United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D
April 2, 1981
SUNBEAM APPLIANCE COMPANY, A DIVISION OF THE SUNBEAM CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS, DISTRICT NO. 8, AFL-CIO, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bua, District Judge.
This cause comes before the court on the cross-motions of the parties
for summary judgment. Rule 56(a) & (b), Fed.R.Civ.P. In that it involves
review of an arbitrator's decision, subject matter jurisdiction over the
cause properly lies pursuant to § 301(a) of the Labor-Management
Relations Act, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 185 (a), 9 U.S.C. § 10,
and 28 U.S.C. § 2201. For the reasons hereinafter stated, the
plaintiff's motion for summary judgment will be granted, and that of the
The matter at bar is an action for review of an arbitrator's
determination regarding the arbitrability of a vacation pay dispute.*fn1
The plaintiff, the Sunbeam Appliance Company [Sunbeam], contends that the
arbitrator's finding of arbitrability must be vacated because it ignores
an express requirement in the collective bargaining agreement in effect
between the parties that arbitration be invoked within ten days of the
company's third-step written decision on a grievance. The defendant,
District 8 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace
Workers, AFL-CIO [the Union], the labor organization representing workers
employed by Sunbeam, in rebutting the plaintiff's contentions argues that
the arbitrator did recognize the agreement's ten day arbitration
requirement, but after considering the parties' past conduct, together
with Sunbeam's failure to object to the Union's request for abeyance of
the ten day time limit, properly concluded that Sunbeam had acquiesced to
that abeyance. Thus, the Union submits, as the arbitrator's finding was
based upon a permissible interpretation of the collective bargaining
agreement, his determination of arbitrability must be upheld.
Judicial review of an arbitrator's determination is limited to the
question of whether the award "draws its essence from the collective
bargaining agreement." United Steelworkers of America v. Enterprise Wheel
& Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 597, 80 S.Ct. 1358, 1361, 4 L.Ed.2d 1424
(1960). As a rule, it is only when there has been a manifest disregard of
the agreement, totally unsupported by principles of contract
construction, that a court may disturb an arbitrator's decision. Ludwig
Honold Manufacturing Co. v. Fletcher, 405 F.2d 1123, 1128 (3d Cir.
In the matter at bar, the arbitrator's finding that Sunbeam had
initially acquiesced to abeyance of the ten day limit expressly provided
by the collective bargaining agreement was based upon a record showing
that the parties had, in the past, regularly allowed for extensions of
that time limit. Because an arbitrator is permitted to find that
compliance with the express terms of a labor contract has been excused
"in light of the practice of the shop," Yellow Cab Co. v. Democratic
Union Organizing Committee, Local 777, 398 F.2d 735, 737 (7th Cir.
1968), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 1015, 89 S.Ct. 619, 21 L.Ed.2d 561 (1969),
the arbitrator's finding in this cause, that Sunbeam had acquiesced to
abeyance of the time limit while the Union determined which course of
action it would take, thus was permissible to the extent that it was
based upon the parties' past practices. This acquiescence by Sunbeam,
though, only excused the Union from complying with the time limit until
it had determined its course of action. In this regard, since Sunbeam
had, at best, merely acquiesced to abeyance while the Union determined
the course of action it would follow, it cannot reasonably be said that
the company completely waived its right to assert the timeliness
The company's acquiescence also would necessarily have ended when Judge
Roszkowski ordered the vacation pay dispute submitted to arbitration.
This is so because Judge Roszkowski's Order clarified any uncertainties
regarding the Union's next course of action, and accordingly obviated the
Union's reasons for requesting abeyance.
The arbitrator, it must be noted, found that Sunbeam's conduct after
entry of the district court's Order indicated acquiescence to further
abeyance. The only reason he offered for this conclusion, however, was
that the extended acquiescence was implied by Sunbeam's failure to notify
the Union that it intended to invoke the ten day time limit. This
rationale, though, totally ignores Article IX, Section 9.3-3 of the
collective bargaining agreement, which provides that the Union's demand
to invoke arbitration is a procedural prerequisite to Sunbeam's assertion
of the timeliness defense.
Whereas in regard to the period before the district court's decision
the arbitrator's acquiescence finding was derived, as is permissible,
from shop practice, his conclusions after the district court's decision
rest solely upon a Premise which is obviously in conflict with the
express terms of the collective bargaining agreement. That being true, as
the grounds upon which Sunbeam's acquiescence was found to lie were
contrary to the company's bargaining agreement, it cannot be said that
the arbitrator's decision drew its essence from that agreement. United
Steelworkers of America v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., Local 777,
supra 363 U.S. at 597-98, 80 S.Ct. at 1361; Yellow Cab Co. v. Democratic
Union Organizing Committee, Local 777, supra at 737. Accordingly, since
the arbitrator was without authority to modify or disregard express
provisions of the collective bargaining, his determination that the
vacation dispute at issue was arbitrable must be vacated. Detroit Coal
Co. v. International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, Lodge
No. 82, 594 F.2d 575 (6th Cir. 1979); 9 U.S.C. § 10 (d) (1976).
The unique procedural circumstances which required vacation of the
aforementioned arbitrability decision also make it necessary for this
court to determine the present status of the parties' claims. As to this
point, though, a fair reading of Judge Roszkowski's dismissal Order
directing that the vacation pay controversy be submitted to binding
arbitration indicates that Sunbeam's acquiescence to abeyance ended on
September 26, 1979, when that Order became final. That being true, it was
incumbent upon the Union to, if it desired to do so within the limitation
provided in the collective bargaining agreement, invoke arbitration within
ten days of the date of Judge Roszkowski's Order becoming final.
The Union, however, did not attempt to invoke arbitration until 48 days
after the district court entered its judgment. Thus, even if the
time-limit provision at issue is given the most liberal construction
possible, in this case allowing thirty days for leave to appeal Judge
Roszkowski's decision in addition to the ten days provided in the
agreement, the Union's attempt to invoke arbitration on November 13, 1979
was untimely. As that is true, because Sunbeam chose to invoke the time
limitation requirement, the Union must be considered barred from
arbitrating the grievance it filed on February 10, 1978.
For the reasons stated above, plaintiff Sunbeam's motion for summary
judgment is GRANTED, the Union's motion for summary judgment is DENIED,
and the arbitrator's finding is ordered vacated.
IT IS SO ORDERED.