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CONRAIL v. UNITED TRANSP. UNION

November 27, 1995

CONSOLIDATED RAIL CORPORATION
v.
UNITED TRANSPORTATION UNION GENERAL COMMITTEE OF ADJUSTMENT (PRR), et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BARTLE

 Bartle, J.

 November 27, 1995

 When considering a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true all well pleaded allegations. Rocks v. City of Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989). A complaint should be dismissed only where "it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 81 L. Ed. 2d 59, 104 S. Ct. 2229 (1984).

 The amended complaint alleges that the defendants instigated a series of unlawful strikes or threatened strikes over a multi-year period at Conrail's Conway Yard, in Conway, Pennsylvania. Conrail identifies "examples" of strikes on June 8, 1995, in the fall of 1994, in October, 1994, in July, 1992, and in February, 1992, as well as "examples" of unlawful "work stoppages" on December 24, 1989 and in the summer of 1989. In addition, the Conrail recites in the amended complaint strike threats on June 6, 1995 and in April, 1993. Conrail maintains that all of these strikes, work stoppages, and strike threats were over minor disputes.

 The RLA divides disputes into "major" and "minor," although the Act itself does not use these specific terms. The shorthand descriptions were apparently first used by the Supreme Court in Elgin, J. & E. Ry. Co. v. Burley, 325 U.S. 711, 723, 89 L. Ed. 1886, 65 S. Ct. 1282 (1945). Major disputes are those where the railroad seeks to change "rates of pay, rules, or working conditions of its employees, as a class ...." 45 U.S.C. § 152 (Seventh). This situation arises typically during negotiations for a new contract or where an old contract has expired. On the other hand, minor disputes are those "arising out of grievances or out of the interpretation or application of agreements concerning rates of pay, rules, or working conditions." 45 U.S.C. § 152 (Sixth). See Brotherhood of R.R. Trainmen v. Chicago R. & I. R. Co., 353 U.S. 30, 33, 1 L. Ed. 2d 622, 77 S. Ct. 635 (1957). Under §§ 2 (Sixth) and 3 of the RLA, 45 U.S.C. §§ 152 (Sixth) and 153, an aggrieved party must submit minor disputes to compulsory arbitration in accordance with the mechanism provided under the RLA and may not strike over them. See Conrail v. Railway Labor Executives' Ass'n, 491 U.S. 299, 302, 105 L. Ed. 2d 250, 109 S. Ct. 2477 (1989); Pittsburgh & Lake Erie R. Co. v. Railway Labor Executives' Ass'n, 491 U.S. 490, 513, 105 L. Ed. 2d 415, 109 S. Ct. 2584 (1989); General Committee of Adjustment, United Transp. Union, Western Maryland Ry. Co. v. CSX R.R. Corp., 893 F.2d 584, 591 (3d Cir. 1990).

 Conrail seeks a declaratory judgment that the disputes in question were minor in nature and that defendants' conduct violated the RLA. Conrail also requests a permanent injunction against defendants to prohibit future strikes, strike threats, work stoppages, sick-outs, or slowdowns over minor disputes. Finally, the prayer for relief seeks damages in connection with the June 8, 1995 strike and specified liquidated damages for future violations of any permanent injunction which the court may issue.

 Defendant United Transportation Union General Committee of Adjustment (PRR) ("General Committee") first contends that the allegations of the amended complaint with respect to the strike threat on June 6, 1995 and the strike on June 8, 1995 should be dismissed as to it. According to the General Committee, the amended complaint accuses only defendant Jack Arnold, Vice General Chairman of the General Committee, and not the General Committee, of instigating the June 6, 1995 threatened slowdown. As to the June 8, 1995 strike, defendant contends that the allegations are not "sufficient" against it. In this regard, it points to P 47 of the amended complaint which does not mention the General Committee. That paragraph states, "As a direct and proximate result of the June 8, 1995 strike instituted by defendants Jack Arnold, Ron Souder and UTU Local 1418, Conrail sustained financial damages in business disruption and lost business ...." In support of its position, the General Committee cites § 6 of the Norris LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C. § 106 which provides:

 
No officer or member of any association or organization and no association or organization participating or interested in a labor dispute shall be held responsible or liable in any court of the United States for the unlawful acts of any individual officers, members, or agents, except upon clear proof of actual participation in or actual authorization of such acts, or of ratification of such acts after actual knowledge thereof.

 Even assuming the applicability of this provision of the Norris LaGuardia Act, the General Committee's argument is without merit. It overlooks P 12 of the amended complaint which alleges:

 
In violation of their obligation to resolve minor disputes through RLA's exclusive and mandatory procedures, defendants have, over a multi-year period, repeatedly called or threatened to call strikes or other forms of job actions against Conrail over minor disputes. [Emphasis added]

 While the amended complaint does identify a strike threat on June 6, 1995 by Jack Arnold, it also states in P 18, "By issuing the June 6, 1995 threat of a work slowdown against Conrail over a minor dispute, defendants violated sections 2 (First) and 3 of the RLA [Railway Labor Act]." [Emphasis added]. Moreover, Conrail alleges in P 15, "By instituting the June 8, 1995 strike against Conrail over a minor dispute, defendants violated sections 2 (First) and 3 of the RLA." [Emphasis added]. In P 48 Conrail continues, "Defendants conducted their June 8, 1995 job action with no prior notice to Conrail, and without seeking to resolve their dispute with Conrail in conferences ...." [Emphasis added]. The General Committee seems to confuse the quantum of proof needed to establish liability with the flexible notice pleading requirements. Under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint need only state a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Conrail has satisfied the pleading requirement by giving notice to all defendants, including the General Committee. Whether Conrail's proof will be sufficient must await another day.

 All defendants argue that a six month statute of limitations is applicable to this action brought under the RLA. International Ass'n of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO v. Aloha Airlines, Inc., 790 F.2d 727 (9th Cir. 1986); Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers v. Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Ry. Co., 768 F.2d 914, 919 (7th Cir. 1985). See Sisco v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 732 F.2d 1188, 1190-94 (3d Cir. 1984). Since this lawsuit was filed on August 15, 1995, any claim existing prior to February 15, 1995 would be barred. We agree that a six month time bar is applicable to claims under § 2 (First) and § 3 of the RLA. This is consistent with the "relatively rapid resolution of labor disputes favored by federal law." Sisco at 1192. Moreover, the RLA is designed "to secure the prompt, orderly, and final settlement of grievances." Id. at 1192. Thus, to the extent that Conrail seeks declaratory relief for events prior to February 15, 1995, it is too late. We do not read the amended complaint to seek damages or injunctive relief for any events that occurred prior to that six month period. Nonetheless, findings concerning defendants' past conduct may be relevant to the question of what, if any, injunctive relief should be granted in connection with the alleged June, 1995 strike or other alleged unlawful conduct within the six month period or what, if ...


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