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U.S. Supreme Court

Chicago & N.W. R. Co. v. Transportation Union, 402 U.S. 570 (1971)

Chicago & North Western Railway Co. v.

United Transportation Union

No. 189

Argued January 18, 1971

Decided June 1, 1971

402 U.S. 570


Petitioner railroad brought this suit (after formal procedures of the Railway Labor Act had been exhausted) to enjoin a threatened strike by respondent Union, charging that the Union had failed to perform its obligations under § 2 First of the Railway Labor Act "to exert every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements concerning rates of pay, rules, and working conditions." The Union answered that the Norris-LaGuardia Act deprived the District Court of jurisdiction to enjoin the strike, and that, in any event, the complaint failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The District Court, declining to pass on whether either party had violated § 2 First, concluded that the matter was one for administrative determination by the National Mediation Board, and was not justiciable, and that §§ 4 and 7 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act deprived the court of jurisdiction to enjoin the threatened strike. The Court of Appeals affirmed, construing § 2 First as hortatory, and not enforceable by the courts, but only by the National Mediation Board.


1. Sec. 2 First was intended to be not just a mere exhortation, but an enforceable legal obligation on carriers and employees alike. Pp. 402 U. S. 574-578.

2. The obligation imposed by § 2 First, which is central to the effective working of the Railway Labor Act, is enforceable in the courts, rather than by the Mediation Board, as is clear from the Act's legislative history. Pp. 402 U. S. 578-581.

3. Sec. 4 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act does not prohibit the use of a strike injunction where that remedy is the only practical, effective means of enforcing the duty imposed by § 2 First. Pp. 402 U. S. 581-584.

422 F.2d 979, reversed and remanded.

HARLAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 402 U. S. 571

J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BLACK, DOUGLAS, and WHITE, JJ., joined, post, p. 402 U. S. 584.

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