PENNA. RR v. Labor Board , 261 U.S. 72 ( 1923 )

  • 261 U.S. 72 (1923)


    No. 585.

    Supreme Court of United States.

    Argued January 11, 1923.
    Decided February 19, 1923.

    *79 Mr. Frederic D. McKenney, with whom Mr. Frank J. Loesch, Mr. Timothy J. Scofield, Mr. Charles F. Loesch, Mr. Robert W. Richards, Mr. C.B. Heiserman and Mr. E.H. Seneff were on the brief, for appellant and petitioner.

    Mr. Blackburn Esterline, Assistant to the Solicitor General, with whom Mr. Attorney General Daugherty and Mr. Solicitor General Beck were on the brief, for appellees and respondents.

    MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT, after stating the case as above, delivered the opinion of the Court.

    It is evident from a review of Title III of the Transportation Act of 1920 that Congress deems it of the highest public interest to prevent the interruption of interstate commerce by labor disputes and strikes, and that its plan is to encourage settlement without strikes, first by conference between the parties; failing that, by reference to adjustment boards of the parties' own choosing, and if this is ineffective, by a full hearing before a National Board appointed by the President, upon which are an equal number of representatives of the Carrier Group, the Labor Group, and the Public. The decisions of the Labor Board are not to be enforced by process. The only sanction of its decision is to be the force of public opinion invoked by the fairness of a full hearing, the intrinsic justice of the conclusion, strengthened by the official prestige of the Board, and the full publication of the violation of such decision by any party to the proceeding. The evident thought of Congress in these provisions is that the economic interest of every member of the Public in the undisturbed flow of interstate commerce and the acute inconvenience to which all must be subjected by an interruption caused by a serious and widespread labor dispute, fastens public attention closely on all the circumstances *80 of the controversy and arouses public criticism of the side thought to be at fault. The function of the Labor Board is to direct that public criticism against the party who, it thinks, justly deserves it.

    The main and controlling question in this case is, whether the members of the Board exceeded their powers on the facts as disclosed in the bill and answer.

    It is contended by the carrier that the Labor Board can not obtain jurisdiction to hear and decide a dispute until it is referred by the parties to the Board after they have conferred and failed to agree under § 301. Undoubtedly the act requires a serious effort by the carrier and his employees to adjust their differences as the first step in settling a dispute but the subsequent sections dispel the idea that the jurisdiction of the Board to function in respect to the dispute is dependent on a joint submission of the dispute to it. If adjustment boards are not agreed upon, then under § 307, either side is given an opportunity to bring its complaint before the Labor Board, which then is to summon everyone having an interest, and after a full hearing is to render a decision. A dispute existed between all the carriers and the officers of the National Labor Unions as to rules and working conditions in the operation of the railroads. By order of the Labor Board, this dispute, which had arisen before the passage of the Transportation Act and before the Government had turned back the railroads to their owners, was continued for settlement before the Labor Board. That Board had been obliged to postpone the decision of the controversy until it could give it full hearing and meantime had ordered that the existing rules and conditions should be maintained as a modus vivendi.

    Counsel of the Railroad Company insist that the Board had no jurisdiction to make an order or to take up the controversies between the Government Railroad Administration and the National Labor Unions; that when the railroads *81 were turned back to their owners each company had the right to make its own rules and conditions and to deal with its own employees under § 301, and that the jurisdiction of the Board did not attach until a dispute as to such rules and conditions between the company and its employees had thereafter arisen.

    We are not called upon to pass upon the propriety or legality of what the Labor Board did in continuing the existing rules and labor conditions which had come over from the Railroad Administration, or in hearing an argument as to their amendment by its decision. It suffices for our decision that the Labor Board at the instance of the carriers finally referred the whole question of rules and labor conditions to reach company and its employees to be settled by conference under § 301; that such conferences were attempted in this case, and that thereafter the matter was brought before the Board by Federation No. 90 of Shop Crafts of the Pennsylvania System under § 307. It is the alleged invalidity of this proceeding, thus initiated, which is really the basis of the bill of complaint of the Company herein, and it is this only which we need consider.

