EASTERN ASSOCIATED COAL CORP. V. UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, DISTRICT
17, NO. 99-1038 (2000)
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT
OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
The arbitration provisions in petitioner Eastern Associated Coal Corp.'s
collective bargaining agreement with respondent union specify, inter alia,
that Eastern must prove in binding arbitration that it has "just
cause" to discharge an employee, or else the arbitrator will order
the employee reinstated. James Smith worked for Eastern as a truck driver
subject to Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations requiring random
drug testing of workers engaged in "safety-sensitive" tasks.
After each of two occasions on which Smith tested positive for marijuana,
Eastern sought to discharge him. Each time, the union went to arbitration,
and the arbitrator concluded that the drug use did not amount to "just
cause" and ordered Smith's reinstatement on certain conditions. On
the second occasion, Eastern filed suit to vacate the arbitrator's award.
The District Court ordered the award's enforcement, holding that Smith's
conditional reinstatement did not violate the strong regulation-based
public policy against drug use by workers who perform safety-sensitive
functions. The Fourth Circuit affirmed.
public policy considerations do not require courts to refuse to enforce
an arbitration award ordering an employer to reinstate an employee truck
driver who twice tested positive for marijuana.
(a) The Court assumes that the collective bargaining agreement itself
calls for Smith's reinstatement, as the parties have granted the arbitrator
authority to interpret the meaning of their contract's language, including
such words as "just cause," see Steelworkers v. Enterprise Wheel
& Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 599, and Eastern does not claim here that
the arbitrator acted outside the scope of his contractually delegated
authority, see, e.g., Paperworkers v. Misco, Inc., 484 U.S. 29, 38. Since
the award is not distinguishable from the contractual agreement, the Court
must decide whether a contractual reinstatement requirement would fall
within the legal exception that makes unenforceable "a collective
bargaining agreement that is contrary to public policy." W. R. Grace
& Co. v. Rubber Workers, 461 U.S. 757, 766. Any such policy must be
"explicit," "well defined," and "dominant,"
and it must be "ascertained by reference to the laws and legal precedents,
not from general considerations of supposed public interests." Ibid.
The question is not whether Smith's drug use itself violates public policy,
but whether the agreement to reinstate him does so.
(b) A contractual agreement to reinstate Smith with specified conditions
does not run contrary to public policy. The District Court correctly articulated
the standard set out in W. R. Grace and Misco and applied that standard
to reach the right result. The public policy exception is narrow, and
must satisfy the principles set forth in those cases. Moreover, where
two political branches have created a detailed regulatory regime in a
specific field, courts should approach with particular caution pleas to
divine further public policy in that area. Eastern asserts that a public
policy against reinstatement of workers who use drugs can be discerned
from an examination of the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act
of 1991 and DOT's implementing regulations. However, these expressions
of positive law embody not just policies against drug use by employees
in safety-sensitive transportation positions and in favor of drug testing,
but also include a Testing Act policy favoring rehabilitation of employees
who use drugs. And the relevant statutory and regulatory provisions must
be read in light of background labor law policy that favors determination
of disciplinary questions through arbitration when chosen as a result
of labor-management negotiation. See, e.g., California Brewers Assn. v.
Bryant, 444 U.S. 598, 608. The award here is not contrary to these several
policies, taken together, as it does not condone Smith's conduct or ignore
the risk to public safety that drug use by truck drivers may pose, but
punishes Smith by placing conditions on his reinstatement. It violates
no specific provision of any law or regulation, but is consistent with
DOT rules requiring completion of substance abuse treatment before returning
to work and with the Act's driving license suspension requirements and
its rehabilitative concerns. Moreover, the fact that Smith is a recidivist
is not sufficient to tip the balance in Eastern's favor. Eastern's argument
that DOT's withdrawal of a proposed "recidivist" rule leaves
open the possibility that discharge is the appropriate penalty for repeat
offenders fails because DOT based the withdrawal, not upon a determination
that a more severe penalty was needed, but upon a determination to leave
in place other remedies. The Court cannot find in the Act, the regulations,
or any other law or legal precedent an explicit, well defined, dominant
public policy to which the arbitrator's decision runs contrary.
