In the summer of 1992, Keiper vocally disagreed with Local 677 and Mack's agreement to impose mandatory overtime on Mack's union employees. Immediately thereafter, Local 677 suggested to Mack that Keiper no longer deserved super seniority status. Local 677 explained that Keiper did not have the requisite loss of use under Article X because he did not have a 100 percent loss of use of his three injured fingers. In July, 1992, Keiper lost his super seniority status, and on July 17, 1992, Keiper was laid off.
Keiper initiated grievances against Mack regarding the loss of his super seniority status. Keiper claimed that his termination violated Article X, and was in retaliation for his opposition to the mandatory overtime agreement reached by Local 677 and Mack. The Shop Committee of Local 677 ("Shop Committee"), however, refused to pursue Keiper's grievances against Mack.
On August 27, 1992, Keiper wrote a letter to Local 677 seeking to institute "intra-union grievance proceedings in accordance with our constitution and by laws" in order to challenge the Shop Committee's decision not to pursue Keiper's grievance. In this letter, Keiper asked for information regarding the proper procedures to follow when instituting such proceedings.
On September 9, 1992, Carl Breininger ("Breininger"), Vice President of Local 677, replied in writing to Keiper's request. Breininger informed Keiper that the procedures for challenging union activity were set out in Article 31 and Article 33 ("Article 33") of the United Automobile Workers' Union ("UAW") constitution ("constitution"), and Articles 18 and 19 of Local 677's by-laws.
Breininger also provided Keiper with a copy of the constitution and by-laws.
Keiper appealed the Shop Committee's decision to the Local 677 membership working at Mack. The membership denied his appeal. On November 12, 1992, Keiper appealed the membership's decision to Local 677's Executive Board. This appeal stated in part: "According to our constitution, I am asking that the appeal be brought before the next local union Executive Board Meeting . . ." Local 677's Executive Board considered Keiper's appeal and denied it on April 6, 1993.
On April 12, 1993, Keiper appealed to the International Executive Board of the UAW. In this appeal, Keiper stated that he was "attempting to follow through on intra-union grievance procedure." The International Executive Board assigned Keiper's case to an Appeals Committee for resolution, and on October 12, 1993, the Appeals Committee held a hearing at Local 677's union hall in Allentown, Pa. On March 9, 1994, Keiper was notified that the Appeals Committee had denied his appeal. This notification did not inform Keiper that he had any further avenues of appeal.
On June 13, 1994, Keiper wrote a letter to Owen Bieber ("Bieber"), President of UAW, requesting information regarding the procedure for appealing the Appeals Committee's decision to UAW's Public Review Board ("PRB"). In this letter, Keiper stated that he had not received a copy of the constitution until June 8, 1994, and had not learned that he could appeal the Appeals Committee's decision until May 31, 1994.
On June 20, 1994, Bieber responded to Keiper's letter. Bieber noted that Keiper had received a copy of the constitution on September 9, 1992, and had received the Appeals Committee's decision on March 9, 1994. Bieber also wrote that under Article 33, Section 4(c) of the constitution Keiper's appeal to the PRB was untimely.
Keiper filed suit against Mack and Local 677 on December 10, 1992. The case was stayed pending Keiper's exhaustion of UAW's internal remedies. See Order (November 22, 1993). Relying on Keiper's failure to proceed entirely through UAW's internal appeals process, defendants have now moved for summary judgment.
II. Summary Judgment Standard
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that summary judgment is appropriate if "there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party bears the burden of "showing -- that is, pointing out to the district court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Then the non-moving party must "make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of every element essential to his case, based on the affidavits or by depositions and admissions on file." Harter v. GAF Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 852 (3d Cir. 1992). The "nonmoving party cannot rely upon conclusory allegations in its pleadings or in memoranda and briefs to establish a genuine issue of material fact." Pastore v. Bell Telephone Co., 24 F.3d 508, 511 (3d Cir. 1994)
When considering a motion for summary judgment, "inferences should be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as true." Id. at 512. The court may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). If the record thus construed could not lead the trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986).
In Clayton v. International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, 451 U.S. 679, 68 L. Ed. 2d 538, 101 S. Ct. 2088 (1981), the Supreme Court addressed the issue of when a union member must exhaust internal union procedures prior to filing suit under Section 301. The Court stated that lower courts have discretion to decide when exhaustion is required, but that this discretion should be guided by three relevant factors:
First, whether union officials are so hostile to the employee that he could not hope to obtain a fair hearing on his claim; second, whether the internal union appeals would be inadequate either to reactivate the employee's grievance or to award him the full relief he seeks under Section 301; and third, whether exhaustion of internal procedures would unreasonably delay the employee's opportunity to obtain a judicial hearing on the merits of his claim.
Id. at 689. The Court stated that where internal union appeals procedures can result in either complete relief to an aggrieved employee or reactivation of his grievance, "exhaustion would advance the national labor policy of encouraging private resolution of contractual labor disputes." Id. at 692.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has directed lower courts to look to the "reasonableness" of a particular union procedure when deciding whether exhaustion is required, and has rejected the "rigid approach" which other courts have used when determining exhaustion issues. See Local Union No. 1075, United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum and Plastic Workers of America v. United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastic Workers of America, 716 F.2d 182, 186 (3d Cir. 1983). In addition, the Court of Appeals has held that a lower court's discretion whether to require exhaustion is not limited to Clayton's three factors. Id. at 186. For example, another factor to be considered is whether a provision in the union's constitution clearly directs a union member to an established internal mechanism. Id.
In the present case, Keiper claims that exhaustion of UAW's internal procedures should not be required because the PRB is unable to provide Keiper with the relief which he seeks. Specifically, Keiper claims that because the PRB lacks the power to reinstate Keiper to his job, his failure to appeal to the PRB should be excused. The court disagrees.
The Supreme Court has held that where internal union procedures can result in the reactivation of a union member's grievance, "exhaustion would advance the national labor policy of encouraging private resolution of contractual labor disputes." Clayton, 451 U.S. at 692. The Court wrote that "in such cases, the internal union procedures are capable of fully resolving meritorious claims short of the judicial forum." Id. Therefore, where reactivation is possible, a union member should be "required to submit his claim to the collectively bargained dispute resolution procedures." Id.
Under the controlling Master Agreement between Local 677 and Mack, the PRB clearly has the power to reactivate Keiper's grievance. Article V, Section 19 of the Master Agreement provides in pertinent part:
In those instances where the UAW's International Executive Board, Public Review Board, or Constitutional Convention Appeals Committee have reviewed a grievance disposition and found that such disposition was improperly concluded by the Union body or representative involved, the Mack Trucks Department may so inform the Director of Employee Relations and Benefits Administration of the Company and request in writing that such grievance be reinstated in the parties' grievance procedure at the same level at which it was originally settled. After receipt of such written request, the grievance will be so reinstated by the Company.