    First, Did Federation No. 90 have the right under § 307 to institute the hearing of the dispute? Section 307 says that this may be invoked on the application of the chief executive of any organization of employees whose members are directly interested in the dispute. Its name indicates, and the record shows, that the Federation is an association of employees of the Pennsylvania Company directly interested in the dispute. The only question between the Company and the Federation is whether the membership of the latter includes a majority of the Company's employees who are interested. But it is said that the Federation is a labor union affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and that the phrase "organization *82 of employees" used in the act was not intended by Congress to include labor unions. We find nothing in the act to impose any such limitation if the organization in other respects fulfills the description of the act. Congress has frequently recognized the legality of labor unions, United Mine Workers v. Coronado Coal Co., 259 U.S. 344, and no reason suggests itself why such an association, if its membership is properly inclusive, may not be regarded as among the organizations of employees referred to in this legislation.

    The next objection made by the Company to the jurisdiction of the Board to entertain the proceeding initiated by the Federation is that it did not involve the kind of dispute of which the Board could take cognizance under the act. The result of the conferences between the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and its employees under § 301 appears in the statement of the case. By a vote of 3,000 out of more than 30,000 employees, a representative committee was appointed with which the officers of the Company made an agreement as to rules and working conditions. Federation No. 90 for its members objected to the settlement on the ground that it had not been made by properly chosen representatives of the employees and brought this dispute before the Labor Board. The Pennsylvania Company was summoned and appeared before the Board and the issue was heard.

    It is urged that the question who may represent the employees as to grievances, rules and working conditions under § 301 is not within the jurisdiction of the Labor Board to decide; that these representatives must be determined before the conferences are held under that section; that the jurisdiction of the Labor Board does not begin until after these conferences are held, and that the representatives who can make application under § 307 to the Board are representatives engaged in the conference under § 301. Such a construction would give either side *83 an easy opportunity to defeat the operation of the act and to prevent the Labor Board from considering any dispute. It would tend to make the act unworkable. If the Board has jurisdiction to hear representatives of the employees, it must of necessity have the power to determine who are proper representatives of the employees. That is a condition precedent to its effective exercise of jurisdiction at all. One of its specific powers conferred by § 308 is to "make regulations necessary for the efficient execution of the functions vested in it by this title." This must include the authority to determine who are proper representatives of the employees and to make reasonable rules for ascertaining the will of the employees in the matter.

    Again, we think that this question of who may be representatives of employees, not only before the Board, but in the conferences and elsewhere is and always has been one of the most important of the rules and working conditions in the operation of a railroad. The purpose of Congress to promote harmonious relations between the managers of railways and their employees is seen in every section of this act, and the importance attached by Congress to conferences between them for this purpose is equally obvious. Congress must have intended, therefore, to include the procedure for determining representatives of employees as a proper subject matter of dispute to be considered by the Board under § 307. The act is to be liberally construed to effect the manifest effort of Congress to compose differences between railroad companies and their employees, and it would not help this effort, to exclude from the lawful consideration of the Labor Board a question which has so often seriously affected the relations between the companies and their employees in the past and is often encountered on the very threshold of controversies between them.

    The second objection is that the Labor Board in Decision 119 and Principles 5 and 15, and in Decision 218, *84 compels the Railroad Company to recognize labor unions as factors in the conduct of its business. The counsel for the Company insist that the right to deal with individual representatives of its employees as to rules and working conditions is an inherent right which can not be constitutionally taken from it. The employees, or at least those who are members of the labor unions, contend that they have a lawful right to select their own representatives, and that it is not within the right of the Company to restrict them in their selection to employees of the Company or to forbid selection of officers of their labor unions qualified to deal with and protect their interests. This statute certainly does not deprive either side of the rights claimed.

    But Title III was not enacted to provide a tribunal to determine what were the legal rights and obligations of railway employees and employees or to enforce or protect them. Courts can do that. The Labor Board was created to decide how the parties ought to exercise their legal rights so as to enable them to cooperate in running the railroad. It was to reach a fair compromise between the parties without regard to the legal rights upon which each side might insist in a court of law. The Board is to act as a Board of Arbitration. It is to give expression to its view of the moral obligation of each side as members of society to agree upon a basis for cooperation in the work of running the railroad in the public interest. The only limitation upon the Board's decisions is that they should establish a standard of conditions, which, in its opinion, is just and reasonable. The jurisdiction of the Board to direct the parties to do what it deems they should do is not to be limited by their constitutional or legal right to refuse to do it. Under the act there is no constraint upon them to do what the Board decides they should do except the moral constraint, already mentioned, of publication of its decision.