188 F.3d 501 affirmed.
BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J.,
and STEVENS, O'CONNOR, KENNEDY, SOUTER, and GINSBURG, JJ., joined. SCALIA,
J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which THOMAS, J.,
Accordi collettivi, Sindacati, Salute umana, Sicurezza del lavoro
- Collective Agreements, Trade Unions, Human Health, Safety at Work
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION V. FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS
AUTHORITY, 527 U.S. 229 (1999)
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
The day after enacting the Inspector General Act (IGA), which created
an Office of Inspector General (OIG) in the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA) and other federal agencies, Congress enacted the
Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS), which, inter
alia, permits union participation at an employee examination conducted
"by a representative of the agency" if the employee believes
that the examination will result in disciplinary action and requests such
representation, 5 U.S.C. ß 7114(a)(2)(B). When NASA's OIG (NASA-OIG)
began investigating a NASA employee's activities, a NASA-OIG investigator
interviewed the employee and permitted, inter alios, the employee's union
representative to attend. The union subsequently filed a charge with the
Federal Labor Relations Authority (Authority), alleging that NASA and
its OIG had committed an unfair labor practice when the investigator limited
the union representative's participation in the interview. In ruling for
the union, the Administrative Law Judge concluded that the OIG investigator
was a "representative" of NASA within ß 7114(a)(2)(B)'s
meaning, and that the investigator's behavior had violated the employee's
right to union representation. On review, the Authority agreed and granted
relief against both NASA and NASA-OIG. The Eleventh Circuit granted the
Authority's application for enforcement of its order.
a NASA-OIG investigator is a "representative" of NASA when conducting
an employee examination covered by ß 7114(a)(2)(B). Pp. GO>233-246.
(a) Contrary to NASA's and NASA-OIG's argument, ordinary tools of statutory
construction, combined with the Authority's position, lead to the conclusion
that the term "representative" is not limited to a representative
of the "entity" that collectively bargains with the employee's
union. By its terms, ß 7114(a)(2)(B) refers simply to representatives
of "the agency," which, all agree, means NASA. The Authority's
conclusion is consistent with the FSLMRS and, to the extent the statute
and congressional intent are unclear, the Court may rely on the Authority's
reasonable judgment. See, e.g., Federal Employees v. Department [527 U.S.
230] of Interior, 526 U.S. 86, 98-100. The Court rejects additional reasons
that NASA and NASA-OIG advance for their narrow reading.
(b) The IGA does not preclude, and in fact favors, treating OIG personnel
as representatives of the agencies they are duty-bound to audit and investigate.
The IGA created no central office or officer to supervise, direct, or
coordinate the work of all OIGs and their respective staffs. Other than
congressional committees and the President, each Inspector General has
no supervisor other than the head of the agency of which the OIG is part.
Congress certainly intended that the OIGs would enjoy a great deal of
autonomy, but an OIG's investigative office, as contemplated by the IGA,
is performed with regard to, and on behalf of, the particular agency in
which it is stationed. See 5 U.S.C. App. ß ß 2, 4(a), 6(a)(2).
Any potentially divergent interests of the OIGs and their parent agencies
-- e.g., an OIG has authority to initiate and conduct investigations and
audits without interference from the agency head, ß 3(a) -- do not
make NASA-OIG any less a NASA representative when it investigates a NASA
employee. Furthermore, not all OIG examinations subject to ß 7114(a)(2)(B)
will implicate an actual or apparent conflict of interest with the rest
of the agency, and, in many cases, honest cooperation can be expected
between an OIG and agency management. Pp. GO>237-243.
(c) NASA's and NASA-OIG's additional policy arguments against applying
ß 7114(a)(2)(B) to OIG investigations -- that enforcing ß
7114(a)(2)(B) in situations similar to this case would undermine NASA-OIG's
ability to maintain the confidentiality of investigations, and that the
Authority has construed ß 7114(a)(2)(B) so broadly in other instances
that it will impair NASA-OIG's ability to perform its responsibilities
-- are ultimately unpersuasive. It is presumed that Congress took account
of the relevant policy concerns when it decided to enact the IGA and,
on that statute's heels, ß 7114(a)(2)(B).
(d) That the investigator in this case was acting as a NASA representative
for ß 7114(a)(2)(B) purposes makes it appropriate to charge NASA-OIG,
as well as its parent agency, with responsibility for ensuring that investigations
are conducted in compliance with the FSLMRS.
