Retail Clerks v. Lion Dry Goods, Inc.
369 U.S. 17 (1962)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Retail Clerks v. Lion Dry Goods, Inc., 369 U.S. 17 (1962)

Retail Clerks International Association, Local Unions

Nos. 128 and 633 v. Lion Dry Goods, Inc.

No. 73

Argued January 17, 1962

Decided February 26, 1962

369 U.S. 17




1. Section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, which confers on federal district courts jurisdiction over suits "for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting" interstate commerce, applies to a suit to enforce a strike settlement agreement between an employer in an industry affecting interstate commerce and local labor unions representing some, but not a majority, of its employees. Pp. 369 U. S. 18-30.

(a) The term "contracts," as used in § 301(a), is not limited to collective bargaining agreements concerning hours, wages and conditions of employment concluded in direct negotiations between employers and unions entitled to recognition as exclusive bargaining representatives of employees; it applies also to agreements, such as that involved here, between employers and labor organizations which importantly and directly affect the employment relationship. Pp. 369 U. S. 23-28.

(b) The term "labor organization representing employees," as used in § 301(a), is not limited to labor organizations which are entitled to recognition as exclusive bargaining agents of employees. Pp. 369 U. S. 28-29.

2. This cause is not rendered moot by the fact that the local unions which commenced this litigation have since merged with another local union to form a new local union of the same international union, and petitioners' motion to add the new local union as a party is granted. P. 369 U. S. 19, n. 2.

286 F. 2d 235 reversed.

Page 369 U. S. 18

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act, [Footnote 1] provides that

"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, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizen of the parties."

The questions presented in this case are: (1) Does the scope of "contracts" within § 301(a) include the agreement at bar, claimed to be not a "collective bargaining contract," but a "strike settlement agreement"? (2) If otherwise includible, is the "strike settlement agreement" cognizable under § 301(a), although the petitioners, the labor organization parties to the agreement, acknowledged that they were not entitled to recognition as exclusive representatives of the employees of the respondents?

The opinions below appear to rest upon alternative holdings, answering in the negative each of these questions. The District Court's conclusion that it lacked jurisdiction over the subject matter, 179 F.Supp. 564, was affirmed in a brief per curiam by the Court of Appeals, saying:

"The contract here involved is not a collective bargaining agreement between an employer and a labor organization representing its employees. We think that the trial court was correct in reaching the conclusion that collective bargaining contracts between a union and an employer are the only contracts intended to be actionable in a United States District Court under the provisions of section 301(a)."

286 F.2d 235. We granted certiorari because of the importance of the questions to the enforcement

Page 369 U. S. 19

of the national labor policy as expressed in § 301(a). 366 U.S. 917. We hold that the lower courts erred, and remand the cause for trial and further proceedings consistent with this opinion. [Footnote 2]

The petitioners, local unions of the Retail Clerks International Association, brought this action on the sole jurisdictional basis of § 301(a) and (b), seeking to compel respondents' compliance with two allegedly binding arbitration awards. Respondents are two department stores in Toledo, Ohio, covered by the Labor Management Relations Act. For some years prior to 1957, petitioners had been the collective bargaining representatives of respondents' employees, and had been parties to collective bargaining agreements with respondents. In November, 1957, negotiations for renewal contracts ended in impasse. A strike ensued against one of the respondents, Lasalle's, and continued until December 24, 1958; the dispute with the other respondent, Lion Dry Goods, continued during the whole of those 13 months, although no strike occurred. On December 24, 1958, the parties ended their dispute with the aid of the Toledo Labor-Management-Citizens' Committee (hereinafter, LMC), a local mediation and arbitration body. [Footnote 3] Negotiations

Page 369 U. S. 20

by means of LMC mediation had produced a "Statement of Understanding" [Footnote 4] satisfactory to all parties.

A few days before December 24, 1958, the LMC proposed a plan for settling the dispute. Discussions ensued between the Committee and the respondents, and between the Committee and the petitioners. At no time were direct negotiations carried on between petitioners and the respondents. Each side made known to the LMC discussed these conditions with the other side. In this manner, a basis for settlement was fashioned which was embodied in the Statement referred to in the text.

The Statement contained such key points of settlement as the unions' acknowledgement that they were not then

Page 369 U. S. 21

entitled to recognition as exclusive representatives, and would not seek such recognition unless and until certified as so entitled in single store unit elections conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, and Lasalle's agreement

Page 369 U. S. 22

to reinstate striking employees without discrimination. Both stores also agreed to continue in effect detailed wage and hour schedules and provisions as to working conditions and other benefits, incorporated as exhibits to the Statement. All terms of employment had been in force prior to December 24, 1958, except an agreement by the stores to provide and pay fully for specified insurance coverage. The stores wrote the LMC delivering the Statement, calling it "the basis on which the heretofore existing dispute between [the Locals] and our compan[ies] is to be fully and finally resolved," and specifying that

"The conditions to be performed and met by us are, of course, subject to and conditioned upon the receipt by your organization of guarantees from the respective

Page 369 U. S. 23

labor organizations to make the principles enumerated [in the Statement] completely effective."

A few days later, the Locals wrote the LMC that "we herewith agree to the conditions and guarantees of the Statement of Understanding." The conditions to be performed by each side were performed, and the dispute was terminated. In a few months, however, new grievances arose, including the two that generated this case. First. The unions claimed under the Statement the right of access to the employees' cafeteria in order to communicate with employees during their non-working time. The stores claimed that Statement

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