Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Reis,
451 U.S. 401 (1981)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Reis, 451 U.S. 401 (1981)

Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Reis

No. 79-1777

Argued February 24, 1981

Decided May 4, 1981

451 U.S. 401


Petitioner trucking companies are parties to a collective bargaining agreement with the Teamsters Union that contains a no-strike clause. Respondent employees of petitioners commenced a wildcat strike because they believed the union was not properly representing them in negotiations to amend the collective bargaining agreement. Thereafter, petitioners brought an action against respondents in Federal District Court under § 301 (a) of the Labor Management Relations Act, which confers jurisdiction on federal district courts to decide suits alleging violations of collective bargaining agreements. Petitioners sought, inter alia, damages against respondents in their individual capacities for all losses arising out of the wildcat strike. The District Court dismissed the damages claim, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Congress had not intended through § 301 to create a cause of action for damages against individual union members for breach of a no-strike agreement.

Held: Section 301 (a) does not sanction damages actions by employers against individual employees for violating the no-strike provision of a collective bargaining agreement, whether or not the union participated in or authorized the strike. The legislative history of § 301 clearly reveals Congress' intent to shield individual employees from liability for such damages, even though this results in leaving the employer unable to recover for his losses. While § 301 (b), which provides that any money judgment against a union for violation of a collective bargaining agreement shall be enforceable only against the union, and not against any individual member, explicitly addresses only union-authorized violations, the "penumbra" of § 301 (b), as informed by its legislative history, establishes that Congress meant to exclude individual strikers from damages liability, whether or not they were authorized by their union to strike. The history demonstrates that Congress deliberately chose to allow a damages remedy for breach of a no-strike provision only against unions, not individuals, and, as to unions, only when they participated in or authorized the illegal strike. Pp. 451 U. S. 405 417.

614 F.2d 1110, affirmed.

Page 451 U. S. 402

BRENNAN, J.,. delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. 451 U. S. 417. BURGER, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 451 U. S. 424.

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