Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Reis

PETITIONER: Complete Auto Transit, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Reis
LOCATION: North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women

DOCKET NO.: 79-1777
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 451 US 401 (1981)
ARGUED: Feb 24, 1981
DECIDED: May 04, 1981

ADVOCATES:
Hiram S. Grossman - on behalf of the Respondents
R. Ian Hunter - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Reis

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 24, 1981 in Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Reis

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments now in Complete Auto Transit v. Reis.

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

R. Ian Hunter:

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

The issue submitted to the Court in this case is limited to a determination whether individual employees who engage in a violation of a collective bargaining agreement and who acted without the authorization of their labor organization are responsible for damages sustained by their employer and liable to it arising out of their individualized breach of that collective bargaining agreement.

And I might note that it would appear that is the very issue reserved by this Court in its decision of Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining.

I think a--

Potter Stewart:

Is this exclusively a question under Section 301?

R. Ian Hunter:

--Yes, Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:

Of the 1947 Act?

R. Ian Hunter:

Yes, it is, Your Honor.

A brief recitation of the facts, I think, are important to a determination of this issue.

In June of 1967 the respondent employees engaged in a work stoppage against the three petitioners for up to and including two weeks in time.

Now, petitioners alleged and respondents admit that at no time did their labor organization, aid, abet, condone, or authorize this work stoppage, that this was indeed an individual action on their part.

Warren E. Burger:

You're equating that to ordinary breach of contract between private parties?

R. Ian Hunter:

I'm equating it to the violation of the agreement that contained a no strike clause.

Warren E. Burger:

Just as though there was no union entity involved?

R. Ian Hunter:

Well, I can't involve a collective bargaining agreement without acknowledging the role of the union, but I do know that the no strike clause should be equally enforceable against the employees as well as the union.

Warren E. Burger:

Just as though 124 individuals had signed a contract with the employer without any union?

R. Ian Hunter:

To the degree that they signed a no strike clause, yes.

Yes, Your Honor.

Warren E. Burger:

Yes.

That's what I'm driving at.

R. Ian Hunter:

Petitioner employers now attempt to hold these employees responsible for the damages directly resulting from their individualized breaches of the collective bargaining agreement pursuant to this lawsuit brought in accordance with Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act.

Now, although 301 on its face contemplates suits alleging violation of collective bargaining agreements, petitioner concedes that the language does not expressly address the issue of individual liability arising out of those violations.

A review of relevant congressional history, in the opinion of petitioners, indicates that Congress did not specifically authorize or prohibit such actions against individual employees, when their conduct was not authorized by their local unions.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Well, I gather though the statutes, the genesis, initially, was that there wasn't any way previously of suing unions.

R. Ian Hunter:

Yes, that was one of the principal concerns.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

And 301 was enacted so that unions might be made subject to suits.

R. Ian Hunter:

That's right.

That was one of the principal concerns.