MAINTENANCE EMPLOYES v. U.S.(1961)
As a condition of its approval of any merger of two or more railroads, 5 (2) (f) of the Interstate Commerce Act provides that the Interstate Commerce Commission "shall require a fair and equitable arrangement to protect the interests of the railroad employees affected," including a requirement that, for at least the length of his prior service up to four years, such merger shall not result in any employee "being in a worse position with respect to" his employment. Held: This does not require that all employees remain in the employ of the surviving railroad for at least the length of their previous employment up to four years; it is satisfied by a requirement that discharged employees receive adequate compensation benefits. Pp. 169-179.
189 F. Supp. 942, affirmed.
William G. Mahoney argued the cause for appellants. With him on the brief were Clarence M. Mulholland, Edward J. Hickey, Jr., James L. Highsaw, Jr., George E. Brand and George E. Brand, Jr.
Solicitor General Cox argued the cause for appellees. With him on the brief were Assistant Attorney General Loevinger, Ralph S. Spritzer, Richard A. Solomon and Robert W. Ginnane.
Ralph L. McAfee argued the cause for the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad Co., appellee. With him on the brief were John H. Pickering, Richard D. Rohr and Thomas D. Caine.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.
The dispute in this case commenced when the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Co. and the Erie [366 U.S. 169, 170] Railroad Co. filed a joint application for approval by the Interstate Commerce Commission of a proposed merger, the surviving company to be known as the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad Co. Supervision by the Commission of railroad mergers is required by 5 (2) of the Interstate Commerce Act, 54 Stat. 905, 49 U.S.C. 5 (2), and the statute directs the Commission to authorize such transactions as it finds will be "consistent with the public interest." The Commission concluded in this case that the public interest would be served by a merger of the two applicants and that finding has not been questioned. The point in issue is whether the conditions attached to the merger for the protection of the employees of the two roads satisfy the congressional mandate embodied in 5 (2) (f) of the Act, which provides in relevant part that:
Preliminarily, it must be noted that the adequacy of the New Orleans conditions is not an issue before this Court: Appellants did not challenge their sufficiency below, nor do they argue the point here. 2 Rather, appellants' sole contention is that no compensation plan is adequate unless it is based on the premise that all the employees currently on the payroll remain in the surviving railroad's employ for at least the length of their previous employment up to four years. Appellants do not say that every employee must remain in his present job, but they do insist that some job must remain open for each one. We think, however, that a review of the background of 5 (2) (f) and its subsequent interpretation demonstrates the defects in appellants' position.
Section 5 (2) (f), as it now appears, was enacted as part of the Transportation Act of 1940. A broad synopsis of the occurrences which led to the enactment of those sections on railroad consolidation of which 5 (2) (f) is a part is contained in the Appendix to this Court's opinion in St. Joe Paper Co. v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 347 U.S. 298, 315 , and it is unnecessary to reproduce that [366 U.S. 169, 173] material here except to note that: "The congressional purpose in the sweeping revision of 5 of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1940, enacting 5 (2) (a) in its present form, was to facilitate merger and consolidation in the national transportation system." County of Marin v. United States, 356 U.S. 412, 416 . The relevant events, for present purposes, date from 1933, when Congress passed the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act, 48 Stat. 211. That Act contemplated extensive railroad consolidations and provided for employee protection pursuant thereto in the following language:
A bill similar in this respect to S. 2009 was introduced in the House but, before it was sent to the Conference Committee, Representative Harrington inserted an amendment which added a second sentence to the one contained in the original version, this sentence stating that:
It would not be productive to relate in detail the various statements offered by members of the House to explain the significance of the events outlined above. It is enough to say that they were many, sometimes ambiguous [366 U.S. 169, 175] and often conflicting. However, certain points can be made with confidence. First, it is clear that there were two alterations made in the substance of the original Harrington amendment: Not only was a four-year limitation imposed, but also general language of imprecise import was used in substitution for language clearly requiring "job freeze" such as appeared in the original amendment and the 1933 Act. 5 Secondly, the representatives whose floor statements are entitled to the greatest weight are those House members who had the last word on the bill - the House conferees who explained the final version of the statute to the House at large immediately prior to passage - rather than those Congressmen whose voices were heard in the early skirmishing but who did not participate in the final compromise. 6 Finally, although [366 U.S. 169, 176] it might be an overstatement to claim that their remarks are dispositive, the statements the House conferees gave in explanation of the final version clearly reveal an understanding that compensation, not "job freeze," was contemplated. 7 Appellants vigorously argue that the legislative history of 5 (2) (f) supports their interpretation. However, were we to agree, it would be necessary to say that a substantial change in phraseology was made for no purpose and to disregard the statements of those [366 U.S. 169, 177] House members most intimately connected with the final version of the statute.
