COUCH v. PRESCOLITE MANUFACTURING CORPORATION

191 F. Supp. 737 (1961) | Cited 0 times | W.D. Arkansas | February 21, 1961

Plaintiffs, representatives of a labor organization having acollective bargaining agreement with defendant, seek to compelthe latter to submit to arbitration under said agreement withrespect to certain changes in wages, working conditions and thelike which the Union has proposed to defendant, but upon whichthe parties have not been able to agree.1 Taking the positionthatit is not required to arbitrate the particular matters thatplaintiffs desire to have arbitrated, defendant has filed amotion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that it does notstate a claim upon which relief can be granted. Rule 12(b)(6),Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 28 U.S.C.A.

Attached to the motion as exhibits are copies of the collectivebargaining agreement and of the changes which the Union proposesto incorporate into the contract. Since the Court has consideredthose materials in addition to the bare allegations of thecomplaint, the motion will be treated as one for summary judgmentas authorized by Rule 12(b). The motion has been submitted onwritten briefs.

The contract in suit covered an initial period of two yearsbeginning November 1, 1958, and ending October 31, 1960. By itsterms the agreement continues in effect from year to yearthereafter unless amended, modified, or terminated as providedtherein. The contract appears to be not unusual in form. Itcovers wages, hours, and working conditions, and containsprovisions for the settlement of disputes and the arbitration ofgrievances.

Section 2 of Article I of the contract provides that eitherparty desiring to amend, modify, or terminate the agreement mustnotify the other party in writing at least 60 days in advance ofexpiration of the contract; that whenever such notice is given,the nature of desired changes is to be specified in the notice;and that until agreement is reached in the matter of suchproposed changes, the original terms of the agreement shallremain in full force and effect.

Section 3 of the same article provides that the contract shallbe subject to amendment "at any time by mutual consent of theparties" thereto, and that any amendment agreed upon shall bereduced to writing, signed by the parties, and approved by theinternational office of the Union.

Section 4 of Article I reads as follows:

"The union and the company agree that there shall be no strikes, boycotts, lock-outs, slow-downs, curtailment of work or restriction of production by employees during the life of this agreement and that in the event differences or disputes should arise between the company or union or should any local trouble of any kind arise in the plant, there shall be no suspension of work by employees on account of such differences, but shall be processed as stated in `Grievance Procedure' of this agreement."

Article III sets up a grievance procedure for the settling ofany differences which might arise between the Union and thedefendant "as to interpretation or meaning of any writtenprovision of this agreement." The procedure set up consists of aseries of four steps, the first three of which are to consist ofdiscussions and negotiations.

The fourth step is actually in two parts. If a grievance is notsettled within five days by means of discussions betweendefendant's plant manager and the business agent of the Union,the matter is referred to a Joint Conference Committee,consisting of three representatives of the employer and threerepresentatives of the Union, and if that committee is unable toreach an agreement, the grievance is to be submitted to theIndustrial Relations Council of the National ElectricalContractors Association and of the International Brotherhood ofElectrical Works for arbitration, and the decision of the Councilshall be final and binding on both parties.

As stated, the contract was to become effective as of November1, 1958. The agreement was actually signed on February 9, 1959.It appears that at that time the parties were in a dispute as tothe wages to be paid to the different classes of workersmentioned in the contract, and by a separate written agreementthe parties submitted the question of wage rates to the industrycouncil which has been mentioned for the purpose of arbitration.That question was arbitrated by the council, and a schedule ofwages was fixed and put into effect, the awardbeing made retroactive to February 9, 1959.

Subsequently, the Union proposed certain changes in theoriginal contract, including substantial wage increases, andrequested the defendant to negotiate with respect thereto.Negotiations not having resulted in an agreement, this suit wasfiled to compel arbitration with respect to the amendmentsdesired by the Union.

There is now no question that under section 301(a) of theLabor-Management Relations Act a provision for arbitrationcontained in a collective bargaining agreement may bespecifically enforced by the federal courts provided that thematter in dispute is an arbitrable issue under the contract.Textile Workers Union of America v. Lincoln Mills of Alabama,353 U.S. 448, 77 S.Ct. 912, 923, 1 L.Ed.2d 972; see also GeneralElectric Co. v. Local 205, United Electrical, Radio & MachineWorkers of America, 353 U.S. 547, 77 S.Ct. 921, 1 L.Ed.2d 1028;Goodall-Sanford, Inc. v. United Textile Workers, 353 U.S. 550, 77S.Ct. 920, 1 L.Ed.2d 1031. Since those decisions were handeddown, such specific performance has been granted at least twiceby federal courts sitting in Arkansas. Glass Bottle BlowersAssociation of United States and Canada, AFL-CIO v. ArkansasGlass Container Corporation, D.C.Ark., 183 F. Supp. 829;International Union of Operating Engineers (AFL-CIO), Local No.381 v. Monsanto Chemical Co., D.C.Ark., 164 F. Supp. 406.

Before ordering specific performance, however, the court isrequired to ascertain whether the issues which the plaintiffdesires to submit to arbitration are arbitrable under thecollective bargaining agreement. United Steelworkers of Americav. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 80 S.Ct. 1347, 4L.Ed.2d 1409; United Steel Workers of America v. AmericanManufacturing Co., 363 U.S. 564, 80 S.Ct. 1363, 4 L.Ed. 2d 1432;Chauffeurs, Teamsters & Helpers Local Union No. 795 v. YellowTransit Freight Lines, 10 Cir., 282 F.2d 345; Brass and CopperWorkers Federal Labor Union No. 19322, AFL-CIO v. American BrassCo., 7 Cir., 272 F.2d 849. International Tel. & Tel. Corporationv. Local 400, Professional, Technical & Salaried Division,Intern. Union of Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers, D.C.N.J.,184 F. Supp. 866.

