industry to fill supervisory positions as lieutenants and sergeants.*fn2 Appellants, twenty-five individuals experienced in the security and law enforcement fields, were recruited for this purpose. They had been employed in responsible positions in government and industry. In many, if not all, cases, they had substantial seniority in their prior jobs and good chances of advancement. They claim AMTRAK told them that the positions were permanent and advancement was possible. They testified that they quit their jobs and accepted positions with AMTRAK in reliance upon these representations.

AMTRAK also needed patrolmen to staff its police force. To this end, it negotiated an agreement with ConRail and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (Teamsters),

[ 514 Pa. Page 233]

    the union which had represented ConRail's patrolmen. Under it, the patrolmen were transferred from ConRail to AMTRAK, subject to the pre-existing collective bargaining agreement between ConRail and the Teamsters. Those patrolmen who "conveyed over" also brought their accumulated ConRail seniority with them.*fn3 The collective bargaining agreement contained a procedure for promotion of patrolmen to sergeant and lieutenant. Under it these officers are drawn from the patrolmen ranks. A test is administered; individuals who pass the test are promoted in order of seniority. Appellants claim that either they were left ignorant of this agreement or were told that special arrangements had been made with the Teamsters which allowed AMTRAK to hire them permanently as officers.

A few months after they were hired, appellants were told that their future employment position would be determined under the collective bargaining agreement's promotion procedure. Learning that any patrolman who passed the test would have greater seniority than they would and would be eligible for promotion before them, they refused to take the test.

Appellants then challenged the Teamsters status as collective bargaining representative for the AMTRAK police. They also brought suit in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to prevent AMTRAK from administering the promotion test. An injunction was granted in December, 1976. Slimbock v. National Rail Passenger Corp., No. 76-3840 (E.D.Pa. December 15, 1976). It enjoined AMTRAK from administering the test pending the outcome of the representation dispute. Ultimately the Teamsters were decertified as the collective bargaining representative and a representation election was held. In it, the Patrolman's Benevolent Association, Long ...


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