RAILWAY CLERKS V. FLORIDA E. C. R. CO., 384 U. S. 238 (1966)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Railway Clerks v. Florida E. C. R. Co., 384 U.S. 238 (1966)

Brotherhood of Railway & Steamship Clerks,

Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees,

AFL-CIO v. Florida East Coast Railway Co.

No. 750

Argued April 20, 1966

Decided May 23, 1966*

384 U.S. 238


Following union demands for a 25� hourly wage increase and a six months' notice requirement for layoffs and job abolitions made on behalf of nonoperating railroad employees of virtually all Class I railroads, including the Florida East Coast Railway Company (FEC), negotiations and mediation occurred under the Railway Labor Act. Section 2 Seventh provides in part that no carrier shall change employee pay rates, rules, or working conditions as embodied in agreements except as prescribed in such agreements or in § 6, which, together with § 5, requires negotiation and mediation. Thereafter, following hearings, a Presidential Emergency Board constituted under § 10 recommended, and all the carriers but FEC accepted, a pay increase of about 10� an hour and a five days' notice before job abolitions. Following further mediation under the Act, the parties' refusal voluntarily to arbitrate as suggested by the National Mediation Board, and further unsuccessful negotiations, the nonoperating unions struck, and most operating employees refused to cross the picket lines. After a brief shutdown, FEC resumed operations with a substantially different labor force consisting of supervisory personnel and replacements, with whom it made individual employment agreements which were substantially different from the existing collective bargaining agreements. FEC refused union-proposed mediation by the National Mediation Board. Then, although both sides had rejected arbitration prior to the strike, the unions changed their position and urged arbitration; again, FEC refused. The Government brought this suit, in which the nonoperating unions intervened as plaintiffs, charging that FEC's unilateral departures

Page 384 U. S. 239

from the collective bargaining agreements violated the Act. In a parallel injunctive suit against FEC by an operating union, the Court of Appeals held that, while FEC could not abrogate the existing collective bargaining agreements, it could make such changes in the agreements as the District Court found were "reasonably necessary" for it to operate under strike conditions. Florida East Coast R. Co. v. Brotherhood of R. Trainmen, 336 F.2d 172. The District Court, in the Trainmen case and this case, enjoined FEC to adhere to the collective bargaining agreements except upon court authorization after a finding that such changes were "reasonably necessary" for continued operations under strike conditions. FEC applied to the District Court for permission to make numerous departures from the existing agreements, some of which that court sanctioned and some of which it disallowed. Both sides appealed, and, following the Trainmen case, the Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. All the procedures for settlement of the major dispute involved under § 2 Seventh of the Act arising from the unions' demands having been exhausted, the unions were warranted in striking; at that point, self-help was also available to the carrier. Pp. 384 U. S. 243-244.

2. A carrier, though not under an absolute duty to operate, must make reasonable efforts to maintain public service even during a strike. P. 384 U. S. 245.

3. After a strike occurs, the carrier, if its right of self-help and its duty to operate are to be meaningful, must be allowed to depart from the collective bargaining agreement without first following the Act's lengthy courts for negotiation and mediation. P. 384 U. S. 246.

4. If, however, the spirit of the Act is to be honored, a carrier's power to make new terms governing its replacement labor force must be strictly confined to those truly necessary in light of the new labor force's inexperience or the lesser number of employees available for continued operation. Pp. 384 U. S. 246-248.

5. FEC, which did not refuse arbitration until after the strike had begun and its right of self-help had accrued, was not precluded from seeking the assistance of the federal court. Trainmen v. Toledo, P. & W. R. Co., 321 U. S. 50, distinguished. Pp. 384 U. S. 247-248.

348 F.2d 682 affirmed.

Page 384 U. S. 240

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