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SUPER MKT. SERV. CORP. v. GENERAL DRIVERS LOCAL UN

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


April 5, 1972

Super Market Service Corporation, Plaintiff
v.
General Drivers & Helpers Local Union 229, International Brotherhood Of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen And Helpers Of America, Defendant

Muir, D. J.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: MUIR

MUIR, D. J.:

This is an action for damages under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, as amended, 29 U.S.C. ยง 185, for violation of provisions of a labor agreement amounting to a "no-strike" clause. Before the Court is the union local's motion for a stay of the action pending arbitration.

 The only question raised by the motion is whether the Company's claim for damages is referable to arbitration. Since the obligation to submit a controversy to arbitration is wholly contractual, the answer depends on an interpretation of the agreement binding the parties. Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining Co., 370 U.S. 238, 241, 82 S. Ct. 1318, 8 L. Ed. 2d 462 (1962); Boeing Co. v. International Union, U.A.A.& A. Implement Workers, 370 F.2d 969 (3d Cir. 1967).

 It is well-established that arbitration clauses in labor-management contracts should be so construed as to effectuate Congressional policy favoring the settlement of labor disputes. Although a reluctant party may not be compelled to submit a controversy to arbitration unless under a fair construction of the agreement he is bound to do so, issues must be referred to arbitration unless "it may be said with positive assurance" that the arbitration clause is not susceptible of a construction that the plaintiff is bound to arbitrate the issues involved in its action for damages. United Steelworkers of America v. Warrior & Gulf Nav. Co., 363 U.S. 574, 582, 80 S. Ct. 1347, 1353, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1409 (1960); Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining Co., supra; Boeing Co. v. International Union, U.A.A. & A. Implement Workers, supra.

 I am unable to say "with positive assurance" that the arbitration clause in the instant case "is not susceptible of an interpretation that covers" the dispute concerning damages resulting from the work stoppage.

 Paragraph 16, Section (a) of the agreement defines a grievance as "any controversy, complaint, misunderstanding, or dispute" and states that "any grievance arising between the Company and the Union or an employee represented by the Union shall be settled" in accordance with a grievance and arbitration procedure, *fn1" set forth in the contract. Broader language defining the range of arbitrable issues under a labor arbitration clause would be difficult to imagine.

 It is true, as the Company argues, that the grievance procedure outlined in Steps 1 through 3 is not designed to accommodate Company grievances, but this fact is not dispositive and does not supply that "positive assurance" requisite to deny the defendant's motion to stay these proceedings.

 Reduced to its simplest terms, the Company's argument is that since the grievance machinery does not give the Company the right to grieve, its claim for damages is not arbitrable. *fn2" This is a non sequitur. Section (a) provides that " any grievance arising between the Company and the Union or an employee represented by the Union" shall be settled by the procedure set forth in Paragraph 16. Section (c) provides:

 

"If no satisfactory settlement can be agreed upon, the parties shall select a mutually agreeable and impartial Arbitrator within five (5) days after disagreement

 

* * *"

 Section (e) provides:

 

"Both parties agree to accept the decision of the Arbitrator as final and binding. * * *"

 By its terms, then, the arbitration provision of this agreement covers every controversy between the Union and the Company. The Company properly distinguishes Yale & Towne Mfg. Co. v. Local Lodge No. 1717, 299 F.2d 882 (3d Cir. 1962); there, the contract expressly provided that "either party may invoke the grievance procedure." But its reliance upon Boeing Co. v. International Union, U.A.A. & A. Implement Workers, supra, is misplaced. In Boeing, the agreement expressly provided that the only arbitrable issues were those "involving the interpretation or application of the provisions of the agreement which have been processed through Step 4 of the grievance procedure." 370 F.2d at 971. That is not this case.

 The Company attempts to distinguish Drake Bakeries v. American Bakery Workers, 370 U.S. 254, 8 L. Ed. 2d 474, 82 S. Ct. 1346 (1962). While it is true that in that case the agreement contained an express provision that "either party shall have the right to refer" grievances to arbitration, I do not find the absence of such an express provision in the instant case so compelling a consideration that I can say "with positive assurance" that the instant arbitration clause, therefore, does not cover the issue of damages for breach of the contract.

  The Company places unwarranted emphasis upon the language of Section (d), which provides that "in the event the position of the Union is sustained, the aggrieved party shall be entitled to all the benefits of this Agreement which would have accrued to him had there been no grievance subject to the award of the arbitrator." It is not, as the Company contends, the clear implication of this language that the Company can never be "the aggrieved party" and may not, therefore, invoke the arbitration procedure.

 For these reasons, the Motion to Stay the proceedings for damages pending arbitration will be granted.

 Order

 The Defendant's Motion to Stay the proceedings for damages pending arbitration is granted.


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