Ahearn v. Int'l Longshore & Warehouse Union

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Labor Law
  • Date Filed: 07-05-2013
  • Case #: 11-35848
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: District Judge Collins for the Court: Circuit Judges D. Nelson and Callahan
  • Full Text Opinion

Section 303 of the Labor Management Relations Act is not a charging party's sole remedy to collect damages from a union's unlawful labor activities.

Export Grain Terminal ("EGT") brought a National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") action against Locals 21 and 4 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (the "Union") for unlawful labor activities when the Union protested at EGT's grain terminal. The district court granted NLRB injunctive relief against the Union to cease unlawful activities. Union disobeyed, was found in contempt, and ordered to pay compensatory damages to NLRB, EGT, law enforcement agencies that responded to the scenes of protest, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe ("BNSF"). The Union argued that the awards were an abuse of discretion because they were awarded to non-parties and Section 303 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA") provides the sole remedy to an employer for an unfair labor practice claim. The Union further argued that because the damages were criminal sanctions from the civil contempt proceedings, it was entitled to heightened procedural protections. The Ninth Circuit first held that EGT was not limited to the LMRA Section 303 remedy because the language is not mandatory, it was not clear if EGT could qualify for its relief because the district court did not grant injunctive relief under the provision, and because civil contempt proceedings function to coerce compliance with a court order and to compensate the prevailing party, which EGT was for purposes of the NLRA. Second, the panel upheld the amount awarded to EGT and the NLRB because there was ample evidence on the record and the final amount was adjusted after objections and evidence submitted by the Union, and concluded the sanctions were civil rather than criminal because the nature of the relief was compensatory for actual losses and did not punish the Union. Third, the panel held Section 160(l) of the NLRA did not exclude EGT from participating in the contempt proceedings because NLRB brought the suit, EGT only presented relevant evidence as to damages, did not petition independently and only supported the original petition for injunctive relief. Fourth, the panel held it was an abuse of discretion to award damages to law enforcement agencies and BNSF, and vacated the award because they were not party to the underlying NLRB action and as such, could not be considered a prevailing party to compel the court's order. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part.

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