Tunstall v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen
Decided on Dec. 18, 1944; 323 US 210


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Racial discrimination

B. Legal Question Presented:

Does "the Railway Labor Act imposes on a labor organization, acting as the exclusive bargaining representative of a craft or class of railway employees, the duty to represent all the employees in the craft without discrimination because of their race, and do the federal courts have jurisdiction to entertain a non-diversity suit in which petitioner, a railway employee subject to the Act, seeks remedies by injunction and award of damages for the failure of the union bargaining representative of his craft to perform the duty imposed on it by the Act, to represent petitioner and other members of his craft without discrimination because of race?"

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"This is a companion case to No. 45, Steele v. Louisville & N.R. Co.

As in Steele, Petitioner in this case, "complains of the discriminatory application of the contract provisions to him and other Negro members of his craft in favor of 'promotable', i.e., white, firemen, by which he has been deprived of his preexisting seniority rights, removed from the interstate passenger run to which he was assigned and then assigned to more arduous and difficult work with longer hours in yard service, his place in the passenger service being filled by a white fireman... Petitioner prays for a declaratory adjudication of his rights, for an injunction restraining the discriminatory practices complained of, for an award of damages and for other relief.

The District Court dismissed the suit for want of jurisdiction. The Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed, on the ground that the federal courts are without jurisdiction of the cause, there being no diversity of citizenship and, insofar as the suit is grounded on the wrongful acts of respondents, it is not one arising under the laws of the United States, even though the union was chosen as bargaining representative pursuant to the Railway Labor Act."

On certiorari the US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Mr. Charles H. Houston, of Washington, D.C., for petitioner. Mr. James G. Martin, of Norfolk, Va., for respondent Norfolk Southern ry. co.

Mr. Harold C. Heiss, of Cleveland, Ohio, for respondents Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen et al.

IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"For the reasons stated in our opinion in the Steele case the Railway Labor Act itself does not exclude the petitioner's cause of action from the consideration of the federal courts... We also hold that the right asserted by petitioner which is derived from the duty imposed by the Railway Labor Act on the Brotherhood, as bargaining representative, is a federal right implied from the statute and the policy which it has adopted. It is the federal statute which condemns as unlawful the Brotherhood's conduct...

For the reasons also stated in our opinion in the Steele case the petitioner is without available administrative remedies, resort to which, when available, is prerequisite to equitable relief in the federal courts."

The US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Justice Vote: 9 Pro vs. 0 Con

  • Stone, H.Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Murphy, F. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Black, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Roberts, O. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Jackson, R. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Rutledge, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Frankfurter, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Douglas, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Reed, S. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit; the Supreme Court reversed in a 9-0 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.