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United States Supreme Court Update: Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen (08-604)

December 10th, 2009 Labor Arbitration, United States Supreme Court Comments Off on United States Supreme Court Update: Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen (08-604) By Philip J. Loree Jr.

On October 11, 2009 we reported on two labor arbitration cases pending before the United States Supreme Court:  Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen (08-604) (arising under the Railway Labor Act (“RLA”), 45 U.S.C. §§151 et seq.) and Granite Rock Co. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters (08-1214) (arising under Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”) Section 301).  (Post here)  On December 8, 2009 the Supreme Court issued its unanimous opinion in Union Pacific (here).

The Court affirmed the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to the extent it held that the National Railroad Adjustment Board (the “Board”)  failed “to conform or confine” its orders “to matters within … the [Board’s] jurisdiction.  .  .  .”  See 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (q).  As readers may recall from our previous post, the Board had denied for lack of subject matter jurisdiction certain employee grievance claims on the ground that the claimants had not complied with a Board rule requiring them to prove that the pre-grievance, statutory requirement of a “conference” between the parties had been met, even though there was no bona fide dispute that conferences had taken place.  See 45 U.S.C. §§ 152.  The Seventh Circuit ruled that the Board not only acted outside its jurisdiction, but violated due process.  The Court ruled that the Seventh Circuit should not have reached the due process question, including whether an RLA arbitration award can be overturned solely on the ground that it violated due process.  

As we observed in our October 11, 2009 post, Union Pacific is not a contractual arbitration case, but effectively an administrative law one, and the Court’s ruling will likely have little or no effect on Federal Arbitration Act jurisprudence.  The Granite Rock case – which does involve contractual arbitration, albeit under Section 301 of the LMRA – is still pending before the Court, with oral argument slated for January 19, 2009.

         

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