FERRYBOATMEN UNION OF CALIFORNIA v. SOUTHERN PAC CO

Reset A A Font size: Print

District Court of Appeal, First District, Division 2, California.

FERRYBOATMEN'S UNION OF CALIFORNIA v. SOUTHERN PAC. CO. et al.

Civ. 9194.

Decided: November 23, 1934

Derby, Sharp, Quinby & Tweedt and Joseph C. Sharp, all of San Francisco, for appellant. Henly C. Booth and A. A. Jones, both of San Francisco, for respondents.

A controversy arose as to wages, etc., between the defendant railroad companies and their employees. The parties could not between themselves settle the controversy. Therefore they entered into an agreement to arbitrate the entire controversy. Thereafter a board of arbitration was appointed; it held hearings and later duly prepared, served, and filed its award in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Thereafter in due time the railroad companies filed in said court a petition to impeach the said award. Their petition was dismissed and the companies appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, but that court affirmed the order of dismissal. Atchison, T. & S. F. Ry. Co. v. Ferryboatmen's Union of California, 28 F.(2d) 26. Pending the appeal the plaintiff alleges that the parties entered into an agreement whereunder the parties advanced the effective date on the eight-hour per day basis from November 1, 1927, to March 1, 1928, and they also agreed that if the order appealed from was affirmed that the eight-hour day be put into effect for all of “said former 12-hour men” as of March 1, 1928. The plaintiff further alleges that from September 1, 1928, the defendants continued to employ all “said former 12-hour men” on daily watches averaging twelve hours per day notwithstanding said award and said agreement. After the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the District Court, the latter adopted the said agreement of the parties and incorporated it therein, and on September 29, 1928, it entered a judgment on the award as modified by the stipulation of the parties. It is further alleged that the last-mentioned judgment has never been modified, etc., but is a final and subsisting judgment. Continuing the plaintiff places its construction on the award as so established by said final judgment and it prays for judgment “* * * declaring the respective rights and duties of the parties under the contract, agreements and writings above referred to and setting forth a binding declaration of the same, and of the amounts due plaintiff thereunder and for a judgment against said defendant (Southern Pacific Company) for the sum of $67,564.56 and interest thereon at seven per cent. per annum from March 5, 1931, until paid.” Similar prayers, differing only in the amount of dollars and cents, are inserted as to each other defendant. By their answers the defendants place their construction on the same document and aver that they have fully complied with the terms of the award. After the plaintiff had made a very exhaustive opening statement, the defendants objected to the hearing of the action because it then appeared that the trial court had no jurisdiction because of the provisions of the Railway Labor Act (45 USCA § 151 et seq.), and thereupon they made a motion that the action be dismissed. In making that motion they made numerous specifications which, among others, included these: (1) That the Railway Labor Act is a comprehensive statute creating new rights and prescribing remedies and that such remedies are therefore exclusive. Such being the fact, as state courts are not mentioned, state courts have no jurisdiction. (2) That under the Railway Labor Act it is provided that if a dispute arises regarding the meaning or application of an award such dispute can and will be referred to the board of arbitration or a subcommittee thereof. The motion was granted and the plaintiff has appealed under section 953a of the Code of Civil Procedure.

In presenting its case on appeal the plaintiff addresses itself to a refutation of the second ground of the defendants' motion as above stated. The defendants reply by addressing themselves primarily to the first ground and incidentally to the second ground. In what follows we will endeavor not to overlook basic points and arguments and we will endeavor to discuss each one. But it will readily be appreciated that inadvertently we may overlook some incidental matters.

If the trial court did not have jurisdiction of the subject-matter, its ruling should be affirmed. 9 Cal. Jur. 550. When the opening statement had been made it was clear that all three counts pleaded in the plaintiff's complaint rested for support on the same set of facts and that the first count specifically pleaded those facts. If the trial court did not have jurisdiction to hear an action involving those specific facts, it did not have jurisdiction to hear any other action resting on those same facts. We will therefore address ourselves to the first count, which, as we have stated, presents all the facts.

Before proceeding it is best to make clear some matters which are clouded. The record presents assertions on the part of the plaintiff that the parties do not disagree regarding the meaning or application of the award. It also presents assertions on the part of the defendants that they do not agree. That apparent discrepancy arises out of a distinction stated by counsel for the plaintiff to the trial court. The statement was: “We are here because of the difference of interpretation as to what the judgment and agreement fixed as the date of the application of the award. The evidence will show that there is no uncertainty in the award.” (Italics ours.) In other words, conceding the award as filed by the arbitrators to be free from uncertainty, nevertheless when the parties entered into the stipulation filed May 22, 1928, and thereafter on September 29, 1928, a judgment was entered, thereupon a difference did arise. An examination of paragraph 9 of plaintiff's complaint and the answer thereto reenforces the statement just made.

