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Conley v. Gibson

United States Supreme Court
355 U.S. 42 (1957)


In May 1954, Local Union No. 28 (Local 28) of the Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship Clerks (Brotherhood) entered into an agreement with the Texas and New Orleans Railroad (Railroad) to discharge 45 African American employees, allegedly as part of a reduction in force layoff. In fact, Local 28 had made an agreement with the Railroad to lay off the African American employees and hire white employees in their place; in rare instances, the African American employees were rehired, but with loss of seniority. Although the African American employees requested repeatedly for help from Local 28 regarding the discriminatory firings, Local 28 did not give them any protection. The evidence further suggested that Local 28 regularly did not provide the same level of representation to African American employees as white employees. Conley (plaintiff) and several other African American members of the Brotherhood brought a class action suit against the Brotherhood, Local 28, and several officers, including Gibson (defendant), alleging discrimination in violation of Conley’s and other African American members’ right under the Railway Labor Act to fair representation. Gibson filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, thus failing the standard set forth in F.R.Civ.Pro. 12. The district court granted the motion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

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