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TEAMSTERS LOCAL 312 v. MATLACK

March 4, 1996

TEAMSTERS LOCAL 312
v.
MATLACK, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BARTLE

 Bartle, J.

 March 4, 1996

 This is an action by Teamsters Local 312 ("Union"), pursuant to § 301(c) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185(c), to enforce an arbitration award made under a collective bargaining agreement. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment.

 The grievance in issue, filed by the Union, alleged that defendant Matlack, Inc. ("Matlack") had improperly transferred "waste water shipments" to its non-union Elkton, Maryland terminal for handling. These waste water loads were described as originating "in Muscatine, Iowa or other parts of the Northern Region" and previously handled at Matlack's Bensalem, Pennsylvania terminal. During the grievance process, the Union, by means of a handwritten amendment, sought to expand the original grievance to include not just the waste water from Muscatine, Iowa and the Northern Region but also "... any waste water that came into and out of this [Bensalem] terminal!"

 Since the grievance was not resolved at Steps One and Two of the grievance process, it was submitted to arbitration in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement. The arbitration hearing was held on April 27, 1995, before Charles D. Long, Jr., an experienced arbitrator. At the commencement of the hearing, Matlack contested the timeliness of the original grievance. Matlack also challenged the scope of the hearing, claiming that the written amendment to the original grievance made by the Union representative was improper. Not surprisingly, the Union disagreed. The arbitrator proceeded to take testimony and received documentary evidence.

 The day following his receipt of the arbitrator's June 13, 1995 award, Matlack's counsel wrote a letter to the arbitrator objecting to the scope of his decision. Matlack contended that the arbitrator had advised the parties at the April 27, 1995 hearing that he would only address the procedural issues and would delay any decision on the substantive matters until Matlack had had an opportunity to present further evidence on the non-Muscatine shipments and then to file a brief. For this reason, Matlack had not submitted to the arbitrator a brief on the merits.

 A flurry of letters and phone conversations among the arbitrator and both counsel followed. Finally, on July 17, 1995, the arbitrator withdrew from the case and returned to Matlack the $ 875 which it had paid him as its share of the arbitration fee. *fn1" After receiving queries from both sides about the impact his withdrawal would have on his June 13, 1995 decision, Mr. Long sent counsel a letter dated July 31, 1995. In this communication, Mr. Long explained:

 
My decision to withdraw from this matter concerned a misunderstanding concerning the procedure to be followed prior to a decision resolving the substantive portion of the issue which is separate and unrelated to that portion of the issue concerning the scope of the grievance. Consistent with the record at the close of the hearing on April 27, 1995, it was my intent was [sic] to leave the matter in the following posture:
 
1. a binding decision dated June 13, 1995, extending the scope of the underlying substantive issue to include the grievance of June 1, 199[4], as amended during the step 2 grievance meeting on August 9, 199[4].
 
2. no decision concerning the underlying substantive issue of whether the Employer's conduct violated Article 50, Subcontracting, of the collective bargaining agreement, as alleged.

 From this letter, it appears the arbitrator agreed with Matlack's understanding of what had happened at the arbitration hearing. In any event, Matlack refused to comply with the June 13, 1995 decision of the arbitrator and sought the Union's agreement to arbitrate the matter anew with a different arbitrator. The Union refused. ...


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