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USW v. FORT PITT STEEL CASTING

February 19, 1980

UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO; and JAMES GARRY, QUINTO DELISSIO, PATRICK McGHEN and ERNEST A. OBLACK on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
FORT PITT STEEL CASTING, DIVISION OF CONVAL-PENN, INC., DIVISION OF CONVAL CORPORATION, and JAMES P. SPRESSER as Pension Board Member, et al, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ZIEGLER

I. History of Case

This is a civil action to compel arbitration of certain grievances. Jurisdiction is predicated on § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. 29 U.S.C. § 185.

 Plaintiffs, the United Steelworkers of America, and others, (the Union) and defendant, Fort Pitt Steel Casting (the Company), executed a three-year collective bargaining agreement (the Basic Agreement) on March 3, 1975. The Basic Agreement expired on March 3, 1978, and the Union commenced a lawful work stoppage. *fn1" Section 9 of the Basic Agreement, entitled "Adjustment of Grievances," provides that the grievance procedures shall culminate, if necessary, in binding arbitration *fn2" and shall apply to "(a)ny (employee) request or complaint." *fn3"

 On August 17, 1977, the Union and the Company entered into a Pension Agreement. *fn4" Section 7.1 of that Agreement, entitled "Subject Matters of Appeal," provides:

 
If during the term of the Pension Agreement, any difference shall arise between any Employee who shall be an applicant to become a Pensioner hereunder and the Company or the Pension Board as to
 
(a) The number of years of Continuous Service of such applicant in the employ of the Company; or
 
(b) the age of such applicant; or
 
(c) whether an applicant became permanently incapacitated through one of the excluded causes set forth in Section 1.13(b); such difference may be taken up by the applicant as a grievance in accordance with the applicable provisions (sic) of the Basic Agreement, beginning with Step 4.

 In January of 1979, the Union filed six separate grievances on behalf of certain employees. The grievances are numbered 600, 601, 603, 604, 605 and 606, and were filed in accordance with the procedures established by the collective bargaining agreement. On February 13, 1979, the Company informed the Union that, in its judgment, the grievances were not subject to arbitration under the Basic Agreement. *fn5"

 Presently before the court is the motion of plaintiffs for summary judgment on all six grievances and the cross-motion of the Company for similar relief as to all grievances except No. 605. For the reasons set forth herein, the motion of the Union will be granted and the Company's motion will be denied.

 II. The Grievances

 The grievances which the Union seeks to arbitrate are as follows: (1) Nos. 600 and 601 allege that the Company improperly deducted Social Security benefits from employee pensions, and also discontinued life insurance coverage provided under the Basic and Pension Agreements; (2) No. 603 alleges that an erroneous interpretation of the Basic and Pension Agreements by the Company has resulted in the cancellation of life insurance coverage for persons retiring after March 3, 1978; (3) No. 604 alleges that the Company improperly withheld earned vacation payments during the work stoppage which began in March of 1978; (4) No. 605 alleges the improper withholding of severance pay due and owing under the Basic Agreement; and (5) No. 606 alleges the Company improperly withheld and distributed funds under a supplemental unemployment benefit plan.

 III. Discussion

 The issue of arbitrability of grievances must be decided by the court and not by an arbitrator. Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 80 S. Ct. 1347, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1409 (1960). In performing this jurisprudential function, a court must always be cognizant of the national labor policy favoring arbitration of labor disputes. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 171(a), 173(d). Arbitration clauses should be construed broadly for there is "a strong presumption favoring arbitrability." Nolde Bros., Inc. v. Local No. 358, Bakery ...


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