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U.S. Supreme Court

Railroad Trainmen v. Terminal Co., 394 U.S. 369 (1969)

Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Jacksonville Terminal Co.

No. 69

Argued December 11, 1968

Decided March 25, 1969

394 U.S. 369


Florida East Coast Railway Co. (FEC), having exhausted all the Railway Labor Act's procedures for resolving a "major dispute," unilaterally changed its operating employees' rates of pay, rules, and working conditions, and petitioner unions called a strike and picketed peacefully at locations where FEC operated, including the premises of respondent terminal company. A federal district court enjoined picketing of respondent's premises except at a "reserved gate" set aside for FEC employees. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Norris-LaGuardia Act barred issuance of a federal injunction, and that decision was affirmed by an equal division of this Court (385 U.S. 20). While that litigation was pending, respondent obtained from the Florida courts an injunction almost identical to the earlier federal order. The state trial court found that resumption of general picketing would result in virtual cessation of respondent's activities and cause serious economic damage to the State, and that it constituted an illegal secondary boycott and was unlawful under other state laws.


1. The jurisdiction of the state courts was not preempted by the primary jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board, even though a small percentage of petitioner unions' membership may be subject to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), as this is simply a railway labor dispute to which the NLRA has no direct application. Pp. 394 U. S. 375-377.

2. The Railway Labor Act (RLA) supplies a detailed framework to facilitate the voluntary settlement of major disputes, and while it does not specify what occurs when these procedures have been exhausted without success, it does imply the ultimate right of the parties to resort to peaceful self-help. Pp. 394 U. S. 377-380.

3. Although the Florida courts may have jurisdiction over this litigation, the application of state law is limited by paramount federal policies of nationwide import, as the RLA's scheme for the resolution of major disputes would become meaningless if the

Page 394 U. S. 370

States could prohibit the parties from engaging in any self-help. Pp. 394 U. S. 380-382.

4. The NLRA cannot be imported completely into the railway labor area, but it can be referred to for assistance in construing the RLA, and here the NLRA's policies can aid in determining whether petitioners' conduct is within the penumbra of that protected under the Act or whether it is outside the pale of permissible activity. Pp. 394 U. S. 382-384.

5. Peaceful primary picketing incident to a lawful strike is protected conduct under the NLRA, and since there are no grounds for distinguishing picketing under the RLA, peaceful primary strikes and peaceful picketing incident thereto are within the core of protected self-help under the RLA. Pp. 394 U. S. 384-386.

6. While it is difficult to formulate generalizations governing common situs picketing, it is clear that secondary employers are not necessarily protected against picketing aimed directly at their employees, and thus to condemn all of petitioners' picketing which carries any "secondary" implications would be to paint with too broad a brush. Pp. 394 U. S. 386-390.

7. Congress has not provided usable standards or access to administrative expertise in this area of railway labor conduct, and the least unsatisfactory judicial solution is to allow those who have unsuccessfully exhausted the RLA's procedures for resolving a major dispute to employ their full range of peaceful economic power, provided it does not conflict with any other obligation imposed by federal law. Therefore, until Congress acts, primary or secondary railway labor picketing must be deemed conduct protected against state proscription. Pp. 394 U. S. 390-393.

201 So.2d 253, reversed.

Page 394 U. S. 371

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