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GRAPHIC COMM. UNION v. CHICAGO TRIBUNE CO.

July 11, 1985

GRAPHIC COMMUNICATIONS UNION CHICAGO PAPER HANDLERS' & ELECTROTYPERS' LOCAL NO. 2, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE COMPANY AND CHICAGO NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS' ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Getzendanner, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In this action under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, plaintiff Chicago Paper Handlers' & Electrotypers' Local No. 1 (hereafter "Union") seeks to compel arbitration of a dispute over a unilateral change in hiring practices instigated by defendant Chicago Tribune Company ("Tribune"). The matter is currently before the court on the motion of defendants Tribune and the Chicago Newspaper Publishers' Association ("CNPA") to dismiss, and the motion of plaintiff for summary judgment and for fees. For the reasons set forth herein, the motions to dismiss and for fees are denied, and the motion for summary judgment is granted.

FACTS

The following facts, as set forth in the exhibits to plaintiff's complaint and the affidavit of William Roberts, Union president, are undisputed by the defendants and are therefore deemed admitted. See Local Rule 12(f). Plaintiff Union is a labor organization affiliated with the Graphic Communications Union, and represents all handlers of papers employed by defendant Tribune. Defendant CNPA is the Tribune's bargaining representative. Plaintiff and the CNPA, on behalf of the Tribune, entered into a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("Agreement") to become effective September 3, 1981 and to remain in full force and effect until September 3, 1984. (Complaint Exhibit "A"). That contract sets forth in detail matters pertaining to wages, hours, and working conditions but is silent on the question of hiring procedures. The Agreement contains no express "no strike" clause. Such an obligation is inferred, however, from the Agreement's stated object "to prevent lockouts, boycotts, strikes and other forms of concerted action" in favor of conciliation, and from its requirements of mandatory arbitration.

The contract contains three arbitration clauses for implementing this "principle of conciliation." First of these is an "interest arbitration" clause. Under that clause, any party proposing an amendment to the contract or a new contract to take its place upon expiration shall notify the other party sixty days prior to the expiration date. Failure to give notice shall be construed as a renewal of the Agreement on a year to year basis. If agreement in negotiating an amendment or a new contract proves impossible, the difference "shall be arbitrated."

The second arbitration clause — the "speedy arbitration" clause — permits the Union to maintain the status quo with regard to the scale and hours provided in the Agreement or "mutually agreed to working conditions" pending the resolution of "grievance adjustment, conciliation or arbitration." This provision applies "[i]n the event of a difference" but contains the caveat that working conditions shall remain unchanged pending arbitration only if "such working conditions are set forth in the contract or are the subject matter of agreements arrived at and reviewed by the parties."

The final arbitration provision of the contract is a Joint Standing Committee clause for resolving "all questions, except those qualifying for adjudication under the `speedy arbitration' provisions of this Section, which may arise as to the construction to be placed upon any of the clauses of this Agreement or any alleged violations thereof, which cannot be settled otherwise." Nowhere else does the Agreement define or limit the power of the arbitrator.

In August 1984, the parties began negotiating a new contract. In accordance with prior practice, the company continued to maintain existing conditions after expiration while negotiations continued. On September 5, 1984, two days after the old contract expired, the Tribune advised the Union that, effective November 1, 1984, the Tribune would cease its forty-year old practice of using the Union's referral procedures for hiring new and extra employees. (Complaint Exhibit "B"). The company's stated reason for discontinuing the practice was to ensure that all hiring practices would be nondiscriminatory.

On September 7, 1984, Union president William Roberts wrote to the Tribune to protest the company's unilateral discontinuance of the referral system. (Complaint Exhibit "C"). Roberts stated that utilization of the Union callroom had been a "mutually agreed to working condition from the inception of the collective bargaining relationship" and requested that the issue be referred to the Joint Standing Committee for arbitration if informal resolution proved impossible.

On September 11, 1984, the Tribune responded that its use of the callroom was not and had never been a mutually agreed to working condition. (Complaint Exhibit "D"). The Tribune stated that the Joint Standing Committee procedures were inapplicable because the contract was silent on referral procedures and advised the Union to take up further complaints with the CNPA.

On September 27, 1984, the Union notified the CNPA and formally requested a Joint Standing Committee meeting for arbitrating the contemplated action of the Tribune. (Complaint Exhibit "F"). The CNPA took the position that, since the dispute did "not involve any of the provisions contained in the written collective bargaining agreement between the CNPA and [the] union, such matters [could not] be properly entertained or decided by the Joint Standing Committee." (Complaint Exhibit "H"). The Union followed up this letter with a formal demand for arbitration, which was again rejected. (Complaint Exhibits "I" and "J"). In late November, the Union prepared a submission to the American Arbitration Association to resolve both the issue of arbitrability as well as the underlying dispute. (Complaint Exhibits "N" and "O"). The CNPA again declined to arbitrate, (Complaint Exhibit "P"), and this suit followed on December 21, 1984.

Arbitrability

The legal rules underlying this dispute are too well settled to merit extended background discussion. Ever since the Steelworkers trilogy,*fn1 it has been recognized that national labor policy favors arbitration as a means of resolving employee-employer disputes. Accordingly, federal courts have a limited role to play in § 301 suits seeking arbitration, and must uphold the duty to arbitrate wherever the bargaining agreement may reasonably be construed to impose such a duty:

  An order to arbitrate the particular grievance should
  not be denied unless it may be said with positive
  assurance that the arbitration clause is not
  susceptible to an interpretation that covers the
  asserted ...

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