The indications gleaned from the history of the statute are reinforced and confirmed by subsequent events. Immediately after the section was passed, interested parties - including the brotherhood appealing in this case - expressed the opinion that compensation protection for discharged employees was the intendment of 5 (2) (f). 8 The Commission echoed this interpretation in its next annual report, I. C. C. 55th Ann. Rep. 60-61, and began imposing compensatory conditions, and only compensatory conditions, in proceedings involving 5 transactions. See, e. g., Cleveland & Pittsburgh R. Co. Purchase, 244 I. C. C. 793 (1941). The Commission has consistently followed this practice to date in over 80 cases, with the full support of the intervening brotherhoods and the RLEA; 9 indeed, in one case where a [366 U.S. 169, 178] variant of the present dispute arose, the RLEA argued at length that 5 (2) (f) did not impose a mandatory job freeze requirement - compensatory conditions would be satisfactory. 10 It is true that many of these prior transactions did not involve consolidations of the magnitude here presented. However, the relevance of this point is unclear since the statute makes no distinctions based on the type of transaction considered, and it is apparent that the underlying principle remains the same whether 100 or 1,000 employees are affected. 11
Appellants' last point is that two cases in this Court have previously treated the present question favorably to their position. Railway Labor Executives' Assn. v. United States, 339 U.S. 142 , and Order of Railroad Telegraphers v. Chicago & North Western R. Co., 362 U.S. 330 . However, neither the holding nor the language of these cases, in fact, supports appellants' claim. The RLEA case was not concerned with the types of protection to be afforded employees for the first four years following the merger; the only question was whether [366 U.S. 169, 179] compensatory benefits could be extended beyond four years, and the Court held they could. Appellants point to passages in the opinion, 339 U.S., at 151 -154, in which, they assert, the Court recognized that only one change - the four-year limitation - was blended into the Harrington amendment between origination and final approval. However, this contention ignores the plain recognition of the Court, revealed on page 152 of the opinion, that two changes occurred, one of which being the alteration in language pertinent to the resolution of this case. The Railroad Telegraphers case is equally inapposite. The question in that case concerned the power of a federal court to enjoin a strike over the railroad's refusal to bargain concerning a "job freeze" proposal in the collective bargaining contract, and there is no discussion of the present problem in the opinion of the Court.
In short, we are unwilling to overturn a long-standing administrative interpretation of a statute, acquiesced in by all interested parties for 20 years, when all the signposts of congressional intent, to the extent they are ascertainable, indicate that the administrative interpretation is correct. Consequently, the judgment of the District Court must be
[ Footnote 2 ] Appellants do relate certain objections to the adequacy of the conditions but it seems clear that these objections, which were not introduced before the Commission or the court below except at the hearing for temporary injunctive relief, have been included in appellants' brief only as background material. If appellants wish to challenge directly the adequacy of the conditions, it seems clear that they may still proceed to do so pursuant to 5 (9) of the Act.
In this connection, it should be noted that appellants have contended that the lower court erred when it refused to accept certain testimony concerning the adequacy of the conditions. The short answer to this is that the court did not refuse to accept appellants' proof; the court explicitly refrained from ruling on the matter when the offer was made and appellants never renewed their efforts. See R. 179.
[ Footnote 3 ] A discussion of this agreement and its terms is found in United States v. Lowden, 308 U.S. 225 .
[ Footnote 4 ] See Hearings before the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce on H. R. 2531 and H. R. 4862, 76th Cong., 1st Sess. 216-217, 275.
[ Footnote 5 ] As further evidence that Congress would have specified "job freeze" had it meant "job freeze" in the 1940 Act, compare the 1943 amendment to 222 (f) of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. 222 (f), where an employee protective arrangement was added by the following language:
[ Footnote 6 ] Appellants point out that several members of the conference committee opposed the motion to recommit. However, as appellants must concede, reliance on unexplained opposition to a proposal is untrustworthy at best. Witness the fact that all the House members on whose remarks appellants base their position (Representatives Warren, Harrington, and Thomas) voted against the final version of the bill.
[ Footnote 7 ] See the remarks of conference chairman Lea at 86 Cong. Rec. 10178, particularly that part of his explanation responding to questions put by Representatives Vorys and O'Connor, where it was said:
[ Footnote 8 ] In its official organ, appellant Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes stated:
[ Footnote 9 ] A comprehensive list of the decided cases, with a description of the conditions imposed, is found in the Appendix to the Brief of [366 U.S. 169, 178] the United States in this case. It is noteworthy that this Court has recently affirmed a case in which the Commission imposed less comprehensive conditions than those in this case. City of Nashville v. United States, 355 U.S. 63 .
[ Footnote 10 ] See Memorandum Brief of RLEA, Finance Docket No. 12460, filed in Fort Worth & D.C. R. Co. Lease, 247 I. C. C. 119.
