The opinion of the court was delivered by: GILES
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.
On February 24, 1981, plaintiff-employer, Western Kraft East, Inc., brought suit under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185 (1976), seeking to vacate an arbitration award entered against it on December 8, 1980, and to enjoin defendant-union from enforcing the award. In defendant's answer to the complaint, it asserted a counterclaim seeking enforcement of the award. By an amended answer filed with court approval, defendant raised a statute of limitations defense. Thereafter, defendant moved for judgment on the pleadings, or in the alternative, for summary judgment on the grounds, inter alia, that plaintiff's complaint to set aside the arbitration award was time barred. The motion was unopposed and, on September 21, 1981, an order issued without opinion granting defendant's motion for summary judgment as to plaintiff's action to vacate, but denying the motion as to the counterclaim because of uncertainty as to whether plaintiff would be entitled to assert certain defenses to the action to enforce.
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.
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.
There is no express comparable provision in the subchapter relating to common law arbitration. The thirty day limitations is, therefore, not directly applicable to common law arbitrations. Under the Hoosier Cardinal doctrine, I must apply the "appropriate" state statute of limitations. I find the thirty day limitations period for statutory arbitrations to be the most appropriate statute of limitations for the following reasons: (1) The former three month statute of limitations, 5 P.S. § 173, which applied to common law arbitrations was specifically repealed on October 5, 1980 (effective in sixty days). (2) In place of the old Arbitration Act, the Pennsylvania legislature enacted the new Uniform Arbitration Act on October 5, 1980 (effective in sixty days). The thirty day limitations period for statutory arbitrations is the only limitations period for motions to vacate set forth in the new Act. (3) While the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has not addressed the issue as to what limitations period should be applied to common law arbitrations, I find that the thirty day period can be appropriately applied to motions to vacate common law arbitration awards, since it is the most closely analogous statute.
Moreover, I do not find it inconsistent with the federal policy favoring rapid disposition of labor disputes.
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 ...