Conley v. Gibson

355 U.S. 42 (1957)


This was a class suit was brought in a Federal District Court in Texas by certain Negro members of the Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship Clerks, Conley (P). The complaint alleged that Petitioners were employees of the Texas and New Orleans Railroad at its Houston Freight House. Local 28 of the Brotherhood was the designated bargaining agent under the Railway Labor Act for the bargaining unit to which petitioners belonged. A contract existed which gave the employees certain protection from discharge and loss of seniority. The Railroad purported to abolish 45 jobs held by petitioners or other Negroes all of whom were either discharged or demoted. The jobs were not abolished but instead filled by whites. The Union did nothing to protect them against these discriminatory discharges and refused to give them protection comparable to that given white employees. They also alleged a general failure of the Union to represent Negro employees equally and in good faith. They asked for a declaratory judgment, injunction, and damages. The Gibson (D) appeared and moved to dismiss the complaint on several grounds: (1) the National Railroad Adjustment Board had exclusive jurisdiction over the controversy; (2) the Texas and New Orleans Railroad, which had not been joined, was an indispensable party defendant; and (3) the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be given. The District Court granted the motion to dismiss holding that Congress had given the Adjustment Board exclusive jurisdiction. The Fifth Circuit agreed.