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Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen v. Union Railroad Co.

August 28, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conti, District Judge.


Pending before the court are three cross-motions for summary judgment that raise issues about whether a January 31, 2008 special board of adjustment 1157 ("SBA 1157") labor arbitration decision rendered pursuant to the Railway Labor Act ("RLA"), 45 U.S.C. § 153, Second should be vacated. (Joint Exhibit ("J.E.") 0003.) Plaintiff Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen ("BLET") seeks this court's review of the labor arbitration decision of SBA 1157 pursuant to the RLA. 45 U.S.C. § 153, First (q); 45 U.S.C. § 153, Second. BLET asserts that the decision rendered by SBA 1157 did not conform or confine itself to matters within SBA 1157's jurisdiction and should be vacated. Co-defendants Union Railroad Company ("URR" or "Carrier") and United Transportation Union ("UTU") assert that the decision of SBA 1157 should be affirmed by this court. For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant BLET's motion for summary judgment and deny URR's and UTU's motions for summary judgment.

Factual Background

The employees of co-defendant URR, a company engaged in the transportation of freight by railroad, are represented for purposes of collective bargaining under the RLA, by two labor unions: 1) plaintiff BLET, which represents URR's locomotive engineers; and 2) co-defendant UTU, which represents URR's trainmen. (Statement of Material Facts in Support of Motion of Petitioner BLET for Summary Judgment ("BLET Stat. Mat. Facts") ¶¶ 1-5.) BLET and UTU are "representatives" as defined in 45 U.S.C. § 151, Sixth and URR is a "carrier" as defined in 45 U.S.C. § 151, First. (Id. ¶¶ 1-3.)

1. The Dispute

In September 2004, a dispute arose among BLET, URR, and UTU with respect to the operation of URR's locomotives by remote control. (Id. ¶ 6.) URR negotiated an agreement with UTU and assigned the operation of its locomotives by remote control to UTU represented trainmen and not BLET represented locomotive engineers. (Id.) BLET was not consulted before this decision was made. (J.E. 0022.) Previously, URR had always assigned engineers represented by BLET to train operations, unless BLET made a prior agreement. (Id.) In this situation, URR stopped assigning BLET-represented engineers to remote controlled trains after it entered into the agreement with UTU. (Id.) BLET asserted a claim against URR for violating the BLET-URR collective bargaining agreement (the "BLET CBA"), which, BLET argued, required engine crews operating locomotives to consist of BLET represented engineers. (Id.) URR rejected BLET's claims. BLET appealed the denials in accordance with the BLET CBA; however, the parties were unable to resolve the differences. (Id.) The parties agreed to resolve the dispute before a special board of adjustment pursuant to 45 U.S.C. § 153, Second. (Id.)

BLET asserted that article 10 of the BLET CBA ("Article 10") explicitly requires the assignment of a BLET-represented engineer whenever URR operates a locomotive. (J.E. 0023.) BLET argued that Article 10 does not allow for deviation based upon different operations or handling. (J.E. 0024.) Article 10 is a crew-consist rule, which in the railroad industry mandates assignment of employees specified to the jobs listed. (Id.) It is established practice in the industry and between the parties that if a crew-consist agreement governs assignment of employees, an assignment may only be changed through agreement with the union. (J.E. 0027.) BLET did not agree to change the collective bargaining agreement. (J.E. 0024.) Prior to the dispute, URR would ask BLET for permission before deviating from the collective bargaining agreement. (J.E. 0027.) BLET asserted that URR's decision not to employ an engineer on every locomotive it operated violated Article 10. (J.E. 0030.)

2. The Applicable Collective Bargaining Agreement Provision

The relevant portion of Article 10, entitled "Consist of Crews," provided:

Engine crews shall consist of engineer and fireman on all engines. It is also understood the same rules will apply if the power is changed from steam to Diesel or other power. (BLET Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 4.)

3. Arbitration Agreement

URR and BLET submitted the dispute to SBA 1157 under an agreement (the "SBA agreement") entered into pursuant to the provisions of the RLA, 45 U.S.C § 153, Second. (J.E. 0071.) In that agreement, the parties established and limited the jurisdiction of SBA 1157. (J.E. 0071-0075.) The SBA agreement provided in relevant part:

The Board has jurisdiction only over the dispute described by the parties in their respective Question at Issue. No other claims, issues or disputes may be submitted to the Board except by mutual consent of the parties to this Agreement.

The Board does not have the authority to create any new rules, add contractual terms or change existing agreements governing rates of pay, rules or working conditions. (J.E. 0071.)

It also provided:

The Board will consist of five members: three partisan members, one appointed by each of the parties to this Agreement, a neutral arbitrator who will serve as Chairman of the Board . . . , and a second neutral arbitrator who will serve as the Deadlock Neutral. . . . A party can change their designated member at any time prior to the beginning of the hearing as long as all parties give written consent. The neutral arbitrators selected must have no interest in the issues being decided and no connection with any of the parties. (J.E. 0071-72.)

BLET, UTU, and the carrier [URR] will be responsible for compensating their partisan member of the Board. The compensation of the Board Chairman and the Deadlock Neutral . . . will be borne equally by BLET, UTU, and the carrier [URR]. The Board Chairman will make all necessary rules for conducting the Boards hearings, consistent with the provisions of this Agreement: Provided, however, that the Board Chairman must give the parties to the controversy a full and fair hearing, which must include the opportunity to present evidence in support of their Question at Issue, and an opportunity to present their case in person, by counsel, or by other authorized representatives, as they may respectively ...

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