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CITY CAB CO. v. ROUMELL

June 20, 1963

CITY CAB COMPANY, a Michigan corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
Thomas ROUMELL, as Regional Director, Seventh Region, National Labor Relations Board, Detroit, Michigan, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREEMAN

This proceeding is before the Court on the motion of defendant to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that (1) this Court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action; (2) the action is premature; and (3) the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The plaintiff, a nonprofit membership corporation, which is comprised of 58 members who own and operate taxicabs in the City of Detroit, is seeking to enjoin the Regional Director, Seventh Region of the National Labor Relations Board, from holding an election, pursuant to its directive order, among the drivers of its members to determine if such drivers wish to designate as their collective bargaining agent the petitioning Union, City Cab Drivers Association.

The gist of the complaint is that such order was an abuse of power on the part of the Board and its enforcement would constitute a deprivation of property without due process of law under the Fifth Amendment. The plaintiff also claims that it has no adequate remedy at law since the decision of the Board is not presently appealable and will not be appealable until an election is held, a majority of the drivers vote in favor of Union representation, and the plaintiff is cited for an unfair labor practice if it refuses to recognize the Union. Plaintiff contends that this procedure is costly and constitutes unconscionable delay in the judicial determination of plaintiff's rights and may subject plaintiff to concerted activities on the part of the employees of its members. Plaintiff further alleges that if the employees vote against Union representation, it will have no judicial opportunity to determine its legal rights and status.

 The Board held in its decision, reported in 141 NLRB 107, that the plaintiff and its members jointly employed the drivers of such members. The Board found that each of the members hires and discharges his own drivers, sets their wages and hours of employment, maintains his own payroll records, is responsible for purchasing, insuring and repairing his own cabs, and that no single member meets the Board's jurisdictional standard of $ 500,000 gross retail business for taxicab companies.

 However, the Board noted that the plaintiff exercises substantial control over each member's drivers in their day-to-day conduct in that all drivers must conform to rules which have been drawn up by plaintiff after being approved by its members, employs a driver-superintendent who has authority, likewise approved by the members, to call cabs off the streets for any violation of these rules, maintains a Board which meets every week to consider complaints against any drivers, and although it is contended that the Board of Review only recommends disciplinary action to the member employing the offending driver, the effect of such recommendations is best viewed in the light of plaintiff's Bylaws, which provide that a member may be expelled from the organization for cause. The Board further found that the combined gross revenues of plaintiff's membership exceeded the $ 500,000 jurisdictional amount.

 The initial issue is whether this Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the instant case.

 Plaintiff contends that jurisdiction exists under § 24(8) of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C. § 1337, which confers 'original jurisdiction of any civil action or proceeding arising under any Act of Congress.' It argues in support of its contention that the Board had no jurisdiction to enter the order directing the holding of an election and, consequently, under the doctrine enunciated in Leedom v. Kyne, 358 U.S. 184, 79 S. Ct. 180, 3 L. Ed. 2d 210 (1958), this Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the instant case.

 The Kyne case did involve an action in a District Court under 28 U.S.C. 1337. However, in that case, plaintiff was the collective bargaining representative of a professional class of employees, and Congress had expressly directed the National Labor Relations Board, in determining an appropriate unit for collective bargaining purposes, shall not approve a unit composed of both professional and non-professional employees, unless approved by a majority vote of the former, pursuant to § 9(b)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 159(b)(1). The Board denied this class of professional employees their express statutory right, and these employees neither at that time or at any later time in connection with some foreseeable order could secure judicial review of the Board's denial of their specific statutory right. Consequently, under those circumstances, the Court upheld the exercise of jurisdiction by the District Court to enforce a specific right that Congress had given these employees, or otherwise such right would have been rendered unenforceable at any time.

 In the recent decision of McCulloch v. Sociedad Nacional de Marineras de Honduras, 372 U.S. 10, 83 S. Ct. 671, 9 L. Ed. 2d 547 (1963), where the Supreme Court held that the NLRB did not have jurisdiction over a vessel legally owned by a foreign subsidiary of an American corporation that flies the flag of a foreign nation, carries a foreign crew represented by a foreign Union, and has other contacts with the nation of its flag, it made the following observations concerning the limited jurisdiction of a District Court to enjoin an election order of the Board 372 U.S. at pp. 16-17, 83 S. Ct. at p. 675:

 'We are not of course precluded from reexamining the jurisdiction of the District Court in Sociedad's action, merely because no challenge was made by the parties. Mitchell v. Maurer, 293 U.S. 237, 244 (55 S. Ct. 162, 79 L. Ed. 338) (1934). Having examined the question whether the District Court had jurisdiction at the instance of Sociedad to enjoin the Board's order, we hold that the action falls within the limited exception fashioned in Leedom v. Kyne, 358 U.S. 184 (79 S. Ct. 180, 3 L. Ed. 2d 210) (1958). In that case judicial intervention was permitted since the Board's order was 'in excess of its delegated powers and contrary to a specific prohibition in the Act.' Id., (358 U.S.) at 188 (79 S. Ct., at 183, 184). While here the Board has violated no specific prohibition in the Act, the overriding consideration is that the Board's assertion of power to determine the representation of foreign seamen aboard vessels under foreign flags has aroused vigorous protests from foreign governments and created international problems for our Government. Important interests of the immediate parties are of course at stake. But the presence of public questions particularly high in the scale of our national interest because of their international complexion is a uniquely compelling ...


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