inferences drawn in its favor, are as follows. Local 19 and J.S. Mechanical were parties to a collective bargaining agreement effective from June 1, 1989, until May 31, 1992 (the "1989 CBA"). The 1989 CBA is signed on the last page by Thomas J. Kelly on behalf of Local 19 and by Joachim D. Schwiedop ("Mr. Schwiedop"), the President of J.S. Mechanical. The 1989 CBA was succeeded by a bargaining agreement that became effective June 1, 1992 (the "1992 CBA"). The 1992 CBA is not signed by a representative of either party. Instead, Local 19 claims that on May 29, 1992, it received via fax a letter (the "May Letter") signed by Mr. Schwiedop confirming J.S. Mechanical's intent to be bound by the 1992 CBA. Defendant disputes the authenticity of the May Letter and argues that it never entered into the 1992 CBA. We describe both the letter and Defendant's attempts to cast doubt on its validity in considerable detail infra. For present purposes it is sufficient merely to note the dispute.
Despite Defendant's contention that it did not enter into the 1992 CBA, Mr. Schwiedop wrote Local 19 at least three times after May 29, 1992, indicating that Defendant had no contracts for sheet metal work worth more than $ 5,000. Such notice was a requirement under Article II, Section 3 of the 1992 CBA. In late 1993 or early 1994, Local 19 discovered that J.S. Mechanical had allegedly violated the CBA by performing two sheet metal jobs without calling for sheet metal workers. Pursuant to the CBA's grievance and arbitration clause, Local 19 filed a grievance with a joint adjustment board ("JAB") comprised of an equal number of union and employer appointees. The Sheet Metal Contractors Association of Central Pennsylvania ("the Contractors Association") sent J.S. Mechanical notice of the hearing (scheduled for April 5, 1994) via certified mail, return receipt requested, to the proper address. Delivery of this letter was not accepted, however, and the letter was returned to the Contractors Association. After a hearing conducted in the absence of any J.S. Mechanical representative, the JAB unanimously awarded Local 19 $ 30.33 per hour worked on the disputed projects. The JAB notified J.S. Mechanical of the award by letter dated April 11, 1994. J.S. Mechanical never appealed or moved to set aside the JAB's April 1994 order.
On May 7, 1995, Local 19 received a fax from "Shirley" at J.S. Mechanical which stated that "we didn't have a contract" but offered to pay Local 19 benefits, not wages, for the disputed projects in an effort to settle the dispute.
Local 19 refused the offer and, in early 1996, requested a second JAB hearing to determine the number of hours for which J.S. Mechanical would have to pay. The Contractors Association again notified J.S. Mechanical of the hearing (scheduled for April 8, 1996) by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the proper address. Once again, delivery of this notice was not accepted and the letter was returned to the Contractors Association. After a hearing again held in J.S. Mechanical's absence, the JAB unanimously awarded Local 19 $ 14,088.29 for the 464.5 hours of work performed on the two projects. J.S. Mechanical received notice of the JAB award, dated April 30, 1996, on May 14, 1996. That same day J.S. Mechanical's secretary and treasurer, Shirley Schwiedop, wrote a letter to the JAB claiming that the award was a mistake and that J.S. Mechanical did not have a contract with Local 19. A copy of this letter was also sent to Peter W. Hirsch, Regional Director of the Fourth Region of the National Labor Relations Board. At no time, however, did J.S. Mechanical appeal the decision or move to set it aside.
On June 4, 1996, Local 19 filed this action seeking to enforce the $ 14,088.29 JAB award against J.S. Mechanical.
Summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, reveal no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Our responsibility is not to resolve disputed issues of fact, but to determine whether there exist any factual issues to be tried. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-49, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). The presence of "a mere scintilla of evidence" in the nonmovant's favor will not avoid summary judgment. Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989)(citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). Rather, we will grant summary judgment unless "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
In making this determination, all of the facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. Id. at 256. Once the moving party has met the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the non-moving party must establish the existence of each element of its case. J.F. Feeser, Inc. v. Serv-A-Portion, Inc., 909 F.2d 1524, 1531 (3d Cir. 1990)(citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986)).
Local 19 argues for summary judgment on two grounds. First, it claims that the JAB's award must be enforced given the special deference such awards are accorded by federal courts. Plaintiff correctly argues that where parties to a CBA have agreed to submit disputes to a joint labor-management grievance committee, the scope of a district court's review in a proceeding to confirm the committee's award is "exceedingly narrow." Eichleay Corp. v. Intern. Ass'n of Iron Workers, 944 F.2d 1047, 1055-56 & n. 7 (3d Cir. 1991); see also Service Employees International Union Local 36, AFL-CIO v. City Cleaning Company, Inc., 982 F.2d 89, 92 (3d Cir. 1992). The Supreme Court has explained that
because the parties have contracted to have disputes settled by an arbitrator chosen by them rather than by a judge, it is the arbitrator's view of the facts and of the meaning of the contract that they have agreed to accept. Courts thus do not sit to hear claims of factual or legal error by an arbitrator as an appellate court does in reviewing decisions of lower courts.
United Paperworkers International Union v. Misco, 484 U.S. 29, 37-38, 98 L. Ed. 2d 286, 108 S. Ct. 364 (1987). Thus, a district court may vacate an award only on very limited grounds, such as upon a showing of arbitrator misconduct, or when an award violates public policy or "does not draw its essence from the collective bargaining agreement." Eichleay Corp., 944 F.2d at 1056; Griesmann 1v. Chemical Leaman Tank Lines, Inc., 776 F.2d 66, 74 n. 13 (3d Cir. 1985). Local 19 argues that no such grounds are present in this case, thus the arbitration award must be confirmed.
