United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
OPINION AND ORDER
HOLMES, III U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
16, 2018, Exide Technologies (“Exide”) filed a
complaint (Doc. 1) in this Court. Pursuant to 29 U.S.C.
§ 185(a), Exide asks the Court to vacate an opinion and
award entered by an arbitrator following arbitration of a
collective bargaining agreement dispute. International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and its local union No. 700
(“IBEW Local 700”) answered and counterclaimed
(Doc. 13), asking the Court to confirm the arbitrator's
opinion and award. Exide filed an answer (Doc. 15). The
parties agreed (Doc. 17) that no discovery was necessary in
this matter because the record and evidence had been fully
developed during the arbitration and postarbitration process,
and that because no issues of fact were in dispute, no bench
trial was necessary and the parties could submit the matter
on summary judgment.
the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment. IBEW Local
700 filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 19), statement
of facts (Doc. 20), and brief (Doc. 21) in support. Exide
filed a response (Doc. 25) and statement of facts (Doc. 26)
in opposition. IBEW Local 700 filed a reply (Doc. 29).
Separately, Exide filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc.
22), brief (Doc. 23), and statement of facts (Doc. 24) in
support. IBEW Local 700 filed a response (Doc. 27) and
statement of facts (Doc. 28) in opposition. Exide filed a
reply (Doc. 30). On March 7, 2019, the Court held a hearing
on the motions.
Court has carefully reviewed the parties' statements of
fact and responses to statements of fact, considered those
statements of fact in light of clarifications provided at the
hearing, and concludes that there are no genuine disputes of
material fact and that these motions for summary judgment are
not affected by inferences to be drawn from the facts.
Rather, every purported dispute of fact is instead a dispute
between the parties about the legal import of that fact.
is a battery recycler and manufacturer with a plant in Fort
Smith, Arkansas. IBEW Local 700 is the recognized bargaining
agent for production and maintenance employees at the plant.
IBEW Local 700 and Exide are parties to a collective
bargaining agreement (“CBA”) (Doc. 1-2), which
agrees that unresolved grievances are to be submitted to
arbitration. The CBA also addresses Family and Medical Leave
Act (“FMLA”) leave administration.
August 22, 2016, Exide notified employees that Unum would be
assuming responsibility for FMLA administration. On August
31, 2016, IBEW Local 700 filed a grievance, claiming that the
transition to Unum was a major change in terms and conditions
of employment. Exide denied the grievance, and IBEW Local 700
filed two unfair labor practice charges with the National
Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”). The cases were
consolidated, the unfair labor practice charges were
conditionally dismissed under the NLRB's deferral policy,
and the dispute regarding the CBA was submitted to binding
arbitration in accordance with the CBA's provisions.
arbitration, the arbitrator issued an opinion and award (Doc.
1-2, pp. 238-255) finding that Exide violated the CBA and
committed an unfair labor practice in violation of § 8
of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 158
when it unilaterally contracted with a third party
administrator to administrate FMLA leave and refused to
submit to collective bargaining on that issue. The arbitrator
ordered Exide to return to its prior FMLA leave
administration policies, make whole any employees who endured
discipline or monetary loss for failing to follow the new
policies, and submit to collective bargaining on this issue
at IBEW Local 700's request. Exide filed this action to
vacate the arbitrator's findings and award, and the
parties have briefed the matter for judgment.
Standard of Review
there is no genuine dispute of material fact, “[t]he
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that .
. . the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Where cross-motions are
filed, each motion is considered in its own right.
Wermager v. Cormorant Township Board, 716 F.2d 1211,
1214 (8th Cir. 1983).
as here, a party files an action pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §
185 concerning a collective bargaining agreement dispute that
has been subject to arbitration, the Court “review[s]
an arbitrator's award to determine whether: (1) the
parties agreed to arbitrate; and (2) the arbitrator had the
power to make the award.” PSC Custom, LP v. United
Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy,
Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union,
Local No. 11-770, 763 F.3d 1005, 1008 (8th Cir. 2014)
(quoting Excel Corp. v. United Food & Commercial
Workers International Union, Local 431, 102 F.3d 1464,
1467 (8th Cir. 1996)). And where, as here, the parties agree
to arbitrate and the arbitrator has authority,
“[j]udicial review of an arbitrator's decision is
extremely limited.” Id.
[T]he arbitrator's award settling a dispute with respect
to the interpretation or application of a labor agreement
must draw its essence from the contract and cannot simply
reflect the arbitrator's own notions of industrial
justice. But as long as the arbitrator is even arguably
construing or applying the contract and acting within the
scope of his authority, that a court is convinced he
committed serious error does not suffice to overturn his
United Paperworks International Union, AFL-CIO v. Misco,
Inc., 484 U.S. 29, 38 (1987). Where the arbitrator is
arguably construing the contract within the scope of his
authority, the Court “must accord an extraordinary
level of deference to the arbitrator's award.”
Boise Cascade Corp. v. Paper Allied-Industrial, Chemical
& Energy Workers, 309 F.3d 1075, 1080 (8th Cir.
arbitration award fails to draw its essence from the contract
when “it is contrary to the plain language of the
agreement, Bureau of Engraving, Inc. v. Graphic
Communications International Union, Local 1B, 164 F.3d
427, 429 (8th Cir. 1999); where “relevant language [is]
not considered by the arbitrator” or the
“decision does not account for essential clauses and
does not give a reason for the failure to mention essential
clauses, ” George A. Hormel & Co. v. United
Food & Commercial Workers, Local 9, AFL-CIO, 879
F.2d 347, 351 (8th Cir. 1989); or where the contract is
silent or ambiguous as to the parties' intent ...