Article III of the contract with which the Court is concernedhere was obviously designed to cover ordinary employee grievanceswhich might be expected to arise during the life of theagreement, and plaintiffs do not appear to contend that saidarticle itself makes the existing dispute as to changes in thecontract subject to arbitration.

What the plaintiffs do contend is that section 4 of article I,which is sometimes called the "no-strike" clause and which refersto the arbitration provisions set forth in article III, is broadenough to make arbitrable disputes relative to amendments to thecontract which the Union desires to have adopted. The defendantcontends, on the other hand, that such proposed amendments werenever intended to be the subject of arbitration, and that tocompel an arbitration of the pending dispute would be to compelthe defendant to yield to the decision of the arbitrators onmatters which should be the subject of voluntary negotiation.

The scope of an arbitration clause in a collective bargainingagreement depends, in the last analysis, upon the intent of theparties as expressed in the contract. While the parties to suchan agreement may stipulate that disputes arising from the desireof either of the parties to amend or renegotiate shall besubmitted to arbitration, such a stipulation must be clearly andunambiguously expressed in the contract. See in this connectionAnnotation appearing in 24 A.L.R.2d 752 et seq., and particularlypages 757-759 and 771-774.

The contract involved in this case does not clearly andunambiguously express an intention that demands for amendments besubmitted to arbitration. On the contrary, the Court is convincedthat it was the intention of the parties that arbitration shouldbe limited to disputesinvolving the meaning and application of the contract as writtenat any particular time, and should not include disputes whichmight arise out of the desire of either party to reopen or amendthe agreement.

While section 2 of article I gives to either party the right tobring up the matter of reopening and modifying the contract, itseems clear to the Court that such modifications as might beeffected were to be the result of negotiations between theparties and not forced upon either party by means of arbitration.

In this connection section 3 of article I provides that theagreement should be subject to amendment "by mutual consent" ofthe parties, and that any amendment agreed upon should be reducedto writing, signed by the parties, and approved by theinternational office of the Union. Had the parties to theagreement desired to submit disputes relative to amendments tothe contract to arbitration, they would hardly have used thelanguage just mentioned, which is inconsistent with the idea thatsuch disputes should be arbitrated, both sides to be bound by theresult. An examination of the authorities indicates that whenparties to collective bargaining agreements desire to makedisputes relative to amendments and modifications arbitrable theyknow how to say so. See cases cited in 24 A.L.R.2d at pages772-774; see also the arbitration clause involved in BostonPrinting Pressmen's Union v. Potter Press, D.C.Mass., 141 F. Supp. 553,affirmed 1 Cir., 241 F.2d 787, certiorari denied355 U.S. 817, 78 S.Ct. 21, 2 L.Ed. 2d 34. And it must be remembered thatarbitration of disputes relative to contract amendments is notalways to the advantage of the party desiring amendment.

In plaintiffs' brief attention is called to the fact that theparties actually arbitrated the dispute as to wages, whichdispute was going on when the basic contract was signed inFebruary 1959. But, the Court does not infer from that fact thatthe parties intended for future wage disputes or disputes overamendments to the contract in other respects to be arbitrated. Asnoted, the parties entered into a special agreement to negotiatethe existing wage dispute, and it is at least arguable that theparties by their action in entering into a separate agreementrecognized that such an arbitration was not provided for in thebasic contract.

As to section 4 of article I, it seems to the Court that whilethe "no-strike" provisions contained in that section are couchedin broad terms, they relate to disputes and differences arisingunder the existing contract and arbitrable under article III, andare not inconsistent with the provision of section 3 of article Iwhich provides for amendment by "mutual consent."

But, entirely aside from the foregoing, there is anotherimpediment to the plaintiffs' obtaining the relief which theyseek. In Boston Printing Pressmen's Union v. Potter Press, supra,the agreement specifically provided that the contract should besubject to renegotiation, and that if the parties could not agreeon amendments, their differences should be arbitrated. The Unionmade demands for amendments, and after a failure of negotiationsbrought suit for specific performance, which was denied by thedistrict court. As indicated, the Court of Appeals affirmed, andthe Supreme Court denied certiorari.

In rejecting the plaintiffs' demand for specific performance,the district court in Pressmen's drew a sharp distinction betweenarbitration of disputes relating to amendments to collectivebargaining agreements, which amendments would have principallyprospective application, which type of arbitration the courtcalled "quasi-legislative," and arbitration of disputes whichhave arisen with regard to the meaning and application ofexisting contracts, which type of arbitration was referred to as"quasi-judicial." It was held by both the district court and thecourt of appeals that neither the Labor-Management Relations Actnor the United States Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C.A. § 1 et seq., asnow drawn, authorizes the federal courts to enforce specificallyagreements calling for "quasi-legislative" arbitration. ThisCourt concurs in the reasoning and conclusion of both courts inthe Pressmen's case, and is of the opinion that the result therereached is applicable here.

As stated, the Court treats defendant's motion as a motion forsummary judgment under Rule 56, 28 U.S.C.A., and concludes thatthis case presents no genuine issue as to a material fact, andthat defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Themotion will be granted, and the complaint dismissed.

1. The action was commenced in the Chancery Court of UnionCounty, Arkansas, and the defendant removed the case here on thebasis of section 301(a) of the Labor-Management Relations Act of1947, 29 U.S.C.A. § 185(a). Since the complaint alleges a breachof the collective bargaining agreement, the cause was removable.Swift & Co. v. United Packinghouse Workers of America, D.C.Colo.,177 F. Supp. 511; Tool and Die Makers Lodge No. 78, InternationalAss'n of Machinists, AFL-CIO v. General Electric Co., D.C.Wis.,170 F. Supp. 945.

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