Clayton v. International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America

RESPONDENT: International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America
LOCATION: U.S. Department of State

DOCKET NO.: 80-5049
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 451 US 679 (1981)
ARGUED: Mar 04, 1981
DECIDED: May 26, 1981

Everett F. Meiners - on behalf of Petitioner ITT Gilfillan, etc
John T. McTernan - on behalf of Petitioner (No. 80-5049) and Respondent (No. 80-54) Clayton; appointed by this Court
M. Jay Whitman - on behalf of Respondents UAW and its Local 509

Facts of the case


Media for Clayton v. International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 04, 1981 in Clayton v. International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments first this morning in Clayton v. International Union and the consolidated case.

Mr. McTernan, you may proceed when you're ready.

John T. McTernan:

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

This is a Section 301 action instituted by petitioner Clayton, my client, claiming that his employer, petitioner ITT, discharged him without just cause in violation of the collective agreement and that his bargaining agent, the UAW, violated its duty to represent him fairly by withdrawing his discharge grievance from the arbitration process.

Clayton's action seeks what has been called by this Court in Vaca v. Sipes judicial enforcement of his contractual rights, and to us that means either a hearing... it means a hearing before a tribunal which can either reactivate his grievance or determine his right to reinstatement.

In the court below both the ITT and UAW asserted as affirmative defenses Clayton's failure to resort to his internal union procedures.

By virtue of an order of trifurcation that issue was tried first and the district court held that the union procedures were adequate to afford him the remedy he sought and dismiss the action against both defendants.

On appeal the dismissal of the claim against the union was affirmed and the dismissal of the claim against the employer was reversed and remanded for trial.

It is true and uncontestable that Clayton did not resort in any way to his internal union procedures.

He was justified in that, we contend, because to have done so would have been an utterly idle act.

The UAW procedures, we submit, were inadequate as a matter of law; they were inadequate in the facts of this case because they could not effect a reactivation of his grievance or his reinstatement; and they were inadequate because they were incapable of rendering a decision within the four-month period allowed in Section 411(a)(4) in the first proviso.

First, as to our position that the union procedure was inadequate as a matter of law, we rely first upon principles enunciated by this Court in NLRB v. Marine Shipbuilding Workers to the effect that where the employee's complaint raises matters in the public domain and go beyond internal union procedures, the union procedures cannot be used to delay his resort to the court, to the National Labor Relations Board, for vindication of his rights under Section 8(b)(1)(a) of the amended National Labor Relations Act.

Here, too, Clayton asserts rights in the public domain, his right to fair representation, the union's duty fairly to represent him, a duty as developed by judicial interpretation and application of Section 9(a) of the amended National Labor Relations Act.

And we think that the rights involved stand on the same footing as the rights involved in NLRB against the Marine Shipbuilders.

The principle that I have just tried to enunciate or elaborate was applied by the 9th Circuit in Bise v. the I.B.E.W. with a similar result.

But perhaps more fundamental than this and going to the competence of the union tribunal is the fact that we deal here with rights governed by federal law.

This Court has enunciated in a number of cases... Vaca v. Sipes, and Motorcoach Employees v. Lockridge, the automobile case, the name of it escapes me for a moment... Humphrey v. Moore... that there's a duty of fair representation.

The claim of the breach of that duty is part and parcel of the Section 301 action, and it is controlled by federal law, and the last formulation of that in the Lockridge case was to the effect that whether the proof established the requisites of the breach of duty is a matter of federal law.

Potter Stewart:

Well, has the Court really held that these are 301 actions?

Wasn't the genesis of the Vaca v. Sipes doctrine the cases of Tunstall and Steele, years ago, under the Railway Labor Act, when there was no 301?

That is, a failure to represent employees fairly and squarely.

John T. McTernan:

But Vaca v. Sipes, Mr. Justice Stewart, went far beyond the Steele and Humphrey v. Moore, and held that where that breach exists, that is the condition precedent to the employee's right of action under 301 in the court for breach of the collective agreement.

Potter Stewart:

Well, first of all, he has to show and prove that he was not properly represented through whatever the grievance and arbitration procedure may have been by his representative, the union organization.

John T. McTernan:


Potter Stewart:

And only then, after he's proved that, may he sue the employer.

Is that the?

John T. McTernan:


And in that--

Potter Stewart:

And any suit against the employer would be a plain vanilla 301 action.

John T. McTernan:

--Well, but the language in Vaca v. Sipes... there are two sections, and one I recall precisely is that the Court said in that opinion that the claim of the breach of the duty of fair representation is part and parcel of the Section 301 action.