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State Education Association v. Pennsylvania State Education Association Staff Organization

April 16, 2008

STATE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION STAFF ORGANIZATION DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge John E. Jones III

MEMORANDUM

This action concerns the review of an arbitration award and comes before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Pennsylvania State Education Association ("PSEA") and Defendant Pennsylvania State Education Association Staff Organization ("SO"). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the PSEA's motion (Doc. 18), deny the SO's motion (Doc. 15), and vacate, in part, the arbitration award at issue.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate if the record establishes "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant meets this burden by pointing to an absence of evidence supporting an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325. Once the moving party meets its burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). An issue is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for the non-moving party, and a factual dispute is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the action under the governing law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49.

In opposing summary judgment, the non-moving party "may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading; rather its response must ... set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). The non-moving party "cannot rely on unsupported allegations, but must go beyond pleadings and provide some evidence that would show that there exists a genuine issue for trial." Jones, 214 F.3d at 407. Arguments made in briefs "are not evidence and cannot by themselves create a factual dispute sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion." Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Twp. of Lacey, 772 F.2d 1103, 1109-10 (3d Cir. 1985). However, the facts and all reasonable inferences therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. P.N. v. Clementon Bd. of Educ., 442 F.3d 848, 852 (3d Cir. 2006).

Summary judgment should not be granted when there is a disagreement about the facts or the proper inferences that a factfinder could draw from them. Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982). Still, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; there must be a genuine issue of material fact to preclude summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.

The concurrent resolution of cross-motions for summary judgment, as are presented here, can present a formidable task. Interbusiness Bank, N.A. v. First Nat'l Bank of Mifflintown, 318 F. Supp. 2d 230, 235 (M.D. Pa. 2004) (citing 10A Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 2720 (3d ed. 1998)). On cross-motions for summary judgment, the standard of review does not change. Each moving party must independently show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Rains v. Cascade Indus., Inc., 402 F.2d 241, 245 (3d Cir. 1968). However, the mandate of Rule 56 that the court view all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party may be difficult to apply where all parties are both moving and non-moving parties. "Inferences to which a party is entitled with respect to the opponent's motion may not be granted with respect to its own." Interbusiness Bank, N.A., 318 F. Supp. 2d at 236 (citing United States v. Hall, 730 F. Supp. 646, 648 (M.D. Pa. 1990). Such circumstances may require separate opinions on the respective motions. See Rains, 402 F.2d at 245; Hall, 730 F. Supp. at 648.

In this case, however, the essential facts are substantially undisputed and are wholly supported by the evidence submitted by all parties. Whether the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff or the defendant, the same story unfolds. The present cross-motions for summary judgment will therefore both be decided by this memorandum and order. See Interbusiness Bank, 318 F. Supp. 2d at 236 (relying on the mandate of Fed. R. Civ. P. 1 that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "shall be construed and administered to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action" in concurrently deciding cross-motions for summary judgment in single opinion).

II. BACKGROUND

A. The Collective Bargaining Agreement

The PSEA is a labor organization representing educators and certain other employees in Pennsylvania public schools. (SO Statement of Material Facts ["SO SMF"], Doc. 15 ¶ 1.) The SO is a "union within a union" which represents approximately 230 PSEA employees for purposes of collective bargaining pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 151, et seq. (Id. at ¶ 2; PSEA Statement of Material Facts ["PSEA SMF"], Doc. 18-2 ¶ 1.)

The PSEA and SO are parties to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") covering the period from August 1, 2003 to July 31, 2008. (PSEA SMF ¶ 2; SO SMF ¶ 3; see Joint Ex. 1, Doc. 17-2 ["CBA"].)*fn1 Article IV of the CBA establishes a four-stage procedure for the resolution of grievances brought by the SO on behalf of PSEA employees. (PSEA SMF ¶ 3; CBA, Art. IV) At Stage 1, the grievant discusses the grievance with the immediate supervisor in an attempt resolve it informally. (CBA § 4.4, Stage 1(A).) If the grievance is not informally resolved, the grievant may present it to the SO, which may also attempt to resolve it informally with the grievant's immediate supervisor. (CBA § 4.4, Stage 1(B).) If the grievance is not informally resolved by the SO, it must be reduced to writing and presented to the appropriate assistant executive director. (CBA § 4.4, Stage 1(C).) Within five days after the written grievance is presented, the assistance executive director shall render a decision thereon in writing. (Id.) If the grievant is not satisfied with the assistance executive director's written decision, within fifteen days after receiving the written decision, he may move to Stage 2 and file the grievance with the executive director. (CBA § 4.4, Stage 2(A).) Within fifteen days, the executive director shall hold a hearing on the grievance, and fifteen days after the hearing, shall render a written decision. (CBA § 4.4, Stage 2(B)-(C).) If the grievance is still not satisfactorily resolved, the parties may, by mutual agreement, move to Stage 3, voluntary mediation under the procedures of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service ("FMCS"). (CBA § 4.4, Stage 3.) If the grievance is still not resolved, or if the parties chose not to mediate, the SO may submit the grievance to arbitration before the FMCS at Stage 4. (CBA § 4.4, Stage 4(A).)

If at any point in this process, the PSEA fails to respond to a grievance, the CBA provides:

Failure at any stage of the grievance procedure to communicate a decision to the aggrieved party, the aggrieved party's representatives, and the Staff Grievance Committee within the specified time limit shall permit the lodging of an appeal at the next stage of the procedure within the time which would have been allotted had the decision been communicated on the final day. (CBA § 4.3(I).)

B. The Steiber Grievance

On November 30, 2004, the SO invoked the CBA's grievance procedures and filed a grievance on behalf of James Steiber. (PSEA SMF ¶ 6; SO SMF ¶ 4; see Joint Ex. 2, Doc. 17-3.) Steiber alleged that for a two-month period he performed the duties of a higher-paid employee during that employee's two-month medical leave, and that pursuant to CBA Section 10.5 (governing assignments of staff) and/or Section 22.1 (governing temporary upgrades of staff), he should have been compensated at a higher rate for that work.

The assistant executive director did not issue a written decision regarding Steiber's grievance. (SO SMF ¶ 14.) Instead, the PSEA and SO agreed to attempt to resolve the grievance during meetings over December 13-15, 2004. (PSEA SMF ¶ 7; Joint Ex. 3, Doc. 17-4, at 2-6.)*fn2 The PSEA and SO further agreed that

"[a]ny issue which was considered under this procedure that remains unresolved shall be deemed to have completed stages 1 and 2 of the grievance procedure." (Joint Ex. 3 at 3; see also id. at 9.) The Steiber grievance was discussed but not resolved at the December 13-15, 2004 meetings (id. at 7), and the PSEA ultimately denied the grievance (id. at 9). The SO ...


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