120 F.3d 1208 affirmed.
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which KENNEDY, SOUTER,
GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion,
in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and O'CONNOR and SCALIA, JJ., joined, post.
[527 U.S. 231]
Sindacati, Rappresentanti dei lavoratori, Servizi di ispezione - Trade
Unions, Workers' Representatives, Inspection Services
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES , LOCAL 1309, V. DEPARTMENT
OF INTERIOR, 526 U.S. 86 (1999)
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
As relevant here, the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute
(Statute) requires federal agencies and their employees' unions to "meet
and negotiate in good faith for the purposes of arriving at a collective
bargaining agreement," 5 U.S.C. ß 7114(a)(4); and creates the
Federal Labor Relations Authority, giving it broad adjudicatory, policymaking,
and rulemaking powers to implement the Statute, ßß 7104, 7105.
The Authority initially held that ß 7114(a)(4)'s good faith bargaining
requirement does not extend to union-initiated proposals during the term
of the basic contract. The D.C. Circuit disagreed, and, in response, the
Authority reversed its position. In this suit, a federal employees' union
proposed including in its basic contract with a subagency of the Department
of the Interior (Agency) a provision obligating the Agency to negotiate
at the union's request, about mid-term matters not in the original contract.
Relying on the Fourth Circuit's view that union-initiated mid-term bargaining
is inconsistent with the Statute, the Agency refused to accept, or bargain
about, the proposed clause. However, the Authority ordered the Agency
to bargain. The Fourth Circuit set aside that order, holding that the
Statute prohibits such a provision.
the Statute delegates to the Authority the legal power to determine whether
parties must engage in mid-term bargaining or bargaining about mid-term
bargaining. Pp. GO>91-101.
(a) The Statute itself does not resolve the mid-term bargaining question.
Section 7114(a)(4)'s language is sufficiently ambiguous or open on the
point as to require judicial deference to reasonable interpretation or
elaboration by the agency charged with the Statute's execution. Such ambiguity
is inconsistent both with the Fourth Circuit's absolute reading that the
Statute prohibits mid-term bargaining and with the D.C. Circuit's similarly
absolute, but opposite, reading. It is perfectly consistent, however,
with the conclusion that Congress delegated to the [526 U.S. 87] Authority
the power to determine whether, when, where, and what sort of mid-term
bargaining is required. This conclusion is supported by the Statute's
delegation of rulemaking, adjudicatory, and policymaking powers to the
Authority, and by precedent recognizing the similarity of the Authority's
public sector and the National Labor Relations Board's private sector
roles, see Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms v. FLRA, 464 U.S. 89,97.
(b) For similar reasons, the Statute also grants the Authority leeway
in answering the question whether an agency must bargain end-term about
including in the basic labor contract a mid-term bargaining clause. The
Authority's judgment that the parties must bargain over such a provision
was occasioned by the D.C. Circuit's holding that the Statute imposes
a duty to bargain mid-term. Since the Statute does not resolve the question
of mid-term bargaining, nor the related question of bargaining about mid-term
bargaining, the Authority should have the opportunity to consider these
questions aware that the Statute permits, but does not compel, the conclusions
132 F.3d 157, vacated and remanded.
BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEVENS, KENNEDY,
SOUTER, and GINSBURG, JJ., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion,
in which REHNQUIST, C. J., joined, and in which SCALIA and THOMAS, JJ.,
joined as to Part I, post. [526 U.S. 88]
Cases citing this case:
NASA v. Federal Labor Relations Authority, 527 U.S. 229 (1999)
Accordi collettivi, Sindacati - Collective Agreements, Trade Unions
WRIGHT V. UNIVERSAL MARITIME SERVICE CORP., 525 U.S. 70 (1998)
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
Petitioner Wright, a longshoreman, was subject to a collective bargaining
agreement (CBA) and a Longshore Seniority Plan, both of which contained
an arbitration clause. When respondents refused to employ him following
his settlement of a claim for permanent disability benefits for job-related
injuries, Wright filed this suit, alleging discrimination in violation
of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The District Court
dismissed the case without prejudice because Wright had failed to pursue
the arbitration procedure provided by the CBA. The Fourth Circuit affirmed.
