Automobile Workers v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp.,
383 U.S. 696 (1966)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Automobile Workers v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp., 383 U.S. 696 (1966)

International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace &

Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW),

AFL-CIO v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp.

No. 387

Argued January 27, 1966

Decided March 24, 1966

383 U.S. 696


Petitioner union and respondent company were parties to a collective bargaining agreement which required payment of accumulated vacation pay to qualified employees upon termination of their employment. In June, 1957, the company discharged employees covered by the agreement without such payment. An action brought in the Indiana courts to recover the amounts allegedly due was dismissed in 1960 on the ground that the complaint was insufficient under state law. Almost four years later, and almost seven years after the employees' discharge, the union brought this action in the Federal District Court under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947. The Act contains no time limitation upon the bringing of an action under § 301. The District Court viewed the action as based partly on the collective bargaining agreement and partly on the oral contract of each employee, and held that Indiana, in such case, would apply its six-year statute of limitations governing contracts not in writing. The complaint was accordingly dismissed as untimely, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. A union may properly sue under § 301 to recover wages or vacation pay claimed by its members pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. Smith v. Evening News Assn., 371 U. S. 195, 371 U. S. 198. Pp. 383 U. S. 699-700.

2. The timeliness of a suit under § 301, there being no governing federal provision, is to be determined, as a matter of federal law, by reference to the appropriate state statute of limitations. Pp. 383 U. S. 701-704.

(a) The fact that Congress did not provide a uniform limitations provision for § 301 suits does not require that the courts invent one. P. 383 U. S. 703.

(b) State statutes have repeatedly supplied the periods of limitation for federal causes of action when federal legislation has been silent. Pp. 383 U. S. 703-704.

Page 383 U. S. 697

3. The characterization of this suit as one not exclusively based on a written contract, and the application of the Indiana six-year statute of limitations, do not conflict with federal labor policy. Pp. 383 U. S. 705-707.

4. The statute of limitations was not tolled in this case by the prior litigation. Burnett v. New York Central R. Co., 380 U. S. 424, distinguished. Pp. 383 U. S. 707-708.

346 F.2d 242, affirmed.

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