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BOEING AIRPLANE CO. v. AERONAUTICAL INDUS. DIST. L

June 12, 1950

BOEING AIRPLANE CO.
v.
AERONAUTICAL INDUSTRIAL DIST. LODGE NO. 751, OF INTERNATIONAL ASSN. OF MACHINISTS et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CARTER

This is an action for damages for breach of contract, in which the plaintiff contends that the defendants breached an agreement not to strike contained in the labor relations contract between plaintiff and defendants.

Jurisdiction in this court exists by reason of the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947, Sec. 301, Act of June 23, 1947, c. 120 Title III, Sec. 301, 61 Stat. 156, Title 29 U.S.C.A. § 185, which expressly states 'suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter * * * may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties. * * * '

 The questions to be decided arise on motions for summary judgment and motions to dismiss. The defendant Aeronautical Industrial District Lodge No. 751 of the International Association of Machinists will be hereinafter referred to as 'Lodge 751' and the defendant International Association of Machinists will be hereinafter referred to as the 'International.'

 A brief statement of the facts is in order. *fn1"

 On January 5, 1944, a labor relations agreement was entered into between the plaintiff's predecessor, Boeing Aircraft Company on the one part and the International and Lodge 751 on the other. On March 16, 1946, the duration of the contract was extended by an amendment to Art. XIII reading as follows: 'This agreement shall be and remain in full force and effect from the 16th day of March 1946 to the 16th day of March 1947, and thereafter until a new agreement has been reached by the parties either through negotiation or arbitration.'

 The agreement contains Article XI, 'Work Stoppage.' After March 16, 1946, and during the period mentioned herein, it read as follows:

 'Section A. Strikes and Lockouts

 '1. During the life of this agreement no strikes shall be caused or sanctioned by the Union, and no lockouts shall be made by the Company. Any action of the employees in refusing to go through a picket line, in case of an officially declared strike by some Union directly working on the job, if said strike is sanctioned by Aeronautical Industrial District Lodge No. 751 of the International Association of Machinists, shall not constitute a violation of this clause of the Agreement.

 '2. The Union specifically directs its members individually and collectively not to engage in strikes, walkouts, sitdowns, slowdowns, or any other form of work stoppage unauthorized by the Union. In the event that strikes, walkouts, sitdowns, slowdowns or any other form of work stoppage occurs, the parties agree to take corrective action with a view toward preventing a recurrence of such incident.'

 The year extension period ended March 16, 1947; thereafter the parties continued negotiations in an attempt to reach a new agreement. What transpired after March 16, 1947 is material to some of the issues in the case. The defendants claim that the Company failed to bargain in good faith and that the Company refused to submit the matters in dispute in the proposed new agreement to arbitration unless the Company could make the final decision on who the arbiters were to be. This the Company denies.

 At 10:30 a.m., on April 22, the plaintiff, through A. F. Logan, its Director of Industrial Relations sent the following letter to the President of Lodge 751:

 'Boeing Airplane Company

 'Seattle 14, Washington

 'April 22, 1948

 'Mr. Harold J. Gibson, President

 'Aeronautical Industrial District Lodge No. 751

 '5502 Airport Way

 'Seattle, Washington

 'Dear Mr. Gibson:

 'The strike which began last night and which is now continuing at the Seattle plants of the Company and which the union caused and sanctioned is in direct violation and repudiation of the collective Bargaining Agreement dated January 5, 1944, as amended March 16, 1946, between Boeing Aircraft Company and Aeronautical Industrial District Lodge 751 and International Association of Machinists.

 'By reason of this strike, you are hereby notified that the agreement referred to above is terminated and at an end.

 'Yours very truly '(s) A. F. Logan 'A. F. Logan, Director Industrial Relations' *fn2"

 'AFL/j

 It is the contention of the defendants that by this letter the Company, as of 10:30 a.m., April 22, terminated and rescinded the labor relations agreement and that after that date and hour, the Company has no right to sue for breach of the agreement.

 On April 28, 1948, the International sanctioned the strike but only after the Company had refused to meet with representatives of the International who came to Seattle for that purpose. This aspect of the case will be discussed later.

 The proceedings leading to the Circuit Court decision in 174 F.2d 988 should be summarized. Following the work stoppage on April 22, 1948, Lodge 751 made a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, charging the Boeing Airplane Company with an unfair labor practice in failing and refusing to recognize and bargain with Lodge 751 following the strike. The Board investigated and instituted proceedings, as a result of which a hearing was had in which Lodge 751 participated *fn3" and following the hearing the Board determined that the Company had been guilty of an unfair labor practice and issued a cease and desist order. The Company filed its petition for review in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. That court in 174 F.2d 988 set aside the order of the Board on the ground that the contract was still in effect on April 22, 1948, and that the strike was unlawful, hence the Company was justified in not recognizing Local 751 as the legal bargaining agency after that date.

 All facts necessary for a determination of the issues before the Board were included in a written stipulation entered into between the Company, counsel for the Board and Lodge 751. These were the stipulated facts referred to by the Court of Appeals in its decision. Both parties concede that the stipulation is still effective and various portions of it are before the court in this action through answers to interrogatories and requests for admissions.

 (1) That the labor relations agreement between the plaintiff Company and the International and Lodge 751 was in full force and effect on April 22, 1948, the date of the strike.

 (2) That the strike was unlawful and a breach of the contract.

 The motion to dismiss on the part of Lodge 751 and the International are identical. The motion is made upon the ground that 'the amended complaint fails to state a claim against the defendant * * * upon which relief can be granted.' The motion for summary judgment of both Lodge 751 and the International is based upon the following grounds, identical as to the first four propositions.

 '1. The purported contract sued upon and in evidence herein *fn4" is only a contract for a contract and not one enforceable in law.

 '2. The purported contract sued upon and in evidence herein is so indefinite and uncertain that it is not enforceable in law.

 '3. The purported contract sued upon and in evidence herein was not in full force and effect on April 22, 1948.

 '4. Plaintiff, by its letter of April 22, 1948 * * * terminated and put an end to and rescinded the contract. That by such rescission, plaintiff cannot legally sue upon the contract for damages * * * '

 The motion of the International contains also a fifth ground.

 5. Defendant International did not breach the purported contract sued upon and in evidence herein.

 The Questions for Determination

 As a result of these motions, there arises the following questions for decision:

 (1) Was the labor relations agreement in effect on April 22, 1948?

 (a) Is the decision in Boeing Airplane Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, D.C. Cir., 174 F.2d 988, res adjudicata or binding on this issue or any other issue in the case at bar?

 (b) Was the labor relations agreement only a contract for a contract and not one enforceable in law?

 (c) Was the labor relations agreement so indefinite and uncertain as to 'duration' that it is not enforceable in Law?

 (d) Was the labor relations agreement terminable on notice after a reasonable period of time so that it was not in full force and effect on April 22, 1948?

 (2) What interpretation is to be placed upon the labor relations agreement between the parties, insofar as the obligations of the defendants are concerned, and particularly as to ...


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