The CBA's general arbitration clause does not require Wright to use the
arbitration procedure for alleged violation of the ADA.
(a) The Fourth Circuit's conclusions that the CBA arbitration clause encompassed
a statutory claim under the ADA and was enforceable bring into focus the
tension between two lines of this Court's case law. Compare, e.g., Alexander
v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36, 49-51, with, e.g., Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson
Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 26. However, it is unnecessary to resolve the
question of the validity of a union-negotiated waiver of employees' statutory
rights to a federal forum, since it is apparent, on the facts and arguments
presented here, that no such waiver has occurred.
(b) Petitioner's ADA claim is not subject to the presumption of arbitrability
this Court has found in ß 301 of the Labor Management Relations
Act, 1947. That presumption does not extend beyond the reach of the principal
rationale that justifies it -- i.e., that arbitrators are in a better
position than courts to interpret the terms of a CBA. See, e.g., AT&T
Technologies, Inc. v. Communications Workers, 475 U.S. 643, 650. The dispute
here ultimately concerns not the application or interpretation of any
CBA, but the meaning of a federal statute, the ADA. Although ordinary
textual analysis of a CBA may show that matters beyond the interpretation
and application of contract terms are subject to arbitration, they will
not be presumed to be so.
(c) In order for a union to waive employees' rights to a federal judicial
forum for statutory antidiscrimination claims, the agreement to arbitrate
such claims must be clear and unmistakable. Cf., e.g., Metropolitan [525
U.S. 71] Edison Co. v. NLRB, 460 U.S. 693, 708. The CBA's arbitration
clause is very general, providing only for arbitration of "[m]atters
under dispute," and the remainder of the contract contains no explicit
incorporation of statutory antidiscrimination requirements. For similar
reasons, there is no clear and unmistakable waiver in the Longshore Seniority
Plan. This Court does not reach the question whether such a waiver would
121 F.3d 702 vacated and remanded.
SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. [525 U.S. 72]
Accordi collettivi, Sindacati, Persone portatrici di handicap, Incidenti
sul lavoro - Collective Agreements, Trade Unions, Persons with Disabilities,
Accident at Work
UNITED FOOD & COMMERCIAL WORKERS V. BROWN GROUP, INC., 517 U.S.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT
Petitioner union filed this suit, alleging that respondent company began
to lay off workers in connection with the closing of one of its plants
before giving the union the closing notice required by the Worker Adjustment
and Retraining Notification Act (the WARN Act), and seeking backpay for
each of its affected members. The District Court dismissed the complaint,
and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the suit was barred because
the union failed to meet the third part of the test for determining associational
1. The WARN Act grants a union authority to sue for damages on behalf
of its members, North Star Steel Co. v. Thomas, 515 U.S. 29, 31; the writ
of certiorari therefore was not improvidently granted.
2. The union has standing to bring this action.
(a) Under modern associational standing doctrine, an organization may
sue to redress its members' injuries when: "(a) its members would
otherwise have standing to sue in their own right; (b) the interests it
seeks to protect are germane to the organization's purpose; and (c) neither
the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation
of individual members in the lawsuit." Hunt v. Washington State Apple
Advertising Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 343. The requirement of individual participation
has been understood to preclude associational standing when an organization
seeks damages on behalf of its members. The question here is whether a
bar to the union's suit found in this third prong of the test is constitutional
and absolute, or prudential and malleable by Congress. The Court of Appeals
apparently concluded that the test's third prong is of constitutional
character, for it denied standing even though the WARN Act permits the
union to sue for its members' damages.
(b) The test's first prong is grounded in Article III as an element of
the constitutional case or controversy requirement. Resort to general
principles, however, leads to the conclusion that the third prong is a
prudential impediment that Congress may abrogate. Hunt's requirement [517
U.S. 545] that an organization suing as representative include at least
one member with standing to present, in his or her own right, the claim
pleaded by the association is an Article III necessity for the an association's
representative suit. Hunt's second prong is complementary to the first,
because it raises an assurance that the association's litigators will
themselves have a stake in the resolution of the dispute, and thus be
in a position to serve as the defendant's natural adversary. But once
an association has satisfied Hunt's first and second prongs assuring adversarial
vigor in pursuing a claim for which member Article III standing exists,
it is difficult to see a constitutional necessity for anything more.
