CONLEY V. GIBSON, 355 U. S. 41 (1957)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)

Conley v. Gibson

No. 7

Argued October 21, 1957

Decided November 18, 1957

355 U.S. 41


Petitioners, who are Negro members of a union designated as their bargaining agent under the Railway Labor Act, brought a class suit against the union, its brotherhood and certain of their officers to compel them to represent petitioners without discrimination in protection of their employment and seniority rights under a contract between the union and the Railroad. They alleged that the Railroad had purported to abolish 45 jobs held by petitioners and other Negroes, but had employed whites in the same jobs (except in a few instances in which it had rehired Negroes to fill their old jobs with loss of seniority) and that, despite repeated pleas, the union had done nothing to protect petitioners from such discriminatory discharges. The District Court dismissed the suit on the ground that the National Railroad Adjustment Board had exclusive jurisdiction over the controversy. The Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. It was error to dismiss the complaint for want of jurisdiction. Section 3 First (i) of the Railway Labor Act confers upon the Adjustment Board exclusive jurisdiction only over "disputes between an employee or group of employees and a carrier or carriers," whereas this is a suit by employees against their bargaining agent to enforce their statutory right not to be discriminated against by it in bargaining. Pp. 355 U. S. 44-45.

2. The Railroad was not an indispensable party to this suit, and failure to join it was not a ground for dismissing the suit. P. 355 U. S. 45.

3. The complaint adequately set forth a claim upon which relief could be granted. Pp. 355 U. S. 45-48.

(a) The fact that, under the Railway Labor Act, aggrieved employees can file their own grievances with the Adjustment Board or sue the employer for breach of contract is no justification for the union's alleged discrimination in refusing to represent petitioners. P. 355 U. S. 47.

(b) Failure of the complaint to set forth specific facts to support its general allegations of discrimination was not a sufficient

Page 355 U. S. 42

ground for dismissal of the suit, since the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a claimant to set out in detail the facts upon which he bases his claim. Pp. 355 U. S. 47-48.

229 F.2d 436, reversed.

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