Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers

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Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued October 7, 2009
Decided December 8, 2009
Full case name Union Pacific Railroad Company v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen General Committee of Adjustment, Central Region
Docket nos. 08-604
Citations 558 U.S. 67 (more)
Argument Oral argument
Opinion announcement Opinion announcement
Seventh Circuit is correct in its decision but improperly applied a constitutional remedy rather than a statutory remedy.
Court membership
Chief Justice
John G. Roberts
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Antonin Scalia
Anthony Kennedy · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Samuel Alito · Sonia Sotomayor
Case opinions
Majority Ginsburg, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
Railway Labor Act

Union Pacific Railroad v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, 558 U.S. 67 (2009), was a United States Supreme Court decision on labor disputes.


The Railway Labor Act was created to enable peaceful resolution of labor disputes between Railroad Companies and their Unions. For disputes deemed minor a panel of five would meet; two from the railroad industry, two from the unions and one neutral party under the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In order to reach arbitration the two parties had to exhaust their grievance procedures under their own Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA). If this fails then either party may refer the issue to the NLRB with full statements of facts that these negotiations took place.

Union Pacific Railroad Company issued disciplinary violations against five of its employees represented by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), a division of the Teamsters. The union then initiated grievance proceedings under their CBA. Dissatisfied with the outcome, the Union appealed to the NLRB Board. In opening proceedings one of the industry representatives objected that there was no evidence in the filing that the two parties had conferenced under their CBA.

The NLRB dismissed their petition for lack of required evidence. It also denied the BLET the right to add proof of conferencing to the complaint because as an appellate body it is not permitted to receive new evidence.

The District Court for the Northern District of Illinois affirmed the decision of the NLRB where it was appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The Appellate Court decided that the singular question at issue was whether written documentation of CBA arbitration was a required perquisite to NLRB arbitration. The court determined there was no such requirement in any rules or regulations of the NLRB and had acted outside the will and intent of the Congress. However the Seventh Circuit did not invoke only statutory grounds for rejection of the NLRB but ruled that the NLRB proceedings had violated the Union's due process.

Decision of the Court[edit]

The Court ruled unanimously with Justice Ginsburg writing the opinion. The Court agreed with the outcome of the Seventh Circuit but not its reasoning. Ginsburg wrote that the Appeals Court had incorrectly applied a constitutional remedy instead of purely a statutory one, the court affirmed the Seventh Circuit ruling on statutory grounds and ruling that the NLRB had not denied due process but had merely "failed to conform or confine itself to the jurisdiction Congress gave it."

See also[edit]