ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA. (D.C. Civil No. 92-00381).
Before: Hutchinson, Cowen and Nygaard, Circuit Judges.
Appellants appeal from two orders of a United States Magistrate Judge; one dismissing their action against USAir for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and the other denying them leave to amend their complaint. We will affirm.
Appellants are fleet service personnel, otherwise known as baggage handlers, employed by USAir at the Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Boston airports. These baggage handlers were represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("IBT") under a collective bargaining agreement, Article 26A of which entitled them to purchase life insurance at the same rates charged to nonunion employees. This was known as the "me-too" provision of the agreement. The agreement expired by its own terms in 1987 when the IBT filed a notice under section 6 of the Railway Labor Act (the "Act"), 45 U.S.C. § 156, to have the agreement renegotiated.
Negotiations dragged on for several years until April 1991 when the IBT was decertified as appellants' bargaining agent. The next month appellants noticed that their payroll deductions for life insurance had been reduced for no apparent reason. Appellant Miklavic several times from April through November had asked USAir management to explain the reduction, but never was given a reason despite promises that the matter was being studied.
In February 1992, without first filing a grievance, appellants filed suit in the district court alleging a breach of the collective bargaining agreement and fraud. Jurisdiction was asserted under the Act. USAir quickly moved to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), alleging that the complaint presented only a minor dispute. Appellants then amended their complaint to add a claim for a violation of section 6 of the Act, contending that USAir refused to adhere to the status quo and honor the "me-too" provision during negotiations and after the contract expired.
Discovery was stayed pending the resolution of the jurisdictional issue, but appellants allegedly learned through "informal discovery" that the IBT, during contract negotiations, failed to take any action whatsoever to enforce the "me-too" provision. Appellants allege they could not have discovered this at the time the union failed to take action, nor did it come to light when the union was decertified. Nevertheless, although the IBT's conduct appeared to state a claim for breach of the duty of fair representation ("DFR"), appellants did not plead such a breach in their amended complaint.
USAir answered appellants' amended complaint and both parties consented to have the case heard before a United States Magistrate Judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). The magistrate Judge granted USAir's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because only a minor dispute was pleaded and no jurisdictional exception applied. Appellants then sought leave to amend their complaint a second time to add a hybrid claim against USAir for breach of the union's duty of fair representation. The magistrate Judge denied leave, holding that this claim was time-barred and to amend would be futile. Our review of the subject matter jurisdiction issue is plenary, and we review the denial of leave to amend for abuse of discretion.
Appellants first challenge the Magistrate Judge's Conclusion that this case presented only a minor dispute within the meaning of the Railway Labor Act. Although they concede that the causes of action pleaded in counts one and three of the amended complaint -- breach of the collective bargaining agreement and fraud -- constitute minor disputes, they argue ...