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STEVENS v. TEAMSTERS LOCAL 2707

November 24, 1980

Art STEVENS (now Burl Tylor) et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TEAMSTERS LOCAL 2707, AIRLINE, AEROSPACE AND ALLIED EMPLOYEES, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VOORHEES

ORDER ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Having considered the cross-motions of the parties for summary judgment, along with the voluminous memoranda and affidavits submitted by counsel, the Court now finds and rules as follows:

 2. Grievance procedures under the Act differ somewhat from those under the National Labor Relations Act. Slagley v. Illinois Central R.R. Co., 397 F.2d 546 (7th Cir. 1968). In particular, various provisions of the Act, including § 153 First (i) and (j), have been interpreted to grant employees the statutory right individually to process or otherwise participate in the processing of their grievances. Elgin, J. & E. Rwy. Co. v. Burley, 325 U.S. 711, 65 S. Ct. 1282, 89 L. Ed. 1886 (1945) (Burley I), adhered to on rehearing, 327 U.S. 661, 66 S. Ct. 721, 90 L. Ed. 928 (1946) (Burley II ). However, whether airline employees have the same statutory right individually to process their grievances is less clear, because the section which specifically permits employees individually to submit their grievances to boards of adjustment does not apply to airline employees. See § 153 First (j), § 182. The Court is nonetheless of the opinion that airline employees covered by the Act have a statutory right to process their grievances individually.

 3. It is clear that the general aim of Congress in extending the Act to air carriers "was to extend ... the same benefits and obligations available and applicable in the railroad industry." International Ass'n of Machinists v. Central Airlines, Inc., 372 U.S. 682, 685, 83 S. Ct. 956, 958, 10 L. Ed. 2d 67 (1963). See Hunt v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 600 F.2d 176 (8th Cir. 1979). Furthermore, various provisions of the Act which are applicable to the air carrier industry make it clear that individual employees are to have a substantial role in the grievance process. Section 152 First requires "employees" to exert every reasonable effort to "settle all disputes." Burley I interpreted § 152 Fourth as encompassing the right of the individual employee to confer with his employer regarding his grievance. 325 U.S. at 735, 65 S. Ct. at 1295. Burley I also read the term "representative" in §§ 152 Second, Third, and Sixth to include the employee himself. Id. at 734-36, 65 S. Ct. at 1295-96. These provisions relate to the early stages of the grievance procedure.

 4. The Court is further of the opinion that § 153 was made inapplicable to the airline industry not because Congress felt the procedures of railroad arbitration inappropriate to the airline industry, but because Congress contemplated a Board of Adjustment for the airline industry distinct from the National Railroad Adjustment Board established by that section. See § 185. Section 184, which requires the parties to establish System Boards of Adjustment, provides that disputes which have not been resolved in the lower levels of grievance proceedings may be "referred by petition of the parties or by either party" to the System Board. Given the rights of the individual employees to participate at the initial levels of the grievance procedure, individual employees in some situations will be "parties" entitled to submit matters to the System Board. Thus, the Court concludes that airline industry employees have the same right individually to process grievances as do railroad industry employees.

 5. Even if this were not the case, the Court notes that the parties have agreed that individual employees have the right to process grievances under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. See §§ 21(b)(1) and 22 of the collective bargaining agreement.

 6. The question then becomes whether the union, by withdrawing plaintiffs' grievances and foreclosing plaintiffs' right individually to process their grievances, has breached its duty of fair representation to plaintiffs.

 
a. Conduct which lacks a rational basis; or
 
b. Egregious conduct reflecting a reckless disregard of the rights of the employee. Id. at 1088-90. In order to establish that union conduct was egregious, the employee must show that the conduct reflected a reckless disregard of the rights of the employee, that it severely prejudiced the employee, and that the policies behind the duty of fair representation would not be served by shielding the union from liability. Id.

 8. Defendant contends that it did not breach its duty of fair representation because it was authorized to process the grievance in such manner as the union viewed to be in the best interests of the union. See Article XIV, § 3, of Teamsters Constitution, quoted below. The relevant standard for authorization is set forth in Burley I, and was stated two ways:

 
(Whether there has been shown an) unequivocal intention to surrender the individual's right to participate in the settlement and to give the union final voice in making it together with exclusive power to represent him before the board. 325 U.S. at 744, 65 S. Ct. at 1299.
 
(Whether) the employees had finally committed the whole matter of their claims into the union's hands in such manner as to constitute a surrender of their individual rights to concur in any ...

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