Petitioner, a passenger engineer employed by respondent railroad
corporation (Amtrak), belongs to the United Transportation Union
(UTU) rather than to respondent Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers
(BLE), the union that represents Amtrak engineers for collective
bargaining purposes. Petitioner's request that the UTU be allowed
to represent him at a company-level disciplinary hearing was denied
on the ground that, under the BLE-Amtrak collective bargaining
agreement, only the BLE could undertake such representation.
Petitioner represented himself at the hearing and received a 30-day
suspension for violating company work rules, which he did not
appeal to the National Railroad Adjustment Board. He then filed
suit in Federal District Court seeking declaratory and injunctive
relief against Amtrak and the BLE on the ground that their refusal
to allow his representation by the UTU at the hearing violated his
rights under the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The court dismissed the
complaint after a bench trial, and the Court of Appeals
The RLA does not entitle a railroad employee to
be represented at company-level grievance or disciplinary
proceedings by a union other than his collective bargaining
representative. Petitioner's contention that a right to such
representation is implicit in § 2, Eleventh (c), of the RLA, which
permits a union-shop requirement to be satisfied by membership in
any national union organized in accordance with the Act, is without
merit, since that provision was enacted for the single, narrow
purpose of preventing compulsory dual unionism or the necessity of
an employee's changing unions upon a change in crafts,
Pennsylvania R. Co. v. Rychlik, 352 U.
, which purpose has been satisfied here, since
petitioner has not been required to join the BLE. Nor does any
other RLA provision expressly address the question of minority
union representation at company-level proceedings; in fact, § 3,
First (i), provides merely that such proceedings shall be handled
in "the usual manner." That Congress, in § 3, First (j), expressly
allowed employees the representative of their choice at the
Adjustment Board level, but did not do so with regard to the
earlier, company-level phase, is persuasive evidence that Congress
did not believe that minority union participation at
Page 485 U. S. 653
the company level was necessary to accomplish the RLA's
purposes. Petitioner will not suffer appreciable prejudice because
of the UTU's inability to represent him at proceedings conducted on
company property, since it may be assumed that he will be
adequately protected under the BLE's duty of fair representation,
and since the UTU may represent him before the Adjustment Board if
the company proceedings do not resolve the dispute. Pp.
485 U. S.
814 F.2d 41, affirmed.
WHITE, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents the question whether a railroad engineer is
entitled under the Railway Labor Act, 44 Stat. (part 2) 577, as
45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq.,
to be represented
at company-level grievance or disciplinary proceedings by a union
other than his collective bargaining representative.
Petitioner is employed as a passenger engineer by respondent
National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak). [Footnote 1
] Amtrak engineers are represented
for purposes of collective bargaining by respondent Brotherhood of
Locomotive Engineers (BLE). Petitioner does not belong to the BLE.
Instead, he is a member and officer of the rival United
Page 485 U. S. 654
Union (UTU), which represents certain other crafts of Amtrak
In February, 1984, petitioner was charged with a violation of
company work rules. An internal disciplinary hearing was convened
pursuant to the BLE-Amtrak collective bargaining agreement.
Petitioner's request that the UTU be allowed to represent him at
the disciplinary hearing was denied on the ground that the
collective bargaining agreement provided that only the BLE could
represent engineers at company-level hearings. [Footnote 2
] Petitioner represented himself at the
hearing. He received a 30-day suspension, which he has now served.
He did not appeal his suspension to the National Railroad
Petitioner then filed suit in the United States District Court
for the District of Massachusetts seeking declaratory and
injunctive relief against both Amtrak and the BLE. He contended
that his rights under the Railway Labor Act had been violated
because UTU had not been allowed to represent him at the
The District Court dismissed petitioner's complaint following a
bench trial, and the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
affirmed. 814 F.2d 41 (1987). The Court of Appeals concluded that
neither the language nor the legislative history of the Railway
Labor Act supported petitioner's contention that railroad operating
employees have a statutory right to be represented by the union of
their choice at company-level grievance and disciplinary
proceedings. The court rejected as unpersuasive the contrary
decision of the Fifth Circuit in Taylor v. Missouri Pacific R.
