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NORTHWEST AIRLINES, INC. v. TRANSPORT WORKERS UNIO

January 23, 1961

NORTHWEST AIRLINES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION OF AMERICA AFL-CIO and its Air Transport Local 523, Clifford W. Scott, George Hedrick and A. A. Krucovsky, individually and as Officers or Agents of said Union and Local No. 523, and as representatives of a class consisting of all Airline Navigators who are employees of plaintiff for whom said Transport Workers Union of America AFL-CIO or said Air Transport Local 523 is the duly designated representative, and each of them, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LINDBERG

This action was instituted to enjoin the defendants from engaging in a concerted refusal to report for work as ordered by their employer. Jurisdiction is allegedly founded upon 45 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq., and 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

The plaintiff-employer is a certified common carrier by air, engaged in interstate and foreign commerce and providing both domestic and overseas service. The defendant-unions are the certified bargaining representatives of employees performing the service of airline navigators aboard the plaintiff's overseas flights. The presence of a navigator on these flights is required by federal law.

 Prior to the events here involved the plaintiff and defendant-union were parties to a collective bargaining agreement which specified wages, working conditions and grievance procedures. This agreement was executed in conformity with the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq., which is applicable to common carriers by air engaged in interstate or foreign commerce. 45 U.S.C. § 181.

 The plaintiff also has a collective bargaining agreement with the International Association of Machinists, AFL-CIO, which covers the recognized craft of Flight Engineers. This agreement is presently open for negotiation on a number of issues, some of which are before the National Mediation Board although others have been released in accordance with the Railway Labor Act. In October, 1960, as a result of the negotiations a labor dispute began to develop between the plaintiff and the Flight Engineers.

 On or about January 11, 1961 the Flight Engineers struck the plaintiff's properties, withdrew all their members from service on all of plaintiff's aircraft, and placed a picket line around the plaintiff's facilities at the Sea-Tac Airport. As of that date the Navigators honored that strike and have refused to cross the Flight Engineers' picket line although ordered to report for work by the plaintiff.

 This much appears undisputed. However, while some of the remaining facts are contested, the uncontroverted portions of the plaintiff's affidavit and complaint as well as the evidence submitted, tend to support the following facts:

 The Navigators' refusal to cross the Flight Engineers' picket line was the result of a concerted refusal to work, actively encouraged and directed by officers of the local union and the international. In the event that the Navigators continue in their refusal to report for work the plaintiff will be unable to continue its overseas flights which will cause it irreparable injury and serious inconvenience to the public. The collective bargaining agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant-union, although by its terms to expire on December 31, 1960, is in the course of negotiation without dispute as of yet, and may be considered in force and effect. This last assumption is strenuously contested by the defendants and their arguments seem to have considerable merit. Order of Railroad Telegraphers v. Chicago & N.W.R.Co., 1960, 362 U.S. 330, 80 S. Ct. 761, 4 L. Ed. 2d 774. The agreement does not contain a 'no-strike' clause nor does it make any reference to the crossing of picket lines.

 It is the plaintiff's position that the concerted refusal to work by the Navigators, under directions of their union, violates the collective bargaining agreement and gives rise to a labor dispute which must be resolved by established arbitration procedures, not strike action. 45 U.S.C.A. § 183. The plaintiff contends that until this procedure is followed the defendants may be enjoined. Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Chicago R. & I.R. Co., 1957, 353 U.S. 30, 77 S. Ct. 635, 1 L. Ed. 2d 622; Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers v. Missouri-Kansas-Texas R. Co., 1960, 363 U.S. 528, 80 S. Ct. 1326, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1379; Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. International Association of Machinists, D.C.Minn.1959, 178 F.Supp. 825; American Airlines, Inc. v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n, D.C.S.C.N.Y.1958, 169 F.Supp. 777.

 The defendants, on the other hand, challenge the jurisdiction of the court to issue such an injunction because of the prohibitions of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. 29 U.S.C.A. § 101 et seq.

 The plaintiff has conceded that were the parties here involved not governed by the Railway Labor Act, the Norris-LaGuardia Act would deprive the court of jurisdiction in this matter.

 At the outset we are confronted with a serious question of jurisdiction, a question which involves the interrelationship of two separate labor enactments.

 There is nothing in the Railway Labor Act which explicitly removes labor disputes, in covered industries, from the reach of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. Thus any exemption must be found in judicial interpretations of the two enactments.

 There can be little doubt that one of the fundamental purposes of the Railway Labor Act was to minimize crippling strikes in the transportation industry upon which the nation's economy is so dependent. Orderly arbitration procedures have been substituted for, and must precede economic coercion.

 The decisions of the United States Supreme Court clearly indicate that the Norris-LaGuardia Act does not deprive the federal courts of jurisdiction to compel compliance with the arbitration procedures of the Railway Labor Act. Virginian R. Co. v. System Federation, 1937, 300 U.S. 515, 57 S. Ct. 592, 81 L.Ed 789; Graham v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, 1949, 338 U.S. 232, 70 S. Ct. 14, 94 L. Ed. 22. See also ...


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