The third prong is best seen as focusing on matters of administrative
convenience and efficiency, not on elements of a case or controversy.
Circumstantial evidence of that prong's prudential nature is seen in the
wide variety of other contexts in which a statute, federal rule, or accepted
common law practice permits one person to sue on behalf of another, even
where damages are sought. See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. ß 2000e-5(f)(1).
50 F.3d 1426, reversed and remanded.
SOUTER, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
Cases citing this case:
Steel Co. v. Citizens for Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83 (1998)
Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43 (1997)
Sindacati - Trade Unions
INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA V. BAGWELL, 512
U.S. 821 (1994)
CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF VIRGINIA
A month after enjoining petitioners (collectively, the union) from conducting
unlawful strike-related activities against certain mining companies, a
Virginia trial court held a contempt hearing, fined the union for its
disobedience, and announced that the union would be fined for any future
breach of the injunction. In subsequent contempt hearings, the court levied
against the union over $64,000,000 in what it termed coercive, civil fines,
ordering most of the money to be paid to the Commonwealth and the counties
affected by the unlawful activities. After the strike was settled, the
court refused to vacate the fines owed to the Commonwealth and counties,
concluding that they were payable in effect to the public. Ultimately,
it appointed respondent Bagwell to act as Special Commissioner to collect
the unpaid fines. The Virginia Court of Appeals reversed and ordered that
the fines be vacated. The Virginia Supreme Court, reversing in its turn,
rejected petitioners' contention that the fines were criminal and could
not be imposed absent a criminal trial.
The serious contempt fines imposed here were criminal, and constitutionally
could be imposed only through a jury trial.
(a) A criminal contempt fine is punitive, and can be imposed only through
criminal proceedings, including the right to jury trial. A contempt fine
is considered civil and remedial if it either coerces a defendant into
compliance with a court order or compensates the complainant for losses
sustained. United States v. United Mine Workers of America, 330 U.S. 258,
303-304. Where a fine is not compensatory, it is civil only if the contemnor
has an opportunity to purge, such as with per diem fines and fixed, suspended
(b) Most contempt sanctions share punitive and coercive characteristics,
and the fundamental question underlying the distinction between civil
and criminal contempts is what process is due for the imposition of any
particular contempt sanction. Direct contempts can be penalized summarily
in light of the court's substantial interest in maintaining order and
because the need for extensive factfinding and the likelihood of an erroneous
deprivation are reduced. Greater procedural protections are afforded for
sanctions of indirect contempts. Certain indirect [512 U.S. 822] contempts
are particularly appropriate for imposition through civil proceedings,
including contempts impeding the court's ability to adjudicate the proceedings
before it and those contempts involving discrete, readily ascertainable
acts. For contempts of more complex injunctions, however, criminal procedures
may be required.
(c) The mere fact that the contempt fines here were announced in advance
did not render them civil. Criminal laws generally provide notice of the
sanction to be imposed, and the union's ability to avoid the contempt
fines was indistinguishable from the ability of any citizen to avoid a
criminal sanction. Other considerations confirm that the fines challenged
here are criminal. Neither the parties nor the Commonwealth's courts have
suggested that the fines are compensatory. The union's sanctionable conduct
did not occur in the court's presence or otherwise implicate the core
of the judicial contempt power, where lesser protections may be appropriate.
Nor did the union's contumacy involve simple, affirmative acts, where
the sanctions' force is primarily coercive and elaborate factfinding is
not required. Instead the court levied fines for widespread, ongoing,
out-of-court violations of a complex injunction, effectively policing
the union's compliance with an entire code of conduct the court itself
imposed. The contumacy lasted many months and spanned several counties,
and the fines assessed were serious. Under these circumstances, disinterested
factfinding and evenhanded adjudication were essential, and the union
was entitled to a criminal jury trial.
