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Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams

United States Supreme Court
482 U.S. 386 (1987)


Between 1956 and 1968, Caterpillar Tractor Company (“Caterpillar”) (defendant) employed Williams and his colleagues (plaintiffs) in positions that fell under the company’s collective bargaining agreement. Over time, all of these employees were promoted to jobs that brought them outside of the coverage of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). While employed in positions outside of the CBA, Williams and his colleagues were assured repeatedly, both orally and in writing, that they would always have positions with Caterpillar even if the production facility they worked at closed. During the period between May of 1980 and January of 1984, Williams and his colleagues were demoted and brought under the CBA, though they were assured the changes were temporary. In December of 1983, their production facility was closed and Williams and his colleagues were laid off. They then filed a suit in California state court based solely on California state law. Caterpillar removed the case to the United States District Court, arguing that the suit fell under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act due to the fact that Williams and his colleagues were covered by the CBA. The district court held that removal was proper, but the decision was reversed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Caterpillar appealed.

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