The opinion of the court was delivered by: GASCH
This case concerns a dispute between two rival unions which had campaigned to win the position of bargaining representative for employees of Northwest Airlines, Inc. ("Northwest"). As the successor union, plaintiff International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("Teamsters") claims that the predecessor union, Association of Flight Attendants ("AFA"), failed to process over 1,000 employee grievances. Plaintiff avers that it has inherited the job of processing these grievances at its expense and sues for unjust enrichment and other forms of equitable relief. A question of this Court's jurisdiction over the matter has been presented in plaintiff's motion to remand.
Both parties to this action are unincorporated labor organizations which represent airline employees subject to the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. Prior to July, 1986, the airline division of the Teamsters had represented approximately 3,600 Northwest flight attendants and the AFA had represented 2,600 flight attendants of Republic Airlines.
On January 28, 1986, Northwest applied to the Department of Transportation ("DOT") for approval of its application to acquire Republic. The DOT approved Northwest's application on July 31, 1986.
On August 12, 1986, Northwest announced that it could only recognize one union following the merger and that it intended to recognize the Teamsters as the exclusive bargaining representative for its flight attendants. The AFA filed an application for the investigation of a representation dispute with the National Mediation Board ("NMB"), thereby triggering an election to be conducted by the NMB.
On September 30, 1986, six weeks before the election, plaintiff filed a complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, alleging that the AFA had been unjustly enriched by failing to process employee grievances.
The complaint further demanded the transfer of all grievance files held by the AFA. On November 10, 1986, the Mediation Board counted the ballots. The Teamsters had won the election.
Following the merger, it was plaintiff's responsibility, as the recognized bargaining representative for flight attendants on both Northwest and Republic, to process grievances left unresolved by the AFA prior to the merger. The earlier agreement between AFA and Republic had established a grievance and arbitration procedure in accordance with section 204 of the Railway Labor Act ("Act"), 45 U.S.C. § 184. Sections 24 and 25 of the agreement provided for the filing of grievances, a hearing, and the submission of unresolved grievances to the System Board of Adjustment. Section 30 of the agreement provided for flight attendants to give written authorization for Republic to deduct union dues from their paychecks and to remit these dues to AFA on a monthly basis.
Shortly after the November election, defendant AFA states that its Director of Collective Bargaining, Stephen Crable, contacted counsel for the Teamsters to arrange for the transfer of grievance records. See Declaration of Stephen Crable at paras. 2-3. On December 9, 1986, Mr. Crable wrote to the AFA's three local Executive Councils in Memphis, Detroit and Minneapolis requesting the shipment of grievance files to AFA headquarters in Washington, D.C. On January 6, 1987, Crable forwarded these files to counsel for the Teamsters.
Additionally, plaintiff avers that it has spent time and money attempting to investigate and resolve the leftover grievances. Since the receipt of the grievance files, plaintiff Teamsters has processed three cases through arbitration at a cost of $ 3,000 per case. At oral argument, counsel for plaintiff could not estimate how many more grievances will need to be arbitrated but all cases will require investigation. This investigation, according to plaintiff, is hindered by the age of some of the complaints, the frequent change of residence by many flight attendants and the several collective bargaining agreements in effect at various times due to Republic's complicated merger history.
Plaintiff tailors the instant action under a common law theory of unjust enrichment in order to recover the expense of resolving grievances filed while the AFA received membership dues from the Republic flight attendants and had the legal obligation under the Railway Labor Act to process these grievances. This suit does not include any individual flight attendants claiming to be injured by the AFA's alleged failure to process grievances. The Teamsters Union requests $ 500,000 in restitution, plus attorney's fees and costs, as well as a declaration that the AFA was unjustly enriched. In its motion papers, the Teamsters Union further indicates that it desires this Court to establish a "constructive trust," requiring the AFA to hold in escrow a designated amount of funds to cover plaintiff's expenses for screening, investigating and arbitrating the grievances allegedly left unresolved.
Congress has established that "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). If it appears before final judgment that a case was not properly removed, i.e. the matter was not within the original jurisdiction of the district court, the district court must remand it to the state court from which it was removed. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). In cases such as this one, where there is no diversity of citizenship between the Parties, the propriety of removal hinges upon whether the matter falls within this Court's ...