Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees v. United States

PETITIONER: Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Braunfeld's furniture store

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 366 US 169 (1961)
ARGUED: Mar 28, 1961
DECIDED: May 01, 1961

Facts of the case


Media for Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 28, 1961 (Part 1) in Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 28, 1961 (Part 2) in Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees v. United States

Archibald Cox:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

Before the luncheon recess, I had traced the history of Section 5 (2) (f) through to the second conference report and had drawn attention to the provisions in the second conference report that recognized the sharp distinction between the Harrington Amendment and the Wadsworth instruction which showed, in our view that the provisions of the conscie -- Conference Report were based upon the instruction and which also spoke of a time limit imposed upon the benefits required to be paid, language which clearly speaks in terms of financial protection and not of a freeze on employment.

That same tone was carried through the debate on the con -- second Conference Report in the House where you find Congressman Lea, who is one of the House managers and Chairman of the House Committee, several times speaking of the time limits that had been imposed on the benefits, so that the benefits wouldn't run for more than four years, similar expression, all of which are consistent with our view.

And, it seems to me, utterly inconsistent with Mr. Mahoney's view of the statute.

The Appellants' do point to certain language in the debate on the second Conference Report which contains references to protection against unemployment and protection against sudden dismissal.

In our view, that's an ambiguous phrase.

Clearly, it could literally mean protection against dismissal.

But, it is also familiar to use the expression "protection against something" as insurance against -- protection against its financial consequence.

For example, we often speak of protection against windstorm, hail, fire, not even the insurance companies can keep those acts of God from occurring.

And by the protection, we mean protection against the financial consequence.

Most point involved, the Washington Agreement of 1936 was known as the Washington Job Protection Agreement, and it granted the kind of financial protection created here, no guarantee of featherbedding, also, it was improved very greatly by this amendment.

There are two other passages --

Hugo L. Black:

May I ask you, before you leave that.

In the brief to which you refer just a few moments ago of the appellants, there appears on page 67 a statement contributed by Senator Wheeler who was, at that time, the Chairman of the Committee of the Senate.

Is anything else about Senator Wheeler shows his attitude or as to this change?

Archibald Cox:

There's nothing, except that passing reference to the Harrington amendment, which I think is -- well, it seems to me that it simply distinguished the Harrington amendment from the Wadsworth amendment and the Jones amendment, so it is not to be taken to mean literally all the provisions in the exact meaning of the Harrington amendment.

That's really about the only thing there is in the Senate.

There is no debate on this provision in the Senate.

In the House, there were two -- two passages that deal explicitly with this problem, as they're set forth in the Government's brief at pages 40 and 41.

Mr. Vorys of Ohio asked about the four-year rule and asked if it would have the effect of delaying a consolidation, and Mr. Lea replied, "No, the rule does not delay consolidation.

It means from the effective date of the order of the Commission, the benefits are available for four years.

The order determines the date and the protective benefits run four years from that date."

Mr. Vorys, "This would be whether or not they are still employed."


Both the question and the answer obviously assume that the employees would not be still employed.

Then, over on the next page, we've set forth a quotation from the closing statement of Congressman Halleck, who was also a conferee, and which seems to me to say in a few words the gist -- the thrust, I should say, of this whole legislative history.

He stated that the new provision follows the principle of the so-called Washington Agreement.

That was a contract entered into by the carriers with their employees to fix the rights of those employees whose employment terminated upon consolidation.

And to summarize what I think is the result of the entire legislative history, from the negotiation of the Washington Agreement, to which only the Trainmen dissent, the whole momentum of the development was in terms of protective benefits, expanding them, enlarging the time, there was a brief fling with the notion of going back to an employment freeze in the original Harrington Agreement but then that, as the contrast in the language of the -- with the Wadsworth instruction showed, was turned back on and everything following is consistent with the notion of financial benefit.

Now, this explains, I think, the reason that when the bill was passed, the journals of the Railway Brotherhoods described it in terms of gaining financial benefits.