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ADAMCZESKI v. NORTHWEST AIRLINES

December 31, 1981

ROBERT J. ADAMCZEWSKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
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.

Facts*fn1

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 Adamczewski for:

  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.

Adamczewski's ...


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