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ZEIGLER COAL CO. v. DIST. 12

January 31, 1980

IN THE MATTER OF THE ARBITRATION BETWEEN ZEIGLER COAL COMPANY, PETITIONER/COUNTER RESPONDENT, AND DISTRICT 12, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT/COUNTER PETITIONER.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Waldo Ackerman, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM ORDER

The parties have presented their case to this Court and the petitioner, Zeigler Coal Co., has briefed the issue involved. This opinion shall constitute my findings of fact and conclusions of law in accordance with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 52(a).

This action arises out of a petition by plaintiff Zeigler Coal Company to vacate an arbitrator's award in favor of the Union, District 12, United Mine Workers. The parties entered into a Coal Wage Agreement which became effective March 28, 1978. This dispute centers upon a provision of that agreement, Article XA, which provides for a paid Christmas vacation for qualified employees. Section (b)(i) of Article XA provides:

  Qualifying Period: All employees who perform
  regularly scheduled work during each of seven (7) or
  more calendar months between December 24, 1977 and
  December 25, 1978 shall be eligible to take off from
  December 26 through December 31, 1978, and shall
  receive as compensation five (5) times the Employee's
  standard daily wage rate.

A similar provision covers the years 1979 and 1980. However, this dispute relates to the year 1978.

The Company paid the qualified employees their standard daily wage rate for the vacation period. A grievance was filed on behalf of thirteen "Top" Employees seeking an additional 3/4 hours pay at time and a half for each day of Christmas vacation. These employees regularly worked 3/4 hours of overtime each day, being compensated at their Standard Daily Wage rate for 7 1/4 hours and at time and a half for 3/4 hours.

The grievance proceeded to arbitration, culminating in an award to the employees of 3/4 hours overtime for each day of Christmas vacation. The Arbitrator stated his conclusion as follows:

  The fundamental purpose of payment being made to
  employees who are granted vacation days or holidays,
  days that represent surcease from work, is to assure
  that respite from labor will not require a monetary
  sacrifice. Holidays and vacations are to represent
  days of rest without financial sacrifice.
  Applying these objectives to the task of interpreting
  Section (b)(i), it is apparent that payment to the
  grievants of less than they ordinarily earn, for each
  day, was not in accord with the basic intent of
  Article XA. It is the basic intent that governs, not
  words that transgress, doubtless unintentionally,
  that basic intent.

The Company challenges the award primarily on the basis that the contract is unambiguous, yet the arbitrator disregarded the contract provision and instead substituted his "own brand of industrial justice". Article IV, Section (e) of the Agreement, entitled "Standard Daily Wage Rate" contains the following language: "The standard daily wage rates paid for work performed under this Agreement and set forth in Appendix A . . ." Appendix A sets forth in dollar amounts the standard daily wage rates for various job classifications. Part III of Appendix A governs the employees involved in this case. A footnote to that Appendix provides that the Standard Hourly Wage Rate is to be computed by dividing the Standard Daily Wage Rate by seven and one-quarter (7 1/4) hours. The Company contends that the Contract is explicit in providing for Christmas pay at the standard daily wage rate and that the Contract is equally explicit in defining what that rate is. Consequently, the company argues, the arbitrator exceeded his authority by adding to the Contract a provision for an additional 3/4 hours overtime pay. The Company points out that the Contract expressly provides for payment of regularly scheduled overtime for holidays, vacation and other leave pay. See Articles IX(a) Bereavement Pay, (b) Jury Duty, (d) Military Duty, (e) Personal or Sick Leave, XII(e) Holidays, XIII(d) Regular Vacation and XIV(f) Graduated Vacation. The lack of a comparable provision in the Christmas vacation clause, the Company contends, clearly manifests the parties' intention that overtime compensation not be included.

The Court's power to vacate an arbitrator's award is severely restricted by statute, Title 9 U.S.C. § 10, and by the strong national policy favoring the resolution of grievances through arbitration where the parties have agreed to be bound by an arbitrator's determination. Amoco Oil Co. v. Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union, Local 7-1, 548 F.2d 1288, 1293 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 905, 97 S.Ct. 1697, 52 L.Ed.2d 389 (1977). The Supreme Court outlined the narrow scope of judicial review of arbitration awards in the Steelworkers trilogy, United Steelworkers of America v. American Manufacturing Co., 363 U.S. 564, 80 S.Ct. 1343, 4 L.Ed.2d 1403 (1960); United Steelworkers of America v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 80 S.Ct. 1347, 4 L.Ed.2d 1409 (1960); United Steelworkers of America v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 80 S.Ct. 1358, 4 L.Ed.2d 1424 (1960). In the Enterprise Wheel case the Court pointed out that "[t]he refusal of courts to review the merits of an arbitration award is the proper approach to arbitration under collective bargaining agreements. The federal policy of settling labor disputes by arbitration would be undermined if courts had the final say on the merits of the awards." 363 U.S. at 596, 80 S.Ct. at 1360. See Painters Local 171 v. Williams & Kelly, Inc., 605 F.2d 535 (10th Cir. 1979); Cannon v. Consolidated Freightways Corp., 524 F.2d 290 (7th Cir. 1975).

This Court will review the arbitrator's award in this case with these admonishments in mind. However, the arbitrator is not unrestricted when fashioning an award. As the Supreme Court noted in Enterprise Wheel:

  [A]n arbitrator is confined to interpretation and
  application of the collective bargaining agreement;
  he does not sit to dispense his own brand of
  industrial justice. He may of course look for
  guidance from many sources, yet his award is
  legitimate only so long as it draws its essence from
  the collective bargaining agreement. When the
  arbitrator's words manifest an ...

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