A railroad does not have an implied remedy under the Railway Labor Act for damages caused by a five-hour union strike over a “minor dispute.”
For several years prior to the work stoppage, the parties had disagreed about whether the railroad could assign a dispatcher to work a shift or “desk” other than his regular one. After a railroad worker in the Birmingham, Ala. office was disciplined after reporting that he was sick when he was assigned to work “off assignment,” the union called a strike. The strike ended when a federal judge in South Carolina entered a temporary restraining order. The railroad sued the union for $250,000 for various wage payments and costs associated with delay of freight trains. The district court dismissed the suit, holding that a damages remedy cannot be implied under the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. 151 et seq.
The specific question for us is whether allowing damages for a strike over a minor dispute is consistent with the RLA’s purpose and structure. We conclude that a damages remedy in this situation is at odds with the Act. In the RLA context, litigation about damgaes allegedly caused by a minor dispute strike would be a sideshow that detracts from the bargaining and arbitration required by the Act. Litigating about damages in a judicial forum would divert the parties’ attention from the Act’s comprehensive process for dispute resolution. The injunction remedy, on the other hand, is appropriate because it quickly returns the parties to the process provided in the Act: bargaining and (if necessary) arbitration to resolve a minor dispute.
In sum, we conclude that a damages remedy for a minor dispute strike is at odds with the structure and purpose of the RLA. In particular, the remedy would detract from the Act’s requirement that minor disputes be resolved through bargaining or compulsory arbitration. Allowing the remedy would also run the risk of upsetting the balance of power between labor and management that has been maintained in the 74 years since the RLA was passed. We hold that monetary damages are not available under the RLA to remedy a strike over a minor dispute.
Judgment dismissing the claim for damages is affirmed.
Widener, J.: Because I agree with the majority that a damages remedy for a minor dispute is at odds with the structure and purpose of the RLA, I concur in the result. However, I disagree with the majority’s depending as it does on implied rights of action under the RLA and suggesting the obtaining of damages for breach of a no-strike clause in an arbitration proceeding before the Adjustment Board for a strike over a minor dispute.
Norfolk Southern Ry. Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. (Lawyers Weekly No. 0-01-0865, 20 pp.) (Michael, J.) No. 98-1332, June 22, 2000; USDC at Greenville, S.C. (Anderson, J.)