The opinion of the court was delivered by: CORCORAN
Reacting to an ever worsening rail-passenger crisis, Congress enacted the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 (hereinafter the "Act").
In brief, the Act authorized the formation of a National Railroad Passenger Corporation (hereinafter "Amtrak"). (Accomplished) It directed the Secretary of Transportation to designate a socalled "basic system" of intercity rail passenger service for the whole country (accomplished) and envisaged that passenger service over any lines not included in the basic system would be discontinued. As to these lines included in the basic system any railroad is permitted to enter into a contract with Amtrak whereunder Amtrak will assume the burden of operating the service and the railroad in turn will be relieved of its entire responsibility for providing intercity passenger service, including those lines not assumed by Amtrak.
Section 401(a)(1) of the Act provides that any Amtrak-railroad contract must include "protective arrangements for employees" of a contracting railroad, and Section 405(b) specifically provides that such protective benefits shall not be "less than those established pursuant to section 5(2)(f) of the Interstate Commerce Act."
Section 401(a)(1) further provides that any railroad discontinuing a train under this Act "must give notice in accordance with the notice procedures contained in section 13a(1) of the Interstate Commerce Act."
The Act provides that an Amtrak-railroad contract may be executed only during two time periods, namely (1) on or before May 1, 1971, and (2) between March 1, 1973 and January 1, 1975.
On March 15, 1971 the Interstate Commerce Commission issued its Ex Parte Order 217 to provide (1) for the filing and posting of passenger train discontinuances, and (2) for filing with the Interstate Commerce Commission verified statements by the railroads that they had entered into valid contracts with Amtrak. By March 31, 1971 all of the railroads which planned to contract with Amtrak had filed and posted notices to discontinue passenger service on May 1, 1971.
On April 16, 1971 Amtrak tendered identical contracts to all the U.S. passenger railroads in the form annexed as Appendix A [omitted from published opinion]. These contracts contain the employee protective arrangements as required by Section 405 and such requirements were certified by the Secretary of Labor as "fair and equitable" on April 16, 1971. By April 27, 1971 nineteen railroads, listed in Appendix B attached hereto [omitted from published opinion], had signed contracts with Amtrak. The Court is informed that the trustees of the Penn Central System have also indicated their intention to contract with Amtrak.
Thus, with Penn Central Railroad's inclusion, the contracts with Amtrak and the railroads apply to approximately 95 percent of the intercity passenger service in the United States.
In this class action
(hereinafter the "Hodgson case") the Congress of Railway Unions and the Railway Labor Executives' Association have brought suit against James D. Hodgson, Secretary of Labor, Amtrak, Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and Seaboard Coast Line Railway, individually and as representatives of a class of an undetermined number of Class I railroads. They seek to have the Court review and hold invalid by way of declaratory and injunctive relief the Secretary's certification, pursuant to Section 405 of the Act, that "fair and equitable arrangements" have been made to protect employees affected by a discontinuance of intercity rail passenger service presently offered by the carriers.
The plaintiff's claim is founded upon the provisions of Section 405 of the Act which reads:
"(a) A railroad shall provide fair and equitable arrangements to protect the interests of employees affected by discontinuances of intercity rail passenger service whether occurring before, on, or after January 1, 1975.
"(b) Such protective arrangements shall include, without being limited to, such provisions as may be necessary for (1) the preservation of rights, privileges, and benefits (including continuation of pension rights and benefits) to such employees under existing collective bargaining agreements or otherwise; (2) the continuation of collective bargaining rights; (3) the protection of such individual employees against a worsening of their positions in respect to their employment; (4) assurances of priority of reemployment of employees terminated or laid off; and (5) paid training or retraining programs. Such arrangements shall include provisions protecting individual employees against a worsening of their positions with respect to their employment which shall in no event provide benefits less than those established pursuant to Section 5(2)(f) of the Interstate Commerce Act. Any contract entered into pursuant to the provisions of this title shall specify the terms and conditions of such protective arrangements. No contract under section 401(a)(1) of this Act between a railroad and the Corporation may be made unless the Secretary of Labor has certified to the Corporation that the labor protective provisions of such contract afford affected employees fair and equitable protection by the railroad.
"(c) After commencement of operations in the basic system, the substantive requirements of subsection (b) of this section shall apply to the Corporation. The certification by the Secretary of Labor that employees affected have been provided fair and equitable protection as required by this section shall be a condition to the completion of any transaction requiring such protection." [emphasis supplied]
The plaintiffs contend that the certification by the Secretary of Labor is invalid because the employee protective arrangements certified by him provide less benefits than those established pursuant to Section 5(2)(f) of the Interstate Commerce Act.
The defendants assert that the Court lacks jurisdiction; and, alternatively, that if the Court does assume jurisdiction its review is narrowly limited and that limited review of the Secretary's actions would demonstrate that the Secretary has complied with the mandate of the statute. Finally, the defendants assert that the plaintiffs have not established a right to injunctive relief.
A. The Jurisdictional Question
Jurisdiction according to the plaintiffs is founded upon Section 307(a) of the Act which provides:
"If the Corporation or any railroad engages in or adheres to any action, practice, or policy inconsistent with the policies and purposes of this Act, obstructs or interferes with any activities authorized by this Act, refuses, fails, or neglects to discharge its duties and responsibilities under this Act, or threatens any such violation, obstruction, interference, refusal, failure, or neglect, the district court of the United States for any district court in which the Corporation or other person resides or may be found shall have jurisdiction, except as otherwise prohibited by law, upon petition of the Attorney General of the United States or, in a case involving a labor agreement, upon petition of any employee affected thereby, including duly authorized employee representatives, to grant such equitable relief as may be necessary or appropriate to prevent or terminate any violation, conduct, or threat."
The plaintiffs assert that a Section 401(a)(1) contract between a railroad and Amtrak is a "labor agreement" since it affects the jobs of thousands of workers and thus authorizes suit by "any employee affected thereby, including duly authorized employee representatives. * * *" The defendants claim, however, that the plaintiffs are neither employees nor their authorized representatives, but associations of the chief executive officers of various unions representing railroad employees, and that an Amtrak-railroad agreement cannot be considered a "labor agreement" if no union is a party to it.
More fundamentally, however, the defendants contend that the Court does not have jurisdiction under Section 307(a) to invalidate the Secretary's certification. They emphasize that Section 307(a) provides for jurisdiction of suits only against (1) the Corporation or (2) a railroad, but that it does not authorize suits against the Secretary of Labor. If jurisdiction is present, they contend that it is narrowly limited to a review of whether the Secretary abused his discretion.
Kendler v. Wirtz, 388 F.2d 381 (3rd Cir. 1968) relied on by the defendants, appears to be on all fours with the case at bar. There, railroad employee associations sought to enjoin the Secretary of Labor from certifying that fair and equitable arrangements had been made to protect the interests of employees affected by federal grants-in-aid under the Urban Mass Transportation Act, 49 U.S.C. 1601 et seq. (1964). The Urban Mass Transportation Act contains a provision (49 U.S.C. 1609(c))
virtually identical to Section 405 of the Rail Passenger Service Act. The Court held that it was without power to substitute its judgment for ...