794 F.2d 1082, cert. denied,
479 U.S. 1018
We granted certiorari, 484 U.S. 962 (1987), to resolve the
conflict between two Courts of Appeals over this question of
federal railway labor law. We now affirm.
Page 485 U. S. 655
Petitioner contends that § 2, Eleventh, of the Railway Labor
Act, 45 U.S.C. § 152, Eleventh, provides railroad operating
employees with a right to be represented by a "minority" union
a union other than their collective bargaining
representative) at company-level grievance or disciplinary
Section 2, Eleventh (a), permits a railroad and a union "duly
designated and authorized to represent [its] employees" to enter
into a union-shop agreement requiring
"as a condition of continued employment, that . . . all
employees shall become members of the labor organization
representing their craft or class."
An employee engaged in "engine, train, yard, or hostling
service" may satisfy the requirement of membership in a labor
organization, however, by
"hold[ing] or acquir[ing] membership in any one of the labor
organizations, national in scope, organized in accordance with this
chapter and admitting to membership employees of a craft or class
in any of said services."
§ 2, Eleventh (c). It is not disputed in this action that § 2,
Eleventh (c), permits petitioner to satisfy the union-shop
provision of the BLE-Amtrak collective bargaining agreement by
holding membership in the UTU.
Neither § 2, Eleventh, nor any other provision of the Railway
Labor Act expressly addresses what role, if any, a minority union
is entitled to play in company-level grievance and disciplinary
proceedings. For example, § 3, First (i), of the Act provides
merely that disputes
"growing out of grievances or out of the interpretation or
application of agreements concerning rates of pay, rules, or
working conditions . . . shall be handled in the usual manner up to
and including the chief operating officer of the carrier designated
to handle such disputes."
45 U.S.C. § 153, First (i). In contrast, § 3, First (j),
specifies that, once such disputes reach the Adjustment Board
level, "[p]arties may be heard either in person,
Page 485 U. S. 656
by counsel, or by other representatives, as they may
respectively elect." 45 U.S.C. § 153, First (j).
We are unwilling to read into the Railway Labor Act a right to
minority union participation in company-level grievance and
disciplinary proceedings that Congress declined to put there. That
Congress expressly provided railroad employees with the right to
the representative of their choice in Adjustment Board proceedings,
but did not do so with regard to any earlier phase of the dispute
resolution process, is persuasive evidence that Congress did not
believe that the participation of minority unions or other
outsiders in company-level proceedings was necessary to accomplish
the purposes of the Act. [Footnote
Indeed, the statutory purpose of
"provid[ing] for the prompt and orderly settlement of all
disputes growing out of grievances or out of the interpretation or
application of agreements covering rates of pay, rules, or working
U.S.C. § 151a(5), might often be frustrated if employees could
demand to be heard through the representative of their choice at
grievance and disciplinary proceedings conducted on the employer's
property. For example, many disputes might be resolved less
expeditiously, or not at all, if employees had a statutory right to
be represented at the company level by minority unions, which do
not have the same established relationship with the employer as do
official bargaining representatives or the same familiarity with
how similar disputes have been resolved in the past.
Page 485 U. S. 657
In addition, a minority union might use the grievance and
disciplinary proceedings to undermine the position of the
bargaining representative, and thereby destabilize labor-management
relations. A majority union's prosecution of employee grievances
and defense of employee disciplinary charges
"complemen[t] [its] status as exclusive bargaining
representative by permitting it to participate actively in the
continuing administration of the contract."
Republic Steel Corp. v. Maddox, 379 U.