Formerly such a controversy as is presented by the record was not justiciable. In recent years several acts on these subjects have been passed by the Congress. As the subject-matter was a specialty of which the parties were the most competent authorities, the Congress called them before it and sought to obtain from the parties the information necessary to frame legislation and the consent and support of the parties in framing such legislation. Texas & N. O. R. Co. v. Brotherhood of Ry. & S. S. Clerks, 281 U. S. 548, 50 S. Ct. 427, 431, 74 L. Ed. 1034, and marginal notes. Moreover, organized labor has for many years sought the right to settle its disputes by conference and arbitration and not to resort to the courts. In 1926 the congress passed the Railway Labor Act. In Texas & N. O. R. Co. v. Brotherhood of Ry. S. S. Clerks, supra, after reviewing the history of the legislation on these subjects, Mr. Chief Justice Hughes, speaking for the court, said: “While adhering in the new statute to the policy of providing for the amicable adjustment of labor disputes, and for voluntary submissions to arbitration as opposed to a system of compulsory arbitration, Congress buttressed this policy by creating certain definite legal obligations. The outstanding feature of the Act of 1926 is the provision for an enforceable award in arbitration proceedings. The arbitration is voluntary, but the award pursuant to the arbitration is conclusive upon the parties as to the merits and facts of the controversy submitted. Section 9 (45 USCA § 159). The award is to be filed in the clerk's office of the District Court of the United States designated in the agreement to arbitrate, and unless a petition to impeach the award is filed within ten days, the court is to enter judgment on the award, and this judgment is final and conclusive. Petition for the impeachment of the award may be made upon the grounds that the award does not conform to the substantive requirements of the act or to the stipulation of the parties, or that the proceedings were not in accordance with the act or were tainted with fraud or corruption. But the court is not to entertain such a petition on the ground that the award is invalid for uncertainty, and in such case the remedy is to be found in a submission of the award to a reconvened board or to a subcommittee thereof for interpretation, as provided in the act. Thus it is contemplated that the proceedings for the amicable adjustment of disputes will have an appropriate termination in a binding adjudication, enforceable as such.” (Italics ours.) In People v. Craycroft, 2 Cal. 243, at page 245, 56 Am. Dec. 331, the court said: “Where a right is given, and a remedy provided by statute, the remedy so provided must be pursued. It is true, if the right existed at common law, the plaintiff might pursue either remedy, the statutory one being regarded merely as cumulative. Here a new and independent obligation has been created; and the statute must be strictly followed.” In Reed v. Omnibus R. Co., 33 Cal. 212, at page 216, the court said: “It is a matter of no moment, so far as the jurisdictional question is concerned, whether the forfeiture of two hundred dollars, provided for in the Act of 1863, is treated as a penalty for extortion, as claimed by the defendant, or as liquidated damages, as claimed by the plaintiff. In either event the obligation of the company to pay the sum designated, and the right of the passenger to enforce the obligation in his own and the State's behalf, are of purely statute creation. This, though made a topic of discussion, is quite too plain for argument; and it follows that no other process or procedure can be made use of to enforce a performance of the obligation than that which the statute itself prescribes.” (Italics ours.) That rule obtains in both the federal and state courts and in England. 1 C. J. 989, § 102.

Bearing the foregoing propositions in mind, we have made a careful study of the entire statute. 45 USCA § 151 et seq. Without unduly extending this decision we have specially noted and call attention to section 152, subds. 1, 3, 4, and 5; section 153, subd. 1, pars. (c, e); section 154, subd. 1; section 155, subd. 1, pars. (a-c), and subds. 2, 3; section 157, subd. 3, par. (c); section 158, pars. (a, b, e, f, j-m); section 159, subds. 1-8.

The foregoing provisions at once impress on one's mind the fact that the Congress has imposed upon the employers and the employees many new obligations that did not exist before the enactment of the Railway Labor Act. At the same time it has provided for the creation of several tribunals and imposed on them the duties of assisting the parties in solving their problems. In addition it has provided for a resort to the courts for judicial approval of the award and to make the award enforceable as a judgment. But it has expressly provided that such resort must be to the federal courts and to only those federal courts named in the agreement to arbitrate. In view of the expressed provisions of the act and the particular subject-matter thereof, we think it must be presumed that the Congress did not intend to permit a resort to any court or tribunal not mentioned in the act. It follows that the ruling made by the trial court was correct.

In the trial court the defendants contended that the remedy of the plaintiff was to re-refer the controversy to the board of arbitration. Section 9, subd. 3(c) of the act (45 USCA § 159, subd. 3(c). In its brief the plaintiff has made an earnest effort to show that such contention may not be sustained. In view of the fact that this court has reached the conclusion that the state courts have no jurisdiction, it is neither necessary nor proper for it to express any opinion on the point.

The judgment is affirmed.

STURTEVANT, Justice.

We concur: NOURSE, P. J.; SPENCE, J.