244 Va. 463, 423 S. E. 2d 349, reversed.
BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court with respect
to Parts I, II-A, II-C, and III, and the opinion of the Court with respect
to Part II-B, in which STEVENS, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, KENNEDY, SOUTER, and
THOMAS, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a concurring opinion, post. GINSBURG,
J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment,
in which REHNQUIST, C.J., joined, post. [512 U.S. 823]
Cases citing this case:
Williams v. Planned Parenthood Shasta-Diablo, Inc., 520 U.S. 1133 (1997)
Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York, 519 U.S. 357 (1997)
Accordi collettivi, Sindacati - Collective Agreements, Trade Unions
UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO-CLC V. RAWSON, 495 U.S. 362
CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF IDAHO
Respondents, deceased miners' survivors, filed a state law wrongful death
action in Idaho state court against petitioner Union, the miners' exclusive
bargaining agent, alleging that the miners' deaths in an underground fire
were proximately caused by the Union's fraudulent and negligent acts in
connection with mine safety inspections conducted by its representatives
pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement with the mine's operator.
On remand from a State Supreme Court decision that the claims were not
preempted by federal labor law, the trial court granted summary judgment
for the Union. It found that the record was devoid of evidence supporting
the fraud claim, and urged the State Supreme Court to reconsider its decision
that the negligence claim was not preempted. The State Supreme Court upheld
the trial court's summary judgment on the fraud claim, but again concluded
that respondents' negligence claim was not preempted. Distinguishing this
Court's decision in Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202 -- which
held that a state law tort action against an employer may be preempted
by ß 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, if the duty
to the employee that was violated by the tort is created by a collective
bargaining agreement and without existence independent of the agreement
-- the court found that the instant agreement's provisions did "not
require interpretation, . . . but rather . . . determine[d] only the nature
and scope of the Union's duty." This Court vacated the State Supreme
Court's judgment and remanded the case for further consideration in light
of Electrical Workers v. Hechler, 481 U.S. 851, which extended Allis-Chalmers
to a tort suit by an employee against her union. On remand, the State
Supreme Court distinguished Hechler on the ground that, there, the alleged
duty of care arose from the collective bargaining agreement, whereas,
here, the Union's duty to perform the inspection reasonably arose from
the fact of the inspection itself rather than the fact that the provision
for the Union's participation in the inspection was contained in the labor
contract. Since it was conceded that the Union undertook to inspect, the
court noted, the sole issue was whether that inspection was negligent
under state tort law. [495 U.S. 363]
1. Respondents' tort claim is preempted by ß 301. The claim cannot
be described as independent of the collective bargaining agreement, since
the Union's representatives were participating in the inspection process
pursuant to that agreement's provisions. Thus, if the Union failed to
perform a duty in connection with the inspection, it was a duty arising
out of the agreement signed by the Union as the miners' bargaining agent,
not a duty of reasonable care owed to every person in society. Preemption
by federal law cannot be avoided by characterizing the Union's negligence
as a state law tort.
2. Respondents may not maintain a ß 301 suit against the Union.
(a) Mere negligence, even in the enforcement of a collective bargaining
agreement, does not state a claim for breach of the duty of fair representation,
which is a purposely limited check on the arbitrary exercise of union
power. While a union may assume a responsibility toward employees by accepting
a duty of care through a collective bargaining agreement, Hechler, supra,
at 860, if an employee claims that a union owes him a more far-reaching
duty, he must be able to point to language in the agreement specifically
indicating an intent to create obligations enforceable against the union
by the individual employees. Nothing in the agreement at issue suggests
that it creates such obligations, since the pertinent part of the agreement
consists of agreements between the Union and the employer, and is enforceable
only by them.
(b) Moreover, under traditional principles of contract interpretation,
respondents have no claim, for, as third-party beneficiaries, they have
no greater rights in the agreement than does the promisee, the employer.
Here, the employer has no enforceable right as promisee. The agreement
provisions respondents rely on are not promises made by the Union to the
employer. Rather, the limited surrender of the employer's exclusive authority
over mine safety is a concession made by the employer to the Union.
(c) Although respondents' claim that the Union had committed fraud on
the membership in violation of state law might implicate the duty of fair
representation, respondents did not cross-petition for review of the State
Supreme Court's holding that summary judgment was properly entered on
115 Idaho 785, 770 P.2d 794, reversed.
WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL,
BLACKMUN, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., [495 U.S. 364]
filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and SCALIA, J.,
Accordi collettivi, Sindacati, Rappresentanti dei lavoratori, Servizi
di ispezione, Miniere, Incidenti sul lavoro, Sanzioni - Collective Agreements,
Trade Unions, Workers' Representatives, Inspection Services, Mines, Accident
at Work, Penalties