A struggling business, McLean Trucking Company, engaged in some dubious labor practices, ending with McLean firing twenty-seven unionized truckers. The fired truckers (plaintiffs) launched grievances against McLean. As required by law, they were represented by their union, Teamsters and Helpers, Local No. 391 (defendant). But in one of the proceedings, the union also represented other union members with seemingly adverse interests. After losing in the grievance proceeding, the truckers sued their union in federal court, alleging poor representation and seeking damages. The truckers asked for a jury trial, but the union demanded a bench trial. The district court, citing the Seventh Amendment, ordered a jury trial. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.