may submit to arbitration under the Voluntary Labor Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association the sole issue of whether the employee participated in violence and/or other strike or picket line misconduct." (Plaintiff's Exhibit 2).
Pursuant to this agreement Kraft supplied the Union with a list of 41 employees who would be discharged, and the Union submitted these discharges to arbitration. Peter Seitz, Esquire, was designated as the arbitrator and hearings were scheduled. The first hearing took place as scheduled on December 15, 1975. At that time a dispute arose between the parties as to the nature of the issue to be resolved by the arbitrator. Nevertheless the hearing continued, with frequent objections to testimony as irrelevant.
Between the first hearing and the second hearing, scheduled for January 5, 1976, Kraft requested by letter to Mr. Seitz that the arbitrator rule that the sole issue to be arbitrated was "participation." (Plaintiff's Exhibit 3). The Union also sent Mr. Seitz a letter stating its position. (Plaintiff's Exhibit 4). Mr. Seitz responded to this correspondence with a letter dated January 3, 1976, explaining his views as to the nature of the issue before him. Mr. Seitz noted that the "sole issue" was indeed whether named employees "participated in violence and/or other strike or picket line misconduct." While evidence not relevant to that issue would be excluded, Mr. Seitz pointed out that the "sole issue" to be arbitrated was not as simple as Kraft seemed to contend, since the arbitrator necessarily would have to determine what the parties intended by terms such as "participation," "violence" and "misconduct." In this regard Mr. Seitz stated that although the words "just cause" are not incorporated in the Memorandum of Agreement, the arbitrator must necessarily consider the extent of an infraction to determine whether it was the kind of misconduct that was intended by the parties to be grounds for dismissal.
The second hearing was scheduled for January 5, 1976, but no testimony was taken at that time. The arbitrator presented to the parties his interim ruling concerning the scope of the issue before him, in the form of his letter of January 3rd. Kraft refused to abide by the arbitrator's ruling, and argued that the parties had not agreed that the arbitrator could decide the question of his own jurisdiction. At this point Mr. Seitz apparently decided that a conclusive and binding decision was not possible if the parties could not agree on the scope of the arbitrator's authority. Consequently, Mr. Seitz refused to proceed on an ex parte basis, despite the Union's request that he do so. In light of the breakdown in the arbitration proceedings, the Union then filed this action in the United States District Court.
Jurisdiction of this case is based on section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 185. It is well settled that federal courts have jurisdiction to compel arbitration of disputes which an employer and a union had agreed to submit to arbitration. See United Steelworkers of America v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1409, 80 S. Ct. 1347 (1960); United Steelworkers of America v. American Manufacturing Co., 363 U.S. 564, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1403, 80 S. Ct. 1343 (1960); Textile Workers Union of America v. Lincoln Mills of Alabama, 353 U.S. 448, 1 L. Ed. 2d 972, 77 S. Ct. 912 (1957). Because of the strong federal policy in favor of the peaceful resolution of labor disputes through arbitration, arbitration awards are not disturbed by reviewing courts as long as the arbitrator's interpretation "can in any rational way be derived from the agreement." Ludwig Honold Manufacturing Co. v. Fletcher, 405 F.2d 1123 (3d Cir. 1969). See also NF&M Corp. v. United Steelworkers of America, 524 F.2d 756 (3d Cir. 1975).
One aspect of the strong preference for an arbitrator's decision is that courts refuse to review the resolution of procedural matters by an arbitrator. In John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v. Livingston, 376 U.S. 543, 11 L. Ed. 2d 898, 84 S. Ct. 909 (1964), the United States Supreme Court stated that:
"Once it is determined, as we have, that the parties are obligated to submit the subject matter of a dispute to arbitration, procedural questions which grow out of the dispute and bear on its final disposition should be left to the arbitrator." 376 U.S. at 557.