APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY. (Civil Action No. 74-987).
Aldisert, Gibbons and Garth, Circuit Judges.
This appeal requires us to decide whether a dispute over the interpretation and application of a provision in a collective bargaining agreement barring re-arbitration of questions or issues that were previously the subject of arbitration is arbitrable; if so, the dispute is for the arbitrator in the first instance, and not the courts. Contending that a 1946 arbitrator's decision bound the company, the union commenced this § 301 action*fn1 and sought to enjoin RCA's efforts to proceed with the current arbitration proceedings. After a hearing the district court denied all relief and dismissed the complaint. This appeal followed. We affirm.
Appellant, Local 103 of the International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, AFL-CIO, and RCA Corporation have been signatories to successive collective bargaining agreements since 1936. The district court found, and the parties do not dispute, that:
5. Each collective bargaining agreement entered into by the parties has provided for the resolution of disputes regarding the interpretation or application of any provision of the agreement through a multi-staged grievance procedure which culminates in final and binding arbitration pursuant to the rules of the American Arbitration [Association]. Further, each such contract since 1936, including the contract presently in effect, provides that, "In no event . . . shall the same question [or issue] be the subject of arbitration more than once."
6. Each collective bargaining agreement that has been in effect between the parties since 1936 has contained in identical language a provision presently designated as paragraph 4.04 that provides as follows:
WAGE RATES FOR NEW OCCUPATIONAL CLASSIFICATIONS:
In the event that the Company desires to make any new occupational classifications, the hourly rates applicable thereto shall be determined by negotiations between the Company and the local Union, and the Company will supply the local Union with the occupational classification number, the definitions thereof, and the agreed hourly wage rates for such new occupational classifications.
In 1945 a dispute arose between the parties relating to the duties to be performed by employees holding occupational classification No. 271. Arbitrator J. O. Keller was selected, held hearings, and issued an award in Grievance No. 573 dated March 20, 1946:
The Company shall set about at once to prepare a "job description" of occupational classification No. 271 in accordance with paragraph 4.14 of the Agreement and shall then in accordance with paragraph 4.14 and/or paragraph 4.04, start necessary proceedings to negotiate the hourly rate with the Union.
The seeds of this controversy germinate not so much from the arbitrator's award as they do from the opinion he filed in support thereof. His opinion was seemingly simple and clear cut. He stated that he could not resolve the substance of Grievance No. 573 because no official job description had been prepared by the company and:
Until such a job description has been prepared and the hourly rate subscribed to by both the Company and the Union, the Arbitrator cannot determine whether an operator supposedly classified under this occupation is working within or without the occupation, no matter what past practices have been. The Company was supposed to have completed all job descriptions not later than ...