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ROADMASTER CORP. v. PROD. EMP. LOC. 504

March 26, 1987

ROADMASTER CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PRODUCTION — MAINTENANCE EMPLOYEES' LOCAL 504, LABORERS' INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA, AFL-CIO, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Foreman, Chief Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Roadmaster Corporation (Roadmaster), has brought this suit seeking vacation of an arbitration award rendered against it and in favor of defendant, Production & Maintenance Employees Local 504 (Local 504). Local 504 has counterclaimed asking this Court to find the award enforceable, however the union does not seek enforcement of the entire award at this time. Both sides have moved for summary judgment on their claims and this Court heard argument addressing the motions on March 20, 1987. The factual and procedural background surrounding the ongoing dispute between union and company is somewhat complicated. Though the issue before the Court is whether or not the arbitrator exceeded his authority, the Court finds it provident to outline the factual and procedural background involved.

BACKGROUND

Roadmaster is a privately held Delaware corporation licensed to do business in Illinois. Its principal place of business is a bicycle manufacturing plant located in Olney, Illinois. In November, 1982, Roadmaster entered into a collective bargaining agreement with United Employees Union Number One covering the terms and conditions of employment of Roadmaster plant employees. The agreement was to be effective from December 1, 1982 to February 28, 1986.

In the summer of 1985 the bargaining unit employees struck over wage concessions being sought in a company initiated wage re-opener. During the strike, the company hired between 500 and 600 permanent replacements. Also, during the strike, members of United Employees Union Number One voted to merge with Local 771 of the Laborers' International Union of North America. The officers of both unions sent notification to the company on August 6, 1987 stating that the two unions accepted Roadmaster's last offer and that employees would return to work the next day. The company took the position that the employees were not entitled to return immediately as permanent replacements had been hired.

The merger between Union Number One and Local 771 had not been finalized at the time the employees voted to return to work. Thereupon, another meeting was held to decide whether the employees should affiliate directly with the Laborers Union by establishing a separate local union. As union officials did not have a list of replacement employees, they requested Roadmaster to post notice of the meeting at the plant and to provide a list of the names of all bargaining unit employees. The company refused both requests. The meeting was held after notice was published in the local media and the employees voted in favor of affiliating. Local 504 was thereafter chartered.

From August, 1985 until March 6, 1986, Roadmaster expressed reservations and concerns as to which union was actually entitled to recognition. Grievances were filed by Local 504 over actions taken by the company allegedly out of concern over which labor organization was entitled to recognition. On December 16, 1985, Roadmaster sent identical letters to officials of Local 504, Local 771 and United Employees Union Number One. The letters were the same except for the name of the union. The letter to Local 504 read:

  This letter and notice is not to be construed as
  recognition of Production and Maintenance Employees
  Local 504 as the collective bargaining representative
  of the Production and Maintenance Employees at
  Roadmaster Corporation. Further, this notice does not
  constitute a waiver and is without prejudice of any
  rights the employer has or may have to assert that
  Production and Maintenance Employees Local 504 is not
  the collective bargaining representative of
  Roadmaster Corporation's Production and Maintenance
  Employees under the National Labor Relations Act.
  This notice is given solely for purposes of
  terminating the collective bargaining agreement set
  to expire at 12 o'clock midnight, February 28, 1986.

Between the time the letters were sent and the date the contract was to expire grievances were filed and suits to compel arbitration were started. The company did not offer to negotiate with Local 504 over possible terms of a new contract. This Court ordered the parties to arbitration on two grievances and after the contract date had expired more grievances were filed. Orders to compel were made and various awards rendered. After the dust settled, the four grievances left at the time were submitted to arbitrator Robert G. Howlett for resolution. It is arbitrator Howlett's award, or at least a portion of it, which is the subject matter of the instant suit.

ANALYSIS

Arbitrator Howlett decided in favor of Roadmaster on two grievances dealing with employee recall and job bidding respectively. His award as to those grievances is not questioned. A grievance dealing with union security provisions, specifically dues checkoffs which the company refused to make or tender, was decided in favor of the union. The company does not contest the finding of liability in the award, however the exact amount owing is dependent on another part of the award which is challenged. Roadmaster challenges the arbitrator's award in favor of the union on the grievance concerning the termination of rollover of the contract.

It is the union's contention that the collective bargaining agreement between the parties rolled over and became effective for another year after midnight on February 28, 1986. Local 504 argues that Article 34 of the contract was not complied with by Roadmaster, as they failed to offer to negotiate after giving notice of termination. Roadmaster argues that notice was all ...


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