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RAILWAY LABOR EXECUTIVES' ASSN. v. PITTSBURGH & LA

November 24, 1987

Railway Labor Executives' Association, Plaintiff,
v.
Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Company, Defendant


Bloch, District J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BLOCH

BLOCH, District J.

 Presently before this Court are plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and defendant's motion to dismiss. Both motions raise a single legal issue, i.e., whether the provisions of the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. § 151, et seq., governing resolution of labor disputes are applicable in the instant matter. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, the Court concludes that the RLA is applicable. Accordingly, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is granted and defendant's motion to dismiss is denied.

 Factual Findings

 Plaintiff, Railway Labor Executives' Association (RLEA), is an unincorporated association of the chief executive officers of 19 labor organizations which are "representatives" as that term is defined in § 1, Sixth, of the RLA. These labor organizations collectively represent virtually all of the employees of defendant, Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad (P&LE), and have collective bargaining agreements with P& LE which cover various crafts and classes of P&LE employees.

 P&LE owns and operates a 182-mile rail line which runs from Connellsville, Pennsylvania to Youngstown, Ohio. P&LE is a rail carrier within the meaning of § 1, First, of the RLA. On July 8, 1987, P&LE entered into a sales agreement with P&LE Railco, Inc. (Railco), a subsidiary of Chicago West Pullman Transportation Corporation. When finalized, this agreement will result in Railco's purchase of all of P&LE's rail lines and certain of its operating properties. P&LE employs approximately 750 people whose jobs will be affected by the sale.

 By letter dated July 31, 1987, Gordon E. Neuenschwander, president and chief executive officer of P&LE, notified P&LE employees that the carrier had entered into the aforesaid sales agreement. Beginning in August, 1987 and continuing into September, 1987, RLEA member organizations served notices on P&LE pursuant to § 6 of the RLA stating their position that the sales transaction could not be completed in the absence of negotiations between P&LE and the representatives of its employees, pursuant to the terms of the RLA.

 P&LE responded to these § 6 notices by stating that it was the railroad's position that the notices were not valid under § 6 of the RLA since the proposed transaction is controlled by the Interstate Commerce Act (ICA) and is subject to the authority of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC).

 On October 14, 1987, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWE), one of plaintiff's member organizations, invoked the services of the National Mediation Board (NMB) under § 5, First, of the RLA to help resolve the dispute between the BMWE and P&LE which had arisen out of the § 6 notice which BMWE had served on P&LE on August 14, 1987.

 There is no dispute between the parties that the dispute resolution procedures set forth in the RLA have not been completed within the context of the present dispute.

 Discussion

 A. Railway Labor Act

 In enacting the RLA, Congress endeavored to promote stability in labor management relations within the railroad industry by providing effective and efficient remedies for the resolution of railroad employee disputes arising out of the interpretation of collective bargaining agreements. Union Pacific Railroad Company v. Sheehan, 439 U.S. 89, 94, 58 L. Ed. 2d 354, 99 S. Ct. 399 (1978) (per curiam). The RLA subjects all railway disputes to "virtually endless" negotiation, mediation, voluntary arbitration, and conciliation. Detroit and Toledo Shore Line Railroad Company v. Transportation Union, 396 U.S. 142, 148-49, 90 S. Ct. 294, 24 L. Ed. 2d 325 (1969). In addition, the RLA requires all parties to "exert every reasonable effort to make and maintain" collectively bargained agreements, § 2, First, and to abide by the terms of the most recent collective bargaining agreement until all the dispute resolution procedures provided by the RLA have been exhausted. §§ 5, 6, and 10; Burlington Northern Railroad Company v. Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, 481 U.S. 429, 107 S. Ct. 1841, 95 L. Ed. 2d 381 (1987).

 When the nature of a dispute under the RLA is "major," neither party may change the status quo without complying with the procedures set forth in the Act. 45 U.S.C. § 156. A major dispute is one arising out of the formation or change of collectively-bargained agreements covering rates of pay, rules or working conditions. Baker v. United Transportation Union, 455 F.2d 149, 154 (3d Cir. 1971); see also Elgin, J. & E. Railroad Company v. Burley, 325 U.S. 711, 89 L. Ed. 1886, 65 S. Ct. 1282 (1945).

 The RLA provides a detailed framework to facilitate the voluntary settlement of major disputes. A party desiring to effect a change of rates of pay, rules, or working conditions must give advance written notice. § 6. The parties must confer, § 2, Second, and if the conference fails to resolve the dispute, either or both may invoke the services of the National Mediation Board, which ...


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