Plumbers & Pipefitters v. Plumbers & Pipefitters
452 U.S. 615 (1981)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Plumbers & Pipefitters v. Plumbers & Pipefitters, 452 U.S. 615 (1981)

United Association of Journeymen & Apprentices of the

Plumbing & Pipefitting Industry v. Local 334, United

Association of Journeymen & Apprentices of the

Plumbing & Pipefitting Industry

No. 80-710

Argued April 29, 1981

Decided June 22, 1981

452 U.S. 615




Held: A suit brought by respondent local union against petitioner parent international union alleging a violation of the international union's constitution arising from the international union's issuance of an order requiring consolidation of certain local unions, including respondent -- which suit was instituted in state court but removed to federal court by the international union -- falls within the jurisdiction of the federal district courts under § 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947. That section establishes such jurisdiction for "[s]uits for violation of contracts . . . between any . . . labor organizations" representing employees in a covered industry. A union constitution is a "contract between labor organizations" and the unions are "labor organizations" within the plain meaning of § 301(a), and there is no legislative history contrary to such an interpretation. Section 301(a) jurisdiction over disputes between local and parent unions based on the parent's constitution does not depend upon allegations that the dispute potentially could have a significant impact on labor-management relations or industrial peace. Congress could have concluded that the enforcement of the terms of union constitutions -- documents that prescribe the legal relationship and the rights and obligations between the parent and affiliated locals -- would contribute to the achievement of labor stability. Pp. 452 U. S. 619627.

628 F.2d 812, reversed.

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. 452 U. S. 627. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 452 U. S. 630.

Page 452 U. S. 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

"[s]uits 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.


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. [Footnote 1] Composed of both plumbers and pipefitters in Morris County, N.J., Local 334 was one of 27 New

Page 452 U. S. 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. [Footnote 2] 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, [Footnote 3] 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,

Page 452 U. S. 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

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