Brotherhood of Railway & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees, AFL-CIO v. Florida East Coast Railway Company

PETITIONER: Brotherhood of Railway & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees, AFL-CIO
RESPONDENT: Florida East Coast Railway Company
LOCATION: Duluth Harbor Basin

DOCKET NO.: 750
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 384 US 238 (1966)
ARGUED: Apr 20, 1966
DECIDED: May 23, 1966

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Brotherhood of Railway & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees, AFL-CIO v. Florida East Coast Railway Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 20, 1966 in Brotherhood of Railway & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees, AFL-CIO v. Florida East Coast Railway Company

Earl Warren:

-- Railway and Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees, et al., Petitioners, versus Florida East Coast Railway Company.

Number 782, United States, Petitioner, versus Florida East Coast Railway Company et al., and Number 783 or the East Coast Railway Company, Petitioner, versus the United States.

Mr. Spritzer.

Ralph S. Spritzer:

Mr. Chief Justice, I move the admission of Paul Bender of the District of Columbia Bar for purposes of arguing in these cases on behalf of the United States.

Earl Warren:

Mr. Bender you may be admitted for that purpose.

Paul Bender:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

These three petitions arise from a single decision of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

That decision affirmed in an injunction entered in the Middle District of Florida, in action brought by the United States against the Florida East Coast Railway to enjoin what we allege to be violations of the Railway Labor Act.

Eleven unions representing nonoperating employees of the Florida East Coast Railway intervened in the District Court in support of the injunction and participated in the Court of Appeals.

One of the petitions here has been filed by the United States, thats Number 782.

One, taking essentially the same position has been filed by the unions, that's Number 750 and the third which is a cross petition has been filed by the carriers, that's Number 783.

For purposes of the oral argument, I shall present the argument in chief for the position jointly taken by the unions and by the Unites States.

Mr. Devaney will then argue for the carrier and Mr. Rutledge representing the unions will present a rebuttal argument for the position which the unions and the United States jointly take.

The issue here essentially is a simple one.

The question is where and to what extent carriers covered by the Railway Labor Act must obey first their duty to bargain with the representatives of their employees and secondly, their duty to adhere to existing collective bargaining agreements which they have previously made with those representatives.

During the course of a lawful strike, the Unites States takes the position that both of those duties remain upon the carrier during the course of a lawful strike.

It must both bargain with the representatives of its employees and it must adhere to collective bargaining agreements which continue to exist during the course of that strike.

The carrier, on the other hand, takes the position that it is under neither those, that it must neither bargain nor adhere to existing collective bargaining agreements.

Let me briefly sketch to the Court the statutory scheme which maybe somewhat unfamiliar under which these issues arise.

In the first place, like the National Labor Relations Act, the Railway Labor Act contains a general duty to bargain between employers and the representatives of their employees.

It goes a little bit further in general than the Railway -- than the National Labors Relations Act, however, in providing rather affirmatively that there's a duty of all carriers to exert every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements concerning rates of pay rules and working conditions and to settle all disputes arising out of those agreements with the representatives of their employee.

There's nothing like that that explicit in the National Labors Relations Act about the duty to make and maintain agreements and of course a continuing duty to bargain with the representatives.

Then the Act becomes much more explicit than the National Labors Relations Act and much more absolute in describing the meaning of the duty to bargain, “once agreements have been reached with the representatives of employees, as agreements had been reached in this case, first the Act provides that when either the carrier or the union wishes to change existing agreements covering rates of pay rules or working conditions notice must be served on the other party and negotiations between the parties undertaken.

If these negotiations fail to result in agreements either party may then invoke the services of the National Mediation Board which is created primarily for that purpose, to mediate disputes which haven't been settled by a negotiation or the Mediation Board may itself proffer its services even if the parties don't ask it to.

If this mediation fails, the Board, the Mediation Board, is then directed to encourage the parties to submit to the dispute to binding arbitration, although it can't compel the parties to do so.”

If one or both of the parties refuses arbitration and there's another step, the last resort you can create a presidential commission, an Emergency Board it's called, to recommend the solution to the dispute and again its recommendations aren't binding.

And --

Potter Stewart:

And the discretion of the president is not --

Paul Bender:

Right.

I think the Mediation Board has some rule in making recommendations for the President but of course the President does not have to appoint the Board.