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United Transportation Union v. Union Railroad Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

April 22, 2014

UNITED TRANSPORTATION UNION, and S. McCRUMB Petitioners,
v.
UNION RAILROAD CO., Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION ON MOTION OF RESPONDENT TO DISMISS UNDER 12(B)(1) OR REMAND ON PETITION TO ENFORCE ADJUSTMENT AWARD ECF No. 11

LISA P. LENIHAN, Chief Magistrate Judge.

I. Summation

The Motion to Dismiss or Remand filed by Respondent Union Railroad Company (the "Railroad") will be denied, as the arbitration award at issue reflects a clearly-worded judgment on the matter and on the potential considerations which the parties elected to present to the arbitration panel, as more fully set forth below. In addition, in light of its unambiguous wording (mirroring that of the parties' collective bargaining agreement and referencing the same) and the absence of any language (in either the arbitration judgment or the parties' collective bargaining agreement) regarding reduction or mitigation of the applicable contractual wage rate, the Court notes the enforceability of the award as requested in the Petition.

II. Factual and Procedural History

Petitioner S. McCrumb ("Employee") was employed as a Yardmaster and was terminated by the Railroad on February 18, 2011. In accordance with the collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"), the Union filed a grievance on his behalf which proceeded to arbitration on the Petitioners' Statement of Claim seeking "to be made whole for all time lost" as well as related benefits. On February 25, 2013 the Fourth Division of the National Railroad Adjustment Board (the "NRAB" or "Board") issued Adjustment Award No. 5136, Docket No. 5123 (the "Adjustment Award" or "Award") in its judgment of arbitration between the above parties regarding the Employee's dismissal from employment by Respondent Railroad. See October 22, 2013 Petition to Enforce National Railroad Adjustment Award Under the Railway Labor Act ("Petition") (ECF No. 1) at Ex. A. In issuing its Award in favor of the United Transportation Union (the "Union") on behalf of the Employee, the Board found that the Railroad had failed to prove its charges against the Employee ( i.e. , that he had been wrongfully terminated) and "[a]s a consequence, the [Employee] shall be returned to service with seniority unimpaired and pay for time lost in accordance with the terms of the Parties' Agreement." Ex. A at p. 6.[1] It ordered, in connection with the aforesaid remedy, that the Employer make the award within 30 days.

Although the Railroad otherwise complied with the Award, [2] it declined to pay the Employee back wages absent the Employee's provision of tax and wage statements, taking the position that it was entitled to deduct any outside earnings from the damage amount of "pay for time lost". Petitioners maintain that, under the Award, Employee is entitled to pay without mitigation or offset from February 18, 2011, the date of his wrongful dismissal, to February 22, 2013, the date of his post-arbitration reinstatement. See Petition at 4.

Petitioners requested, on October 22, 2013, an Order requiring compliance with the Award and an award of attorney's fees and costs in accordance with the RLA, 45 U.S.C. Section 153 First(p) and Second.[3] On January 10, 2014, the Railroad filed a request for interpretation with the NRAB.[4] On January 17th (following requested extensions to answer the Complaint), it filed its Motion before this Court. Respondent's Motion to Dismiss Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) or to Remand ("Respondent's Motion") (ECF No. 11) asserts that (a) this Court is without subject matter jurisdiction as the issue constitutes a "minor dispute" under the RLA as a question of interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement and (b) jurisdiction of the NRAB is also warranted by prior arbitral opinions supporting the employer's use of an offset against wages to be paid under an award in the employee's favor. See Respondent's Motion.[5] The Railroad requests dismissal of the Petition or, in the alternative, remand to the NRAB for "interpretation" of the assertedly ambiguous Award.

III. Applicable Standards

A. General Standard of Review Applicable to NRAB Award

It is well established that a court's review of a labor arbitration award by an arbitrator appointed pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement ("cba") is extremely limited. See, e.g ., United Paperworkers Int'l Union v. Misco, Inc. , 484 U.S. 29, 37-38 (1987); W.R. Grace & Co. v. Local 759, Int'l Union of United Rubber Workers , 461 U.S. 757, 764 (1983). Judicial review is narrow because arbitration is intended to provide efficient and final resolution of labor disputes. See, e.g. , Pittsburgh Metro Area Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO v. U.S. Postal Service , 938 F.Supp.2d 555, 563 (W.D. Pa. 2013) ("A central premise of the sanctity of the arbitration process... is that arbitration [is] to provide... relatively fast, inexpensive, and certain resolutions to workplace disputes"); id. (admonishing that an employer's "serial... relitigation" of "arbitrations of back pay awards, runs precisely counter to those principles"). See also discussion, infra .

B. General 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss and Summary Judgment Standards

1. Rule 12(b)(1)

Under Rule 12(b)(1), the movant makes either a facial or a factual challenge to the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. See, e.g. , Patsakis v. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America , 339 F.Supp.2d 689, (W.D. Pa. 2004) (citing Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n , 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977)). In a facial attack, the Court must consider the allegations of the complaint as true, similar to a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Mortensen , 549 F.2d at 891; Internat'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Wrokers v. Northwest Airlines, Inc. , 673 F.2d 700, 711 (3d Cir. 1982). A factual challenge goes, however, to the Court's power to hear the case:

Because at issue in a factual 12(b)(1) motion is the trial court's jurisdiction its very power to hear the case there is substantial authority that the trial court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case. In short, no presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits ...

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