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UNITED ASSOCIATION JOURNEYMEN & APPRENTICES PLUMBING & PIPEFITTING INDUSTRY UNITED STATES AND CANADA v. LOCAL 334

decided: June 22, 1981.

UNITED ASSOCIATION OF JOURNEYMEN & APPRENTICES OF THE PLUMBING & PIPEFITTING INDUSTRY OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA, AFL-CIO, ET AL
v.
LOCAL 334, UNITED ASSOCIATION OF JOURNEYMEN & APPRENTICES OF THE PLUMBING & PIPEFITTING INDUSTRY OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA, ET AL.



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.

Brennan, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Stewart, White, Marshall, Blackmun, and Powell, JJ., joined. Burger, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 627. Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Rehnquist, J., joined, post, p. 630.

Author: Brennan

[ 452 U.S. Page 616]

 JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 301 (a) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947 (the Taft-Hartley Act) provides jurisdiction in the federal district courts over "[suits] for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such labor organizations." 61 Stat. 156, 29 U. S. C. § 185 (a) (emphasis added). The question presented in this case is whether a suit brought by a local union against its parent international union, alleging a violation of the international's constitution, falls within § 301 (a) jurisdiction of the federal district courts.

I

Respondent Local 334, United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada (Local 334 or respondent), was a labor organization chartered by and affiliated with petitioner United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada (International or United Association), an international labor organization.*fn1 Composed of both plumbers and pipefitters in Morris County, N. J., Local 334 was one of 27 New

[ 452 U.S. Page 617]

     Jersey locals affiliated with the International prior to 1977. After failing in its attempt to urge the New Jersey locals to agree upon a voluntary consolidation plan, the International proposed its own plan that would consolidate nine northern New Jersey locals, including Local 334, into two locals, one representing plumbers, the other pipefitters.*fn2 Under the plan, the plumber members of Local 334 would be transferred into Plumbers Local 14, and the pipefitter members of Local 334 into Pipefitters Local 274.

When the locals declined to agree to the International's plan,*fn3 the International issued an order of consolidation on August 4, 1977, based on the proposed plan, pursuant to § 86 of the constitution of the United Association. That section, entitled "Consolidation of Locals," provides:

"Whenever, in the judgment of the General President, it is apparent that there is a superfluous number of Local Unions in any locality, and that a consolidation would be for the best interest of the United Association, locally or at large, he shall have the power to order Local Unions to consolidate and to enforce the consolidation of said Local Unions, or said territory in one or more Local Unions, provided such course received the sanction of the General Executive Board." App. 25.

After receiving no response to a letter sent to the General Executive Board requesting a stay of the order pending appeal,

[ 452 U.S. Page 618]

     Local 334 on August 22, 1977, filed suit against the International in the Superior Court of New Jersey seeking to enjoin enforcement of the order of consolidation. Local 334 alleged in its complaint, inter alia, that § 86 did not permit division of the membership of a local into separate work classifications, that the action of United Association did not constitute a consolidation of local unions, and that the general president had abused his discretion. Complaint para. 11, id., at 21. Claiming that it would suffer "substantial and irreparable injury to plaintiffs' [ sic ] property and property rights as members of Local 334" unless the consolidation was prevented, Complaint para. 13, id., at 21, the Local requested equitable relief enjoining United Association to return the Local's charter and seal, directing it to process the Local's internal appeal to the International's General Executive Board, and preventing it from threatening the Local's officers and members with expulsion and loss of membership. Id., at 22.*fn4

The International removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, pursuant to 28 U. S. C. § 1441.*fn5 Local 334 filed a motion to remand the case to the state court, which the District Court denied. App. 98-99. Following completion of discovery and cross-motions for summary judgment, the District Court ruled in favor of the International. The court first concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because the Local had failed

[ 452 U.S. Page 619]

     to exhaust internal union remedies. App. to Pet. for Cert. 22a-23a. In the alternative, the court ruled on the merits that there was "ample basis for the [International's] interpretation of the Constitution as well as the application of that interpretation in the Order of Consolidation of August 4, 1977." Id., at 28a.

On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, sua sponte, raised the question of federal-court jurisdiction under § 301 (a) and requested supplemental briefing on that issue from the parties. 628 F.2d 812, 813 (1980). After canvassing treatment of this issue by other Courts of Appeals, the court held that "[suits] concerning intra-union matters that do not have a significant impact on labor-management relations or industrial peace are outside the scope of § 301 (a)." Id., at 820. Examining Local 334's allegations in its complaint, the court concluded that any alleged potential effect of the order of consolidation on labor-management relations or industrial peace would not pass the "significant impact" test and that the District Court therefore lacked jurisdiction under § 301 (a). Ibid. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment of the District Court and remanded with instructions to remand the case to the state court. Ibid. We granted the International's petition for certiorari, 449 U.S. 1123 (1981), to resolve this important question of labor law. We reverse.

II

Section 301 (a) establishes federal district court jurisdiction for "[suits] for violation of contracts . . . between any . . . labor organizations [representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter]." 29 U. S. C. § 185 (a). On its face, the statute appears to comprehend the instant dispute. First, United Association's constitution may be fairly characterized as a contract between labor organizations. We have described a union constitution as a "fundamental agreement of association." Coronado Coal Co. v.

[ 452 U.S. Page 620]

     Indeed, even the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on review here recognized that a union constitution would be a "contract" within the meaning of § 301 (a) as long as the plaintiff made "specific factual allegations of actions which have a significant impact on labor-management relations or industrial peace." 628 F.2d, at 820.*fn8 And respondent in its complaint alleged that "[the] relationship (rights and duties) between Local 334 and the International is governed by the said Constitution." Amended Complaint, First Count para. 3, App. 55.

[ 452 U.S. Page 622]

     We have also noted that the prevailing state-law view is that a union constitution is a contract. Machinists v. Gonzales, 356 U.S. 617, 618-619 (1958) (discussing that aspect of union constitution constituting a contract between members and union). In particular, the view of a union constitution as a contract between parent and local unions was widely held in the States around the time § 301 (a) was enacted. See, e. g., Locals 1140 and 1145 v. United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, 232 Minn. 217, 221-222, 45 N. W. 2d 408, 411 (1950); International Union of United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink & Distillery Workers of America, C. I. O. v. Becherer, 4 N. J. Super. 456, 459, 67 A. 2d 900, 901, cert. denied, 3 N. J. 374, 70 A. 2d 537 (1949); Local Page 622} Union 13013, District 50, U. M. W. v. Cikra, 86 Ohio App. 41, 49, 90 N. E. 2d 154, 158 (1949); Bridgeport Brass Workers Union, Local 320 of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers v. Smith, 15 Conn. Supp. 505, 511-512 (Super. Ct. 1948), aff'd, 136 Conn. 654, 74 A. 2d 191 (1950); ...


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