United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E. D
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
Insubordination. Failing to disclose as directed, the name of
TWA airport employee
who gave you misappropriated goods which you accepted and
failure to cooperate in a Company investigation.
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.
Scope of Review
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
(3) fraud or corruption.
If the underbrush of obviously inappropriate factually-related
arguments is cleared away, Adamczewski's contentions
essentially boil down to two:
(1) Both the Board's procedure and its result violated
Adamczewski's rights to "fundamental due process."
(2) Its decision was not made "within its jurisdiction"
because (a) it punished Adamczewski for behavior "beyond and
unrelated to the employment relationship" and (b) it was not
authorized by the collective bargaining agreement and
Northwest's implementing rules and regulations.
1. Due Process
Adamczewski's first argument deserves short shrift, for it is
foreclosed by Union Pacific Railroad v. Sheehan. There the
Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals for
the Tenth Circuit, which had held that the board's failure to
consider an argument as to tolling of time limits violated the
grievant's "right of due process," 576 F.2d 854, 857 (10th Cir.
1978). As the Supreme Court said, 439 U.S. at 93, 99 S.Ct. at
Section 153 First (g) unequivocally states that the "findings
and order of the [Adjustment Board] shall be conclusive on the
parties" and may be set aside only for the three reasons
specified therein. We have time and again emphasized that this
statutory language means just what it says.
Because Adamczewski's "due process" argument does not implicate
any of the three specified reasons, it cannot be heard. But
before the subject is closed the Court is constrained to
observe that Adamczewski's Br. 27-28 sought to rely on a Tenth
Circuit decision in Sheehan that was reversed — per
curiam at that — by the Supreme Court. Not only did counsel
discuss the reversed holding at length as good law, failing to
inform this Court of its reversal, but their citation of the
case ("Sheehan . . . 576 F.2d 854
, 856 (10th Cir. . . .
1978), rehearing denied, 439 U.S. 1135. . .") was affirmatively
It is entirely possible to be unaware of a
case's subsequent history (failure to Shepardize will produce
that result), but counsel's knowledge of the "439 U.S. 1135"
citation makes their conduct inexcusable (page 1135, 99 S.Ct.
1060, 59 L.Ed.2d 98 specifically cited "ante, p. 89 [99 S.Ct.
p. 400]," the opinion reversing the Tenth Circuit).
Adamezewski's second argument fares little better than the
ill-conceived due process claim. Jurisdictional attacks on a
Board's decision are sustainable only if it is (International
Ass'n of Machinists v. Southern Pacific Transportation Co.,
626 F.2d 715, 717 (9th Cir. 1980), quoting Railroad Trainmen
v. Central of Georgia Railway, 415 F.2d 403, 411 12 (5th Cir.
without foundation in reason or fact . . . [A]n award must have
a basis that is at least rationally inferable, if not obviously
drawn, from the letter or purpose of the collective bargaining
It is irrelevant that this Court might read the underlying
agreement differently, so long as the Board's construction is a
Under Article II Section (B) of the Agreement, "The Union
agrees all employees covered by this Agreement shall be
governed by company rules, regulations and orders issued by
properly designated authorities of the company." Although the
rules and regulations do not in terms cover the exact behavior
for which Adamezewski was discharged, the Board's determination
was "rationally inferable" from some of them:
(1) Part II, Rule 2 provides, "Employees shall obey the
orders of their supervisors at all times" (emphasis
supplied). Certainly the Board could reasonably have found
that rule applied to Adamczewski's refusal to answer the
supervisors' questions at the January 28 meeting, the cause
of his discharge. Indeed the Board found specifically that
the supervisors "ordered" Adamezewski to answer the question.
(2) Even though Northwest's own property was not involved, it
has a legitimate (and direct) interest in making sure that
its employees have no involvement in thefts from any
airlines. That fact could reasonably bear on the Board's
construction of the Agreement.
(3) Part II, Rule 18, describes various sorts of infractions
— stealing, deliberate damaging of property and so forth — as
reasons for discharge. In light of the concept in paragraph
(2), the Board could rationally have construed the Rule
(under ejusdem generis principles) as covering not only the
listed items but the like-kind conduct that prompted the
order to Adamczewski.
(4) In the same way a broad reading of Part II, Rule 14, on
stealing could have been relied upon by the Board to reach
Given the narrow range of judicial review, this Court must
conclude that the prohibitions the Board could have relied upon
to find Adamczewski's discharge with "just cause" were at least
"rationally inferable" from the letter of the Agreement.
Accordingly the Board's order must be upheld as within its
There is no dispute as to any material fact, and Northwest is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Northwest's summary
judgment motion is therefore granted and Adamezewski's like
motion is denied.