, 379 U. S. 653
(1965). As Professor Cox has recognized, if the bargaining
representative is instead prevented from exercising control over
the presentation of grievances, the opportunity arises for
"dissident groups, who may belong to rival unions, . . . to
press aggressively all manner of grievances, regardless of their
merit, in an effort to squeeze the last drop of competitive
advantage out of each grievance and to use the settlement even of
the most trivial grievances, as a vehicle to build up their own
Cox, Rights Under a Labor Agreement, 60 Harv.L.Rev. 601, 626
(1956). In such circumstances,
"[t]he settlement of grievances could become the source of
friction and competition and a means for creating and perpetuating
employee dissatisfaction, instead of a method of eliminating
The same potential for friction and competition
exists, of course, when minority unions are allowed to participate
in disciplinary proceedings such as those at issue here. [Footnote 4
We find no merit in petitioner's contention that the right of
railroad operating employees to be represented by minority unions
at company-level grievance and disciplinary proceedings is implicit
in § 2, Eleventh (c).
This congressional intent underlying § 2, Eleventh (c), was
extensively analyzed by the Court in Pennsylvania R. Co. v.
Rychlik, 352 U. S. 480
352 U. S. 489
(1957). The Court there noted
Page 485 U. S. 658
that the different crafts in the railroad industry were often
represented by different unions, and that employees often shuttled
back and forth between two crafts. A union-shop agreement would
ordinarily have required such an employee either to "belong to two
unions -- one representing each of his crafts -- or . . . to
shuttle between unions as he shuttles between jobs." Id.
at 352 U. S. 490
The former alternative would be "expensive and sometimes
impossible," we observed, while the latter alternative would be
"complicated, and might mean loss of seniority and union benefits."
Accordingly, we concluded that Congress had enacted
§ 2, Eleventh (c), for the single narrow purpose of
"prevent[ing] compulsory dual unionism or the necessity of
changing from one union to another when an employee temporarily
at 352 U. S.
This purpose has been fully achieved in the instant case.
Petitioner has been accorded his statutory right to refrain from
acquiring membership in the BLE -- either instead of or in addition
to his membership in the UTU -- as a condition of his employment as
an engineer by Amtrak. However, unless the UTU becomes the official
bargaining representative for Amtrak engineers or the "usual
manner" of processing disputes on the Amtrak property is changed,
petitioner cannot claim the additional right to be represented by
the UTU at company-level grievance and disciplinary
There is no reason to believe that petitioner will suffer any
appreciable prejudice if he cannot be represented by the UTU at
grievance and disciplinary proceedings conducted on the Amtrak
property. It is appropriate to assume that petitioner's interests
will be adequately represented by the BLE, which owes the same duty
of fair representation to all members of the bargaining unit
regardless of their union affiliation. See Steele v. Louisville
& Nashville R. Co., 323 U. S. 192
323 U. S. 204
(1944). Moreover, if the dispute cannot be resolved
Page 485 U. S. 659
at the company level, petitioner may be heard by the Adjustment
Board through the representative of his choice. The judgment of the
Court of Appeals is therefore
Amtrak is subject to the federal labor statutes applicable to
railroads. 45 U.S.C. § 546(b).
Petitioner no longer challenges this construction of the
BLE-Amtrak collective bargaining agreement.
We note that Congress declined in 1934 to amend the RLA to
provide that a railroad employee could select a representative
other than his collective bargaining representative to pursue his
grievance with his employer. Such an amendment had been proposed by
Joseph B. Eastman, Federal Coordinator of Transportation, and
George M. Harrison, President of the Brotherhood of Railway and
Steamship Clerks. See
Railway Labor Act Amendments:
Hearings on H.R. 7650 before the House Committee on Interstate and
Foreign Commerce, 73d Cong., 2d Sess., 44, 89 (1934) (H.R. 7650 was
the predecessor of H.R. 9861).
Of course, an employee may be entitled to be heard through the
representative of his choice at company-level grievance and
disciplinary proceedings if that has become the "usual manner" of
handling disputes at his workplace.