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ALTON & SOUTHERN RY. CO. v. BHD. OF MAINTENANCE WA

May 28, 1996

ALTON & SOUTHERN RAILWAY CO., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BROTHERHOOD OF MAINTENANCE WAY EMPLOYES, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOGAN

 Pending before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment. After consideration of the briefs and oral argument, for the reasons set forth below the Court will grant the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and deny the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

 BACKGROUND

 On June 29, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the National Interstate Highway and Defense Act to construct a system of roadways that would connect America's population to its industry and its cities to its farms. Although the project has been widely acclaimed, at least for some industries, the effects were not entirely positive. On such industry were the railroads. By some accounts, from the mid-1950's through 1993, rail shipment of freight dropped from accounting for two thirds of the total freight shipped to one third of that total. The impact of the highway system and the greater use of trucks to transport freight resulted in the railroads being forced to take steps to become more efficient and thus more competitive. One of the first areas that the carriers looked to trim their costs were work rules that they considered antiquated, inefficient and unnecessary. Debate over these work rules is what brings the parties back to this Court in another of chapter of what has been one of the longest and most contentious struggles in the annals of American labor relations.

 The Court has issued multiple opinions in this case and therefore will only briefly recount the background of the case. *fn1" The plaintiffs are a group of twenty-nine rail carriers. The defendant Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes ("BMWE") is a union representing workers employed by the carriers. Notwithstanding the parties' history of labor disputes, the instant case actually has as its genesis, November 1, 1994, when both the carriers and the BMWE served § 6 notices suggesting changes in wages, health and welfare benefits, and work rules. *fn2" In collective bargaining, the carriers designated the National Carriers' Conference Committee ("NCCC") to act as their authorized national multi-employer bargaining representative to represent them in negotiations with railway labor unions, including the BMWE. However, the BMWE rejected the idea of multi-employer bargaining, seeking instead to bargain locally with the individual carriers. *fn3"

 The carriers, essentially anticipating the BMWE's reluctance to enter into multi-employer bargaining, filed the instant lawsuit on November 1, 1994. The carriers sought a declaratory injunction declaring that the BMWE is obligated to bargain on a national handling basis with the NCCC with respect to the issues raised in the current round of bargaining, an injunction ordering the BMWE to bargain on a national-handling basis with the NCCC, and an injunction enjoining the BMWE from engaging in premature self help activities. *fn4" The carriers assert that the BMWE's refusal to bargain on a multi-employer basis violates the RLA's requirement to "exert every reasonable effort" to reach an agreement. 45 U.S.C. § 152 First. *fn5"

 The BMWE and its individual General Chairman filed a counterclaim against the carriers seeking a declaratory judgment that it is the carriers who are violating the RLA by refusing to meet with the BMWE's individual representative. The BMWE seeks a declaratory judgment declaring that the carriers' insistence on multi-employer bargaining interferes with its right under the RLA to designate its bargaining representative. The BMWE argues that the RLA gives it the right to decline to participate in multi-employer handling, and that the carriers are interfering with the BMWE's selection of a bargaining representative. 45 U.S.C. § 152 Third. *fn6"

 This Court has previously considered the question of whether the carriers could force the BMWE to bargain nationally. On February 21, 1995, following cross-motions for a preliminary injunction, this Court rejected both the carriers' position that national handling could always be compelled, and the BMWE's argument that national handling was always voluntary. *fn7" This Court relied principally on the decision in Brotherhood of R.R. Trainmen v. Atlantic Coast Line R.R. Co., 127 U.S. App. D.C. 298, 383 F.2d 225, 229 (D.C. Cir. 1967), cert. denied, 389 U.S. 1047, 19 L. Ed. 2d 839, 88 S. Ct. 790 (1968), where the court of appeals of this circuit had reached a similar Solomon-like conclusion:

 
what constitutes good faith bargaining in the railroad industry is colored by how parties have actually bargained in the past. The Railway Labor Act does not universally and categorically compel a party to a dispute to accept national handling over its protest. Such bargaining is certainly lawful, however. Whether it is also obligatory will depend on an issue-by-issue evaluation of the practical appropriateness of mass bargaining on that point and of the historical experience in handling any similar national movements. The history and realities of crew consist bargaining in this industry impel the conclusion that mass handling was not required by the statute for bargaining on that issue.

 Id. During consideration of the parties' cross-motions for preliminary injunctions, arguments were raised concerning the continued viability of Atlantic Coast Line, particularly in light of more recent holdings from other circuits. The Court, however, concluded that Atlantic Coast Line was undisturbed by those other cases and thus remained the law of this circuit.

