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Michigan Law Review


Railway Labor Act, Labor-Management Relations Act, due process


The federal government regulates disputes between organized labor and management in a wide range of private industries. Most disputes are governed by the Labor-Management Relations Act (LMRA), which both protects the rights of management and organized labor and establishes a comprehensive scheme of dispute resolution. The Railway Labor Act (RLA), however, creates a regime unique to the railroad and airline industries. It requires that certain claims between the covered employers -- known in the RLA as “carriers” -- and their employees be settled by submission to the RLA statutory arbitration scheme. Under this scheme, parties must resolve disputes “in the usual manner” where possible. But where such disputes cannot be resolved by the parties themselves, they must be referred to an arbitral tribunal created by the RLA -- the National Railroad Adjustment Board (NRAB). The NRAB is empowered to delegate its decision-making authority to smaller scale tribunals, and parties may also voluntarily submit their claims to ad hoc tribunals that operate under RLA rules.This Note contends that the RLA prohibits due process review and further argues that such a result is constitutional. Part I examines the statutory language of the RLA itself and contends that it limits district court review to the three statutory grounds. Part II argues that the Supreme Court's opinion in Sheehan reaffirms this interpretation because the Court's language unmistakably conveys an intent to bar due process review. Part III explains that such a limitation does not violate the Constitution. The only constitutional provision that could be implicated in a RLA proceeding, the right of procedural due process, is protected by procedures mandated by the RLA. Finally, Part IV argues that this interpretation is desirable because it satisfies the needs of the railroad and airline industries.