Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining Co.
370 U.S. 238 (1962)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining Co., 370 U.S. 238 (1962)

Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining Co.

No. 430

Argued April 18, 1962

Decided June 18, 1962

370 U.S. 238

Syllabus

1. Under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, an employer sued an international union and its local union in a Federal District Court for damages for a strike or work stoppage caused by them in violation of a collective bargaining agreement. The agreement provided for grievance procedures culminating, if requested by the union, in compulsory, final, and binding arbitration of employee grievances regarding wages, hours and working conditions, and the union promised not to strike over such matters. The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on various grounds and to stay the action, for the reasons that (1) all of the issues in the suit were referable to arbitration under the contract, and (2) important issues in the suit were also involved in certain grievances filed by employees and said to be in arbitration under the contract.

Held: this count of the complaint should not be dismissed or stayed. Pp. 370 U. S. 241-245.

(a) This count of the complaint properly states a cause of action under § 301, and is to be governed by federal law. P. 370 U. S. 241.

(b) The contract here involved is not susceptible to a construction binding the employer to arbitrate its claim for damages against the union for breach of the undertaking not to strike. Pp. 370 U. S. 241-243.

(c) It does not appear from the record that the arbitrator's award on pending employee grievances would determine any significant issue in the damage suit. Pp. 370 U. S. 243-245.

2. Basing jurisdiction on diversity of citizenship, the employer, in another count of the same complaint, also sought damages for the same strike or work stoppage from 24 individual employees, each of whom was alleged to have been an agent of the union and to have been acting in a representative capacity when he allegedly fomented or assisted and participated in the strike or work stoppage in violation of the collective bargaining contract.

Held: under § 301, this count of the complaint was governed by federal, not state, law, and it was properly dismissed for failure to state a claim for which relief could be granted, since it actually was based

Page 370 U. S. 239

on the union's breach of its contract, and a union's officers or members cannot be held personally liable for the union's actions. Pp. 370 U. S. 245-249.

290 F.2d 312 affirmed in part and reversed in part.

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