Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers v. Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company

PETITIONER: Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers
RESPONDENT: Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company
LOCATION: South Carolina State House

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 373 US 33 (1963)
ARGUED: Feb 21, 1963
DECIDED: Apr 29, 1963

Facts of the case


Media for Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers v. Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 21, 1963 in Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers v. Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company

Earl Warren:

Number 94, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers et al., Petitioners, versus Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company.

Mr. Heiss, you may proceed now.

Harold C. Heiss:

Chief Justice and members of the Court.

The petitioners in this cause are the Four Railroad Transportation Brotherhoods, holding collective bargaining contracts on the Louisville Nashville Railroad which was plaintiff in the trial court and is the respondent in this Court.

The case involves the construction and application on the Railway Labor Act, a statute which this Court in recent years has had occasion to examine on several occasions.

This particular case involves a labor dispute on the respondent railroad which was submitted to the National Railroad Adjustment Board by the railroad.

The submission resulted in an award favorable to the employees which the railroad has declined to make effective.

Since the railroad declined to make the award effective, the employees regarded the dispute as unsettled and insisted upon the right to bargain respecting the dispute by all lawful methods including the calling of a strike.

This was a minor dispute properly before the Adjustment Board and the Adjustment Board processes have been exhausted and completed Your Honor.

No question about that.

No question at all.

No dispute on that.

The question before this Court is whether such a strike is lawful or whether it is forbidden by the Railway Labor Act.

A strike to settle the grievance was enjoined by the District Court, and the injunction affirmed by the Court of Appeals of the Sixth Circuit.

We sought certiorari, if Your Honors please, because we believe that if the decisions below stand collective bargaining as a means of settling minor disputes in the railroad industry will be destroyed.

By collective bargaining, I mean negotiation, conference, and mediation culminating in extreme cases in strikes.

The alternative to collective bargaining as I've defined it is the procedure which the decisions below thrust upon the railroad industry.

The reference of untold thousands of grievances to the Adjustment Board for decisions and their ultimate review by the courts when the awards are in favor of the employees.

I want to make it clear, the threshold of this case that there is more involved here than the means of disposing of a single grievance of involving a few thousand dollars in pay, there is involved in my opinion, the monumental question of whether collective bargaining is going to survive as a means of settling grievances in this industry.

And with that context, I should like to tell the Court the facts which are simple, undisputed and not particularly important.

Humphries, a fireman, a locomotive fireman was discharged in 1956.

The fireman's crafts sought -- the Representative of the fireman's crafts sought his reinstatement, and threatened this -- ultimately threatened a strike to secure the reinstatement whereupon the railroad submitted the dispute as to his reinstatement to the National Railroad Adjustment Board.

The submission involved, one; the question of the justification for discharge.

And two; whether Humphries should be paid for the time lost.

The submission did not involve the major to be applied in the event.

The finding should be that he was entitled to be paid.

The Adjustment Board in its award in favor of Humphries found that he should be reinstated and paid for time loss as the rule is construed on the property.

Thereupon, the representatives of the fireman's craft carried the award to the carriers and asked that it be made effective.

All four organizations, all four petitioning organizations were invited by the representative of the fireman's craft to participate in these negotiations to make the award effective.

The railroad made no complaint about the presence of the four representatives, but told before that in future cases, in cases of reinstatement after discharge that all of them will be treated alike.