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WESTERN KRAFT EAST, INC. v. UNITED PAPERWORKERS IN

February 4, 1982

WESTERN KRAFT EAST, INC.
v.
UNITED PAPERWORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, LOCAL 375



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GILES

MEMORANDUM

Defendant, United Paperworkers International Union Local 375, seeks reconsideration of the September 21, 1981 order denying its motion for summary judgment on its counterclaim for enforcement of a labor arbitrator's award. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion shall be granted and judgment entered in its favor.

 In its motion for reconsideration, defendant asserts that plaintiff should not be permitted to raise, by way of defense to its enforcement counterclaim, claims which are time barred in plaintiff's suit to vacate the award. Although it filed no opposition to the original summary judgment motion, plaintiff opposes the present motion to reconsider, asserting that it may be entitled to raise certain unspecified defenses to the counterclaim.

 Since defendant's motion was accompanied by affidavits and exhibits, I shall treat it as a motion for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 12(c). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must determine whether there exists any genuine issue of material fact and whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 56(c).

 Applying these standards, it is evident that summary judgment must be granted in favor of defendant on its counterclaim.

 A. Plaintiff's Suit to Vacate the Arbitration Award

 First, I shall address the prior grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant on plaintiff's suit to vacate the arbitration award. Congress has not enacted a statute of limitations governing actions brought pursuant to section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, but the Supreme Court has held that the "timeliness of a § 301 suit ... is to be determined, as a matter of federal law, by reference to the appropriate state statute of limitations." International Union, UAW v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp., 383 U.S. 696, 704-05, 86 S. Ct. 1107, 1112-13, 16 L. Ed. 2d 192 (1966) (footnote omitted). While Hoosier Cardinal did not specifically address suits to vacate arbitration awards under section 301, a subsequent Supreme Court opinion, United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Mitchell, 451 U.S. 56, 101 S. Ct. 1559, 67 L. Ed. 2d 732 (1981), tacitly approved the Hoosier Cardinal doctrine in the context of a section 301 suit to vacate an arbitration award by upholding the district court's application of a ninety day state statute of limitations. Any doubt about the applicability of the Hoosier Cardinal doctrine to suits to vacate or confirm arbitration awards in this circuit was recently laid to rest by the decision of the Third Circuit in Service Employees International Union, Local No. 36 v. Office Center Services, Inc., -- - F.2d -- No. 81-1532, (3d Cir. January 12, 1982). In this case, the court specifically held that the timeliness of actions to vacate or confirm arbitration awards under section 301 is governed by the appropriate state statute of limitations. Id. at 11-12.

 Under Hoosier Cardinal, the appropriateness of a state statute of limitations is to be determined, as a matter of federal law, by characterizing the cause of action and selecting the state limitations period governing such actions, consistent with the goals of federal labor policy.

 It is not disputed that the plaintiff's complaint in this case is best characterized as a section 301 suit to vacate an arbitration award. Nor is it disputed that Pennsylvania law is the state law to which the court must look in this case. *fn1" Until recently the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for actions to vacate arbitration awards was three months under the Pennsylvania Uniform Arbitration Act, 5 Pa.Stat.Ann. § 173 (Purdon 1963) (repealed).

 On October 5, 1980, however, the Pennsylvania General Arbitration Act was repealed and replaced, in relevant part, by Pennsylvania's enactment of the Uniform Arbitration Act, 42 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. §§ 7301-7362 (West 1981). The statutory scheme set forth in Pennsylvania's Uniform Arbitration Act provides that all arbitration agreements shall be conclusively presumed to be agreements to arbitrate pursuant to 42 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 7341, the subchapter relating to common law arbitrations, unless the parties agree in writing to arbitrate pursuant to the Uniform Arbitration Act or a similar statute. 42 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 7302(a). Here, the parties did not agree to statutory arbitration. Therefore, their agreement is one to arbitrate pursuant to the subchapter relating to common law arbitration. The new Act, which became effective on December 5, 1980, reduced the limitations period on actions to vacate statutory arbitration awards to thirty days, computed from the time a copy of the award is delivered to complainant. *fn2"

 The uncontradicted facts establish that this thirty day statute of limitations was effective prior to plaintiff's receipt of the arbitrator's decision and prior to commencement of plaintiff's suit to vacate the arbitration award. (Affidavit of Margaret A. Browning, paragraphs 2-4). Thus, unless the new thirty day statute of limitations would contravene some federal policy, it applies to plaintiff's action to vacate.

 I find that this limitations period in no way contravenes "those consensual processes that federal labor law is chiefly designed to promote-the formation of the collective bargaining agreement and the private settlement of disputes under it." Hoosier Cardinal, 383 U.S. at 702-03, 86 S. Ct. at 1111. The shorter limitations period encourages finality in the disposition of disputes through the arbitration process and manifestly serves the general federal policy of resolving labor disputes promptly. See ...


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