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ADAMCZESKI v. NORTHWEST AIRLINES
December 31, 1981
ROBERT J. ADAMCZEWSKI, PLAINTIFF,
NORTHWEST AIRLINES, INC., DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Robert J. Adamczewski ("Adamczewski") sues Northwest Airlines,
Inc. ("Northwest") for a declaratory judgment invalidating an
arbitrator's award rendered by a System Board of Adjustment
(the "Board") established in compliance with 45 U.S.C. § 184
("Section 184"). That award held Adamczewski had been
discharged from his job with Northwest for just cause. Both
parties have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated
in this memorandum opinion and order, Northwest's motion is
granted and Adamczewski's motion is denied.
On January 23, 1980*fn2 one of Adamczewski's supervisors
noticed his car parked in an unusual location — inside
Northwest's O'Hare International Airport hangar at a position
immediately opposite the entrance to the stockroom (Adamczewski
was a stock clerk). Though Adamczewski offered a plausible
explanation, the supervisor still had misgivings and telephoned
a fellow supervisor (the first having gone home in the interim)
to check on the car's contents. On request Adamczewski opened
his trunk, and the supervisor found a plastic bag containing
about 75 paper cups bearing the Trans World Airlines ("TWA")
logo and about 50 packets of Maxwell House coffee (served on
TWA flights). Adamczewski said the property had been given him
(no Northwest property having been given in exchange) by a
friend who was a TWA employee.
Next day Adamczewski was suspended for the incident, and TWA
asked that Northwest try to determine the name of the TWA
employee involved in the unauthorized disposition. On January
25 and 28 Northwest convened two separate "investigation
meetings," at which Adamczewski, a Machinists' Union
representative and Adamczewski's supervisors were present.
Despite numerous requests Adamczewski persistently refused to
identify the TWA employee involved. During the second session
(agreed to constitute a first-step grievance meeting) a
Northwest official warned Adamczewski that if he did not answer
that question he would be guilty of insubordination and
Northwest would fire him. Upon his union representative's
advice that he had no contractual obligation to reveal the
name. Adamczewski maintained his refusal. Northwest discharged
Arbitration followed before the Board (established to process
employee grievances pursuant to Section 184 and the collective
bargaining agreement between Northwest and the Machinists'
Union (the "Agreement")). On September 17 the Board held in a
2-1 vote that Adamczewski's discharge was for "just cause."
This action followed.
Despite paying lip service to the principles governing judicial
review of labor arbitrations generally and Board decisions in
particular, Adamczewski approaches this matter as though this
Court were an appellate arbitrator — or more accurately a de
novo extension of the original arbitration. Much of his 33-page
summary judgment memorandum is devoted to an argumentative
discussion of the facts, quarreling with credibility of
witnesses and findings by the Board.*fn3
All that is of course impermissible. Decisions of System Boards
of Review*fn4 are susceptible to very limited judicial
scrutiny indeed — "among the narrowest known to the law."
Union Pacific Railroad v. Sheehan, 439 U.S. 89, 91, 99 S.Ct.
399, 401, 58 L.Ed.2d 354 (1978). In fact Union Pacific (id.
at 93, 99 S.Ct. at 401) teaches that such an arbitration
decision may be overturned only upon one of three grounds:
(1) failure of the adjustment board to comply with the
requirements of the statute;
(2) failure of the board to conform or confine itself to
matters within the scope of its jurisdiction; and
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