The opinion of the court was delivered by: FOLLMER
This is a suit under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, commonly called the Taft-Hartley Act, 61 Stat. 156, 29 U.S.C.A. § 185, to order defendant to proceed to an arbitration under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement in effect between the parties.
This Court has jurisdiction of the action under the provisions of Section 301(a) of said Act.
The plaintiff in this case is a labor union, which is the exclusive representative for the purposes of collective bargaining of all District Agents employed by the defendant, The Prudential Insurance Company of America, in various districts throughout the United States, including Chester, Pennsylvania, where the plaintiff operates through its Local Union, Local No. 130.
Benjamin D. Merchant, an Insurance Agent employed by the defendant, was a member of Local No. 130, and was dismissed by the defendant on or about August 3, 1951. At the time of his dismissal there was in effect a collective bargaining agreement, which had been entered into on or about November 28, 1949, and which did not expire until December 1, 1951. The existence of the contract and the dismissal of Benjamin D. Merchant as indicated were admitted at the trial.
The chronology of events giving rise to the controversy is as follows:
(a) On July 25, 1951 notice was given to Benjamin D. Merchant, an agent of the defendant, that his services would be terminated on August 3, 1951.
(b) On July 26, 1951 Merchant in writing notified the defendant of the appointment of the Union to act for him, as provided in Section 6 of Article XXIV of the contract.
(c) On August 10, 1951 the Grievance Committee, in accordance with the grievance procedure provided in Section 3 of Article XXIV of the contract, filed its grievance requesting a conference in connection with the termination of the services of Mr. Merchant.
(d) On August 14, 1951 the Grievance Committee met with District Manager Mullen, who refused to reinstate the agent. This action was taken by the District Manager four days after the filing of the grievance and within the seven days within which he was required to take action in accordance with Section 5 of Article XXIV of the contract.
(e) On August 23, 1951 defendant received from the plaintiff a letter bearing date August 21, 1951, enclosed in an envelope postmarked Washington, D.C., and on which the stamped date of mailing was August 22, 1951. This letter stated that the Grievance Committee was dissatisfied with the decision of District Manager Mullen and requested plaintiff's reinstatement. Plaintiff and defendant agree that the letter may be considered as a request of the Union for a further conference.
(f) On August 31, 1951 the defendant replied to that letter, advising that the Union's letter expressing dissatisfaction with the review was mailed on August 22, 1951 and received on August 23, 1951, nine days after the review with the Grievance Committee. The defendant further advised that inasmuch as the notice was not received within seven days after such review as required under Section 5 of Article XXIV of the agreement, the matter was not subject to further review under the grievance procedure.
(g) On September 5, 1951 the plaintiff wrote to the defendant, contending that its letter dated August 21, 1951 and received by the defendant on August 23, 1951, constituted a notice in writing within seven days as contemplated by Section 5 of Article XXIV of the contract and demanding an arbitration under Article XXV of the agreement.
(h) On September 18, 1951 the defendant advised the plaintiff that the written notice was not given within the seven day period as required by Section 5 of Article XXIV and that the grievance was therefore not subject to further review under the grievance procedure and declined to accede to arbitration.
Article XXIV (page 18) of the collective bargaining agreement provides a procedure for the handling of grievances and for the processing and settlement of the same. In Section 3 of Article XXIV specific provision is made for a grievance which involves the termination of the services of an agent, stating that such a grievance shall be taken up directly with the manager of the district by the Grievance Committee. Section 5 of Article XXIV provides that the manager of the district shall review the grievance with the Grievance Committee and then 'Within seven days after the grievance committee is informed of the result of any review with the manager of the district, the Union, if it desires, may give notice in writing to the president of the Employer of its dissatisfaction with the result of such review, giving its reasons therefor, and the matter shall then be ...