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Teamsters Local Union No. 30 v. Helms Express

decided: January 5, 1979.

TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 30, AND TOM SEVER AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, APPELLANTS,
v.
HELMS EXPRESS INC., A DIV. OF RYDER TRUCK LINES, AND THE EASTERN CONFERENCE OF TEAMSTERS



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA (D.C. Civil No. 77-1177)

Before Aldisert and Hunter, Circuit Judges, and Gerry, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Aldisert

Opinion OF THE COURT

This appeal requires us to decide the propriety of an arbitration award handed down by the Eastern Conference Joint Area Committee (ECJAC), a joint union-employer committee designed to resolve disputes in the trucking industry in a fifteen state area in the Eastern United States. The district court dismissed the complaint seeking to set aside the award which had denied a grievance brought by International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 30 and certain of its members against Helms Express, Inc., a division of Ryder Truck Lines. The grievants have appealed. We affirm.

Appellants accept the general principle that courts should refuse to review the merits of an arbitration award where the parties have contractually agreed to be bound by the arbitrator's decision. United Steelworkers of America v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 580-83, 80 S. Ct. 1347, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1409 (1960); United Steelworkers of America v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 80 S. Ct. 1358, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1424 (1960), but seek to apply three exceptions to this precept. First, they assert that the ECJAC award is invalid because it does not "draw its essence from the collective bargaining agreement" and therefore is the product of an abuse of arbitral authority; second, that an ECJAC award should not deserve the same degree of judicial deference as an award by a third party arbitrator; and, third, that the award is invalid because the Eastern Conference breached its duty of fair representation, Hines v. Anchor Motor Freight, Inc., 424 U.S. 554, 571, 96 S. Ct. 1048, 47 L. Ed. 2d 231 (1976).

I.

To understand the nature of the grievance and the arbitration machinery, it is necessary first to examine the controlling provisions of the collective bargaining agreement entered into by the Teamsters, including Local 30, of which Tom Sever, the individual grievant, is a member. Helms, which employs Sever, and Local 30 are parties to the National Master Freight Agreement (NMFA) and the Joint Council No. 40 Local Cartage Supplemental Agreement. The NMFA is the product of multi-employer bargaining between Trucking Employers, Inc. and the Teamsters National Freight Industry Negotiating Committee, which represents local unions, including Local 30, affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Both the local unions and the Teamsters National Freight Industry Negotiating Committee are parties to the NMFA. This industry-wide agreement is supplemented by certain local agreements, which specify additional terms and conditions applicable only to specified employers and local unions. In the instant case, the NMFA incorporates the supplement between the Western Pennsylvania Motor Carriers Association and the Teamsters Joint Council No. 40 Freight Division (Supplement), representing specified local unions including Local 30. The NMFA and the Supplement constitute the entire collective bargaining agreement between the parties to that contract and contain a mandatory procedure for the resolution of all disputes between the parties.

Article 45 of the Supplement creates a joint area grievance committee, known as the Western Pennsylvania Teamsters and Employers Joint Area Committee, consisting of three representatives appointed by the employers. It also creates the Eastern Conference Joint Area Committee, similarly consisting of delegates of the local unions and the employers from the Eastern Conference area. Under Section 3 of Article 45 these two committees are charged with the responsibility of settling disputes which cannot be settled between the employer and the local union in the earlier stages of the grievance machinery.

The mechanics of the grievance machinery are set forth in Section 1 of Article 46 of the Supplement. That section specifies several preliminary steps to be followed by the parties in an attempt to adjust the matter short of a hearing. In the event the matter cannot be so adjusted, a hearing is held before the Western Pennsylvania Joint Area Committee which attempts to decide the matter by majority vote. If a majority vote is reached, no appeal may be taken and the decision is final and binding on both parties. If the Western Pennsylvania Joint Area Committee deadlocks, the matter is referred to ECJAC which, again by a majority vote, attempts to settle the dispute.*fn1 If the dispute is settled, the decision of ECJAC is final and binding on both parties and there is no right to a further appeal.*fn2 Section 1(a) of Article 8 provides that requests for interpretation of the NMFA shall be submitted directly to the Conference Joint Area Committee (here, ECJAC) for the making of a record on the matter, after which the matter shall be immediately referred to the National Grievance Committee for resolution. Otherwise, the contract provides that all factual grievances or questions of interpretation arising under the Supplement, or factual grievances arising under the NMFA, shall be processed in accordance with the grievance procedure of the Supplement. Thus, a grievance which a local union chooses to process through the local grievance machinery can be referred to the National Grievance Committee Only if the Conference Joint Area Committee deadlocks.

Unlike more restrictive arbitration provisions found in some labor agreements, the scope of the authority of the Joint Area Committees under the NMFA is extremely broad. The function of the Joint Area Committees, as set forth in the Supplement, is to "settle" disputes. In Section 3 of Article 45, it is stated that "it shall be the function of the various Committees above referred to to settle disputes which cannot be settled between the employer and the local union in accordance with the procedures established in Section 1 of Article 46." Appendix at 63.

II.

The instant dispute arises over the application of Article 20 of the NMFA, which states, in pertinent part:

The Union, its members and the Employer agree at all times as fully as it may be within their power to further their mutual interest and interests of the trucking industry and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters nationwide. The Union and the Employer recognize the principle of a fair day's work for a fair day's pay; that jobs and job security of employees working under this Agreement are best protected through efficient and productive operations of the Employer and the trucking industry. The Employer may establish reasonable work standards which shall take into account all factors relating to the work assignment, run, terminal and territorial operational conditions, subject to agreement and approval with the Local Union, and to be filed for approval with the Conference Joint Area Committee.

Appendix at 52. The grievance involves the implementation of productivity standards by Helms, Local 30's objection to those standards, and a subsequent ...


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