 On March 17, 1995, the carriers filed a second motion for a preliminary injunction. The carriers sought to enjoin the BMWE from engaging in strikes or other forms of self help until the Court addressed the merits of this case. On April 28, 1995, the Court granted the carriers' motion and enjoined the BMWE from engaging in any form of self help related to the dispute until the Court had addressed the merits of this case. The purpose of the Court's injunction was to maintain the status quo during the pendency of this litigation. Both the Court's preliminary injunction and the denial of BMWE's motion to alter and amend were subsequently upheld by the Court of Appeals. *fn8"

 The carriers maintain that under the facts of this case, national handling is obligatory under the RLA. Convinced that it will be more successful in local bargaining than it will be in national bargaining, the BMWE maintains that it has the right to decline to designate a bargaining agent with authority to engage in multi-employer bargaining. 45 U.S.C. § 2 Third. Moreover, there is little question that the BMWE is driven by its desire to undo what it considers the disastrous results of PEB 219 and Public Law 102-29 by bargaining locally because it believes that this form of bargaining gives it greater leverage and flexibility. According to BMWE, as long as this position is reasonable and not taken in bad faith, this Court may not disturb it.

 DISCUSSION

 A. Standard of Review

 A motion for summary judgment will be granted when inspection of the record reveals there to be "no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact or that the opposing party has failed to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an essential element to that party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). When the moving party has carried its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to "come forward with 'specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986) (citations omitted). In reviewing the evidence, a court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate in this case as it turns solely on a question of law.

 B. The Meaning of Atlantic Coast Line

 This Court, having already held that Atlantic Coast Line is the law of this circuit, will only briefly revisit that particular issue. However, because the parties have assigned differing interpretations to Atlantic Coast Line it is appropriate to clarify exactly what the decision means. Atlantic Coast Line involved an attempt by carriers to "abrogate" existing rules regulating the use of conductors and trainmen, or "crew consist" on yard and road crews. The carriers took the position that a party could demand that national movements always be referred to national handling. 383 F.2d at 228. Conversely, the union argued that a party could never be compelled to accept such handling. Id. Striking a middle ground between the parties competing positions, the court of appeals ultimately concluded that whether national handling was obligatory would turn on an issue-by-issue evaluation of the practical appropriateness of mass bargaining on that point and the historical experience in handling similar national movements. 383 F.2d at 229.

 Applying that standard, the court of appeals concluded that the crew consist issue was not appropriate for national handling. The court found that there had never been a national crew consist rule and that thousands of existing crew consist agreements had been negotiated at the local level. Particularly significant to the court were findings of a neutral board that had concluded that a national prescription for crew consist was wholly unrealistic. Id. at 229. The court concluded that while the procedures of the RLA were purposely long and drawn out to afford a maximum opportunity at resolution, the Act "did not require efforts clearly at war with reality." Id.

  This jurisdiction has applied this two-part test a number of times, *fn9" but the court of appeals has only revisited its holding in Atlantic Coast Line once. In Delaware & Hudson Ry. v. UTU, 146 U.S. App. D.C. 142, 450 F.2d 603, 611 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 403 U.S. 911, 29 L. Ed. 2d 689, 91 S. Ct. 2209 (1971), the court of appeals implicitly affirmed the viability of the two-part test articulated in Atlantic Coast Line in a discussion of International Ass'n of Machinists, 310 F. Supp. 905. While declining to affirm the district court the court of appeals left little doubt that the trial court, which had applied the two-part test of Atlantic Coast Line, was correct to do so. 450 F.2d at 609 (stating that "Judge Corcoran correctly understood the import and implication of our Atlantic Coast Line ruling."). In light of Delaware & Hudson, this Court determined that Atlantic Coast Line was still the law of this circuit and supplied the rule of decision in this case. *fn10" Nonetheless, the BMWE has called into question the manner is which Atlantic Coast Line should be interpreted, and has renewed its argument that because of its § 2 Third claim, Atlantic Coast Line has minimal relevance. Each issue shall be discussed in turn.

 1. Atlantic Coast Line as an Objective Determination

 BMWE's first argument is that the two-part test of Atlantic Coast Line requires that the Court engage in a subjective analysis of the reasonableness or good faith of the parties. In other words, if the BMWE has a reasonable belief that it stands to be more successful in local negotiations, and this position is not taken in bad faith, the Court is without authority to force them to do otherwise. BMWE argues that the duty of Atlantic Coast Line as expressed in Delaware & Hudson Ry. v. UTU, 146 U.S. App. D.C. 142, 450 F.2d 603, 611 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 403 U.S. 911, 29 L. Ed. 2d 689, 91 S. Ct. 2209 (1971), requires parties to "bargain in good faith, which means the absence of bad faith. . . ." Thus, according to the BMWE, the Court's role is limited to assessing whether the decision to bargain locally is so patently unreasonable as to evidence bad faith. If a party's decision is not taken in bad faith, the prohibition of Section 2 Third, prohibiting the carriers from interfering with the right of BMWE to designate its bargaining agent, trumps the duty to exert every reasonable effort contained in Section 2 First. *fn11"

 The authority of this or any other court is limited by the law which it is bound to apply. In this case, the Atlantic Coast Line test is intended to give efficacy to the command of Section 2 First to "exert every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements . . . and to settle all disputes. . . ." In interpreting that language, the open question for a court is what constitutes a reasonable effort. In the view of this Court, the two part "test" of Atlantic Coast Line is better viewed as factors for a court to consider in determining whether a demand to bargain in a certain manner is reasonable. Atlantic Coast Line requires a court to assess (1) whether the parties have a long history of negotiating in a particular way; and (2) whether it is still appropriate to require the ...


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