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SUN OIL CO. v. LOCAL 8-901

November 5, 1976

SUN OIL COMPANY OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
LOCAL 8-901, OIL, CHEMICAL, AND ATOMIC WORKERS' INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BECKER

 EDWARD R. BECKER, J.

 I. Preliminary Statement

 This is a labor arbitration case which presents the question whether to vacate or enforce an arbitrator's award ordering the Sun Oil Company (the company) to alter a work assignment that it had made at its Marcus Hook, Pa. refinery over protest of Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, Local 8-901, AFL-CIO (the union). *fn1" The dispute which led to the arbitrator's award emanated from the decision of the company to have certain of its operating division personnel, known as "hosewatchers and dockworkers," perform gas testing functions which previously had been performed exclusively by personnel in a job classification known as "Gas Testers." The original grievance, filed by a chief hosewatcher in the company's dock department, alleged that the work assignment violated Article VIII.M. of the collective bargaining agreement to which the company and the union were parties because:

 
"Dock Personnel [are] being commandeered to perform gas testing duties with which they are totally unfamiliar, places an undue hardship on the men performing these duties. The use of Dock Personnel to use gas tester equipment causes an unsafe condition within the Refinery for themselves and other employees."

 Article VIII.M. of the agreement provides:

 
"No employee shall be required to perform services that may endanger his physical safety beyond the usual and normal requirements of his job."

 After the grievance passed through the three-step grievance procedure without resolution, the company and the union, in accordance with their agreement, submitted it to a mutually selected arbitrator, Arnold Zack. The parties stipulated that the question for the arbitrator to decide was:

 
Does the use of gas tester equipment by the dockers and hosewatchmen violate Article VIII-M or any other pertinent provision of the parties' agreement? What shall be the remedy, if any?

 After three days of hearings, which included the testimony of the grievant, an industrial hygienist, and an experienced gas tester for the union, and several refinery supervisors for the company, and the review of briefs submitted by the parties, the arbitrator issued his award, accompanied by a 13 page opinion. The award was as follows:

 
"The use of Gas Tester equipment by Dockers and Hosewatchmen does violate Article VIII M of the parties' agreement. The work shall be reassigned to Gas Testers."

 The company contends that the arbitrator's decision must be vacated for several reasons. First, the company argues that the award does not in any rational way draw its essence from the collective bargaining agreement because work assignments fall within the management functions articles of the agreement and therefore are the exclusive prerogative of the company. *fn2" In addition, the company maintains that if the arbitrator could properly reverse its decision to assign gas testing duties to dock department personnel, he could not order that the work be reassigned to gas testers because of the management functions provisions.

 The company's second major argument is that the arbitrator's award is irrational because there was no evidence whatsoever that dock employees were required to perform services which might endanger their physical safety beyond the usual and normal requirements of their job. This argument is two-pronged. First, the company argues that because once the gas testing duties were assigned to dock personnel, these duties became a part of the usual and normal requirements of their jobs, hence the gas testing duties could not endanger the employees' physical safety beyond the usual requirements of their jobs of which the duties were now a part. The second aspect of the argument, and the most troublesome point in the case, is the contention that there is no evidence in any event that the addition of the gas testing duties increased the danger to the dockworkers' and hosewatchmens' physical safety. Needless to say, the Union has vigorously countered each and everyone of the company's arguments.

 Given the extremely limited scope of review of labor arbitration awards, we have no difficulty in rejecting the company's arguments regarding the management functions provisions of the agreement, since they merely raise issues of interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement which were rationally resolved by the arbitrator in favor of the union. And, for the reasons which follow in considerable detail, although the question is an extremely close one, we also reject the company's contention that the award is irrational for lack of any evidence to support it. Accordingly, we will deny plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, grant defendant's motion, and order enforcement of the arbitrator's award.

 II. Scope of Review

 The role of a district court in reviewing an arbitrator's award is a sharply limited one which was carefully circumscribed by the Supreme Court in the famous Steelworkers trilogy. United Steelworkers v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1424, 80 S. Ct. 1358 (1960); United Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigator Co., 363 U.S. 574, 80 S. Ct. 1347, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1409 (1960); United Steelworkers v. American Mfg. Co., 363 U.S. 564, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1403, 80 S. Ct. 1343 (1960). In Enterprise Wheel, the Court stated that an arbitrator's award "is legitimate only so long as it draws its essence from the collective bargaining agreement." The Court also articulated in that opinion the basic reasons why arbitrator's awards are subject to only limited review:

 
When an arbitrator is commissioned to interpret and apply the collective bargaining agreement, he is to bring his informed judgment to bear in order to reach a fair solution of a problem. . . .
 
It is the arbitrator's construction which was bargained for; and so far as the arbitrator's decision concerns construction of the contract, the courts have no business overruling him because their interpretation of the contract is different from his.

 363 U.S. at 597, 599.

 The Third Circuit elaborated on the standard of review and the rationale behind its limited scope in the leading case of Ludwig Honold Mfg. Co. v. Fletcher, 405 F.2d 1123 (3d Cir. 1969). As to the rationale, the court stated:

 
It is not within the province of a reviewing court to agree or to disagree with the conclusion reached or with the specific reasoning employed. Our sole function is to decide whether the arbitrator's interpretation met the test which the courts must apply in exercising the limited function of review in cases arising from labor arbitration.

 405 F.2d at 1132.

 The test of whether a labor arbitrator's award draws its essence from the collective bargaining agreement, as stated in ...


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