Local 19's second argument is that J.S. Mechanical's failure to move to set aside the award in a timely fashion precludes it from contesting the award at this point. Indeed, the Third Circuit has clearly held "'if a defendant has important defenses to an arbitration award, he should raise them within the period prescribed for actions to vacate rather than wait to raise them as defenses in a confirmation proceeding.'" City Cleaning Company, 982 F.2d at 93 (quoting Service Employees International Union Local 36, AFL-CIO v. Office Center Services, Inc., 670 F.2d 404, 412 (3d Cir. 1982)); see also Eichleay, 944 F.2d at 1060-62. Failure to raise the defenses within the time limit prescribed by state law bars the defendant from raising them in § 301 confirmation proceedings held thereafter. City Cleaning Company, 982 F.2d at 93; Office Center Services. 670 F.2d at 412. The time limit in Pennsylvania is thirty (30) days. See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 7314(b)(Purdon's 1982); City Cleaning Co., 982 F.2d at 93. The rule is consistent with the federal policies of promoting finality of arbitration and quickly resolving labor disputes. Office Center Services, 670 F.2d at 412. Plaintiff argues that we must act consistently with these policies and confirm the JAB award without considering the merits of Defendant's arguments.
In response, Defendant argues that we should not confirm the JAB award because Defendant denies having entered into the contract that would give rise to the duty to arbitrate Local 19's grievance in the first place. More precisely, Defendant contends that summary judgment is inappropriate because there is a factual dispute regarding whether it was a party to the 1992 CBA.
Though Defendant directs us to no cases in support of this argument, we have found substantial authority for its position in a series of Supreme Court decisions beginning with John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v. Livingston, 376 U.S. 543, 11 L. Ed. 2d 898, 84 S. Ct. 909 (1964).
In Wiley, the question presented was whether the merged employees of a successor company were covered by a bargaining agreement to which their previous employer had been a party. The Court held that this question was a matter of substantive arbitrability that must therefore be decided by the court rather than the arbitrator. Id. at 546-47. Eight years later, in International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, AFL-CIO v. Flair Builders, Inc., 406 U.S. 487, 32 L. Ed. 2d 248, 92 S. Ct. 1710 (1972), the Court held that, while it was for the arbitrator to decide whether a particular grievance was barred by laches, "nothing we say here diminishes the responsibility of a court to determine whether a union and employer have agreed to arbitration. That issue, as well as the scope of the arbitration clause, remains a matter for judicial decision." Id. at 491. The Court again reaffirmed this rule in AT & T Technologies, Inc. v. Communications Workers of America, 475 U.S. 643, 89 L. Ed. 2d 648, 106 S. Ct. 1415 (1986), where it held that it was for the court, not the arbitrator, to decide whether the parties intended to arbitrate grievances concerning certain layoffs. Relying on the so-called Steelworkers Trilogy, the Court articulated four principles, two of which are relevant here.
First, "'arbitration is a matter of contract and a party cannot be required to submit to arbitration any dispute which he has not agreed to submit.'" 89 L. Ed. 2d at 648 (quoting Warrior & Gulf, 363 U.S. at 582). The second, "which follows inexorably from the first, is that the question of arbitrability--whether a collective-bargaining agreement creates a duty for the parties to arbitrate the particular grievance--is undeniably an issue for judicial determination." Id. at 649. The Court explicitly reaffirmed Wiley in its discussion of the second principle. Id.
Finally, recent Third Circuit decisions confirm our power to determine whether a valid agreement to arbitrate exists before enforcing an arbitrator's award or compelling arbitration pursuant to an alleged agreement. See Troy Chemical Corp. v. Teamsters Union Local No. 408, 37 F.3d 123, 126-27 (3d Cir. 1994); Laborers' Intern. Union v. Foster Wheeler Energy, 26 F.3d 375, 398-99 (3d Cir. 1994); see also Painewebber Inc. v. Hartmann, 921 F.2d 507, 511 (3d Cir. 1990)("Before compelling an unwilling party to arbitrate, § 4 [of the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 4] ... requires the court to engage in a limited review to ensure that the dispute is arbitrable--i.e., that a valid agreement to arbitrate exists between the parties and that the specific dispute falls within the substantive scope of that agreement."); Local Union 42 v. Absolute Environmental Services, 814 F. Supp. 392, 398 (D. Del. 1993).
We therefore conclude that we must examine whether the parties had a valid agreement to arbitrate the grievance that resulted in the instant JAB award before we confirm this award against Defendant. In making this determination, the JAB's determination is entitled no deference insofar as it constitutes an implicit finding that J.S. Mechanical was a party to the 1992 CBA and therefore had a duty to arbitrate Local 19's grievance.
If we conclude that Defendant was indeed a party to the 1992 CBA, however, the scope of our review becomes limited to the "exceedingly narrow" review defined supra. We now examine the evidence regarding whether J.S. Mechanical was a party to the 1992 CBA.
Local 19 claims that on May 29, 1992, at 2:38 P.M., it received the following letter via fax:
This letter is to serve as confirmation that J.S. Mechanical will comply with the new collection [sic] Bargaining Agreement; agreed between Sheet Metal Workers' Local 19 and Sheet Metal Contractors Association of Central Pennsylvania.