Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 15 (1994)

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Cite as: 512 U. S. 107 (1994)

Opinion of the Court

v. White Motor Corp., 435 U. S. 497, 504 (1978) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also New York Telephone Co. v. New York State Dept. of Labor, 440 U. S. 519, 533 (1979) (plurality opinion).

2

We begin with the most complete of the defenses mounted by the Commissioner, one that seems (or seemed until recently, at least) to be at the heart of her position: that the challenged policy, far from being pre-empted by federal law, is positively compelled by it, and that even if the Commissioner had been so inclined, the LMRA 301 would have precluded enforcement of Livadas's penalty claim. The non-enforcement policy, she suggests, is a necessary emanation from this Court's 301 pre-emption jurisprudence, marked as it has been by repeated admonitions that courts should steer clear of collective-bargaining disputes between parties who have provided for arbitration. See, e. g., Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U. S. 202 (1985). Because, this argument runs (and Livadas was told in the DLSE no-action letter), disposition of a union-represented employee's penalty claim entails the "interpretation or application" of a collective-bargaining agreement (since determining the amount owed turns on the contractual rate of pay agreed) resort to a state tribunal would lead it into territory that Congress, in enacting 301, meant to be covered exclusively by arbitrators.

This reasoning, however, mistakes both the functions 301 serves in our national labor law and our prior decisions according that provision pre-emptive effect. To be sure, we have read the text of 301 15 not only to grant federal courts jurisdiction over claims asserting breach of collective-15 Section 301 states that "[s]uits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees . . . may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties . . . ." 29 U. S. C. 185(a).

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