Breininger v. Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local Union No. 6 - Oral Argument - October 10, 1989

Breininger v. Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local Union No. 6

Media for Breininger v. Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local Union No. 6

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - December 05, 1989 in Breininger v. Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local Union No. 6

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 10, 1989 in Breininger v. Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local Union No. 6

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in Number 88-124, Lynn L. Breininger v. Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local Union No. 6.

Mr. Landry, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Francis J. Landry:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case involves a challenge by the Petitioner to a judgment of the district court in the northern district of Ohio, which was affirmed by the Sixth Circuit, dismissing a two-count complaint brought by the Petitioner against this labor union.

The first count was for breach of duty of fair representation.

The second count was brought under the Landrum-Griffin Act.

The district court dismissed the case on a motion for summary judgment and dismissed it on jurisdictional grounds inasmuch as because the case involved allegations that the Petitioner was discriminatorily refused job referrals on an out-of-work list, that the case was... preempted by the National Labor Relations Board exclusive jurisdiction under San Diego Building Trades v. Garmon.

The district court also held the Landrum-Griffin Act was preempted similarly under the Garmon doctrine.

The Sixth Circuit affirmed on the jurisdictional basis and additionally added that, because the out-of-work list was available to use by members of the union and non-members, it could not constitute discipline under Teamsters v. Leu, because non-members also could use the out-of-work list.

This was an issue which was not reached by the district court.

The duty of fair representation, we believe, is certainly involved in this case.

The duty developed over 40 years ago in response to a need by the individual members of the union to have redress for arbitrary union activity.

In Vaca v. Sipes in 1987, this Court also embraced the duty of fair representation again, subsequent to the National Labor Relations Board recognition of the duty of fair representation as an unfair labor practice in Miranda Fuel.

The duty of fair representation is a bulwark for redress by individual union members for arbitrary union conduct, and we believe that, because there is a congressional grant of exclusive representation authority to the individual labor unions, that the constitutionality of this grant would be called into question if the individual employee, the individual member of the union, were deprived of the right to a judicial forum to redress arbitrary conduct.

Thus, we see no reason to restrict the availability of the duty of fair representation, and any remedy for redress of discriminatory job referrals in this context ought to be... the jurisdiction ought to be concurrent with that of the National Labor Relations Board.

Additionally,--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Landry, do you take the position that any action by the union that harms one of its members is actionable?

Francis J. Landry:

--We... action which would--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

It doesn't have to be discipline.

Francis J. Landry:

--Not under a duty of fair representation analysis.

It could be any arbitrary discriminatory, bad faith, hostile conduct, whether it would be... constitute discipline or whether it would constitute other--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

So it isn't necessary, in your view in this case, for it to constitute disciplinary action.

That's not important.

Francis J. Landry:

--It needn't... no.

It need not, under a duty of fair representation analysis, additionally under Landrum-Griffin analysis, it is our contention that a finding of discipline is not necessary for this case, either for the reason that the rights alleged to have been infringed by the local union under the Landrum-Griffin claim involved free speech claims under Section 101(a)(2) of the Landrum-Griffin Act.

The case involved allegations that the Petitioner was soliciting pencils which were actually campaign literature, and therefore these were protected... this activity was protected by Section 101(a)(2).

And Section 609 of Landrum-Griffin applies to discipline for engaging in protected activities.

So that is covered.

But even if it does not rise to the level of discipline, the Petitioner did plead Section 102--

Antonin Scalia:

To violate the National Labor Relations Act, however, doesn't the action have to relate to the individuals rights as an employee?