    *85 It is not for this or any other court to pass upon the correctness of the conclusion of the Labor Board if it keeps within the jurisdiction thus assigned to it by the statute. The statute does not require the Railway Company to recognize or to deal with, or confer with labor unions. It does not requires employees to deal with their employers through their fellow employees. But we think it does vest the Labor Board with power to decide how such representatives ought to be chosen with a view to securing a satisfactory cooperation and leaves it to the two sides to accept or reject the decision. The statute provides the machinery for conferences, the hearings, the decisions and the moral sanction. The Labor Board must comply with the requirements of the statute; but having thus complied, it is not in its reasonings and conclusions limited as a court is limited to a consideration of the legal rights of the parties.

    The propriety of the Board's announcing in advance of litigated disputes the rules of decision as to them is not before us except as to Principles 5 and 15 of Decision No. 119, so far as they determine the methods by which representatives of employees should be selected. They were applied and followed in the form of ballot prescribed by Decision 218. These decisions were necessary in order that conferences should be properly begun under § 301, and that disputes there arising should be brought before the Board. They were therefore not premature. It is not for us to express any opinion upon the merits of these principles and decisions. All that we may do in this case is to hold, as we do, that they were within the lawful function of the Board to render, and not being compulsory, violate no legal or equitable right of the complaining company.

    For this reason, we think that the District Court was wrong in enjoining the Labor Board from proceeding to entertain further jurisdiction and from publishing its *86 opinions, and that the Court of Appeals was right in reversing the District Court and in directing a dismissal of the bill. We do not find it necessary, therefore, to consider the questions raised at the bar as to whether the Railroad Labor Board is a corporation under the act and capable of suing or being sued, without the consent of the United States, and whether the Board's publication of its opinions in matters beyond its jurisdiction could be properly enjoined by a court of equity.

    Decree affirmed.

Document Info

DocketNumber: 585

Citation Numbers: 261 U.S. 72, 43 S. Ct. 278, 67 L. Ed. 536, 1923 U.S. LEXIS 2528

Judges: Taft, After Stating the Case as Above

Filed Date: 2/19/1923

Precedential Status: Precedential

Modified Date: 4/15/2017

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United States v. Los Angeles & Salt Lake R. Co. , 273 U.S. 299 ( 1927 )

Ex Parte Williams , 277 U.S. 267 ( 1928 )

Texas & NOR Co. v. Brotherhood of Ry. & Steamship Clerks , 281 U.S. 548 ( 1930 )

Virginian Ry. v. Federation , 300 U.S. 515 ( 1937 )

Senn v. Tile Layers , 301 U.S. 468 ( 1937 )

Phelps Dodge Corp. v. NLRB , 313 U.S. 177 ( 1941 )

Terminal Railroad Assn. of St. Louis v. Trainmen , 318 U.S. 1 ( 1943 )

General Committee v. M.-K.-TR CO. , 320 U.S. 323 ( 1943 )

Elgin, J. & E. Ry. Co. v. Burley , 325 U.S. 711 ( 1945 )

Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Comm. v. McGrath , 341 U.S. 123 ( 1951 )

Railway Employes v. Hanson , 351 U.S. 225 ( 1956 )

MacHinists v. Street , 367 U.S. 740 ( 1961 )

MacHinists v. Central Airlines, Inc. , 372 U.S. 682 ( 1963 )

Chicago & North Western R. Co. v. Transportation Union , 402 U.S. 570 ( 1971 )

Cannon v. University of Chicago , 441 U.S. 677 ( 1979 )

Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship Clerks, Freight ... , 253 F.2d 753 ( 1958 )

Ezra A. Jones v. Central of Georgia Railway Company , 331 F.2d 649 ( 1964 )

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