[ Footnote 11 ] According to the findings of the hearing examiner in this case, 863 employees will be totally deprived of employment during the five-year period following the merger. Appellants argue that there is no need for these discharges since natural attrition will open up many more than 863 jobs during the same period. However, as the railroads point out, attrition does not work in a uniform or predictable manner and there is no indication that the elimination of surplus posts can be accomplished by the method appellants suggest; moreover, if attrition does open up suitable positions, the railroad is bound by the collective bargaining agreement to call back the discharged employees.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting.
This case is a minor episode in an important chapter of modern history. It concerns the impact of economic and technological changes on workers 1 and the manner in [366 U.S. 169, 180] which government will deal with it. The courts do not determine that policy; it is a legislative matter. But the judicial attitude has much to do with the manner in which legislative ambiguities will be resolved.
There are some who think that technological change will produce both our highest industrial and business activity and our greatest unemployment. Dr. Robert M. Hutchins recently stated the basic conflict between individual freedom and technology:
This is not the first instance of a controversy settled in Congress by adoption of ambiguous language and then transferred to the courts, each side claiming a victory in the legislative halls. 3
The Senate passed a bill which required the Interstate Commerce Commission in approving a railroad merger to make "a fair and equitable arrangement to protect the interest of the employees affected." 4 The House Committee adopted the same language. 5 When the bill reached the floor of the House, Mr. Harrington suggested the following proviso: 6
The Conference accepted this version, limiting the protective clause to four years. The Conference Report emphasizes that the change made in the Harrington proposal was in limiting its operation to four years. 10 [366 U.S. 169, 184] Mr. Lea, Chairman of the House Conferees, stated the same in the House: 11
[ Footnote 1 ] "In California, the Bank of America installed electronic computers in its mortgage-and-loan operation, and 100 employees are now doing the work of 300. In Cleveland, an electronically controlled concrete plant can in one hour produce 200 cubic yards of concrete in any of 1,500 mixing formulas, without a single worker performing manual labor at any point in the process.
[ Footnote 2 ] Goldberg, Challenge of "Industrial Revolution II," N. Y. Times Magazine, Apr. 2, 1961, p. 11. And see A. H. Raskin's recent series in the New York Times. N. Y. Times, Thursday, Apr. 6, 1961, p. 1, cols. 2-3; N. Y. Times, Friday, Apr. 7, 1961, p. 1, cols. 2-3; N. Y. Times, Saturday, Apr. 8, 1961, p. 1, cols. 2-3; N. Y. Times, Sunday, Apr. 9, 1961, p. 1, cols. 2-3.
[ Footnote 3 ] See Newman and Surrey, Legislation (1955), pp. 158-178.
[ Footnote 4 ] S. Rep. No. 433, 76th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 29.
[ Footnote 5 ] H. R. Rep. No. 1217, 76th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 12.
[ Footnote 6 ] 84 Cong. Rec., pt. 9, 76th Cong., 1st Sess., pp. 9882-9883.
[ Footnote 7 ] 84 Cong. Rec. 9887.
[ Footnote 8 ] H. R. Rep. No. 2016, 76th Cong., 3d Sess., p. 61.
[ Footnote 9 ] 86 Cong. Rec., pt. 6, 76th Cong., 3d Sess., p. 5886.
[ Footnote 10 ] "The conference agreement on the Harrington amendment includes a provision of the instruction which provides that the order of approval shall include terms and conditions providing that the transaction shall not result in the employees being in a worse position with respect to their employment. The conference agreement, however, qualifies this provision by confining its operation to a period of 4 years from the effective date of the order approving the transaction and providing further that the protection afforded to an employee shall not be required to continue for a longer period following the effective date of the order than the period for which such employee was in the employ of an affected carrier prior to the effective date of the order.
[ Footnote 11 ] 86 Cong. Rec., pt. 9, p. 10178.
[ Footnote 12 ] Id., p. 10189.
[ Footnote 13 ] The third House Conferee on whose remarks the Court seems to rely is Congressman Halleck. But he merely says that the proviso "follows the principle of the so-called Washington agreement." What that principle was he makes clear in his next sentence: "This language gives to the employees greater protection and more far-reaching protection and recognizes the principle to which we all subscribe, that rights of employees should be protected, and, beyond that, writes it into law." Id., p. 10187. The Court also relies on Congressman Lea's acquiescence in the assertions - more or less equivocal - of Congressmen Vorys and O'Connor. But, even assuming those assertions negative a guarantee of continuing employment, Congressman Lea's acquiescence hardly jibes fully with his more extended remarks on the same subject which I have quoted above.
[ Footnote 14 ] Lincoln in his annual message to Congress, Dec. 3, 1861, stated: "Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." V Basler, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), p. 52. [366 U.S. 169, 187]