bargaining agreement exists, NLRB would be estopped from further action.
NLRB has jurisdiction to resolve unfair labor complaints; the district court has jurisdiction to interpret collective bargaining agreements; and the district court has jurisdiction both to resolve unfair labor complaints and to interpret collective bargaining agreements. ( Sheet Metal Workers, 877 F.2d 547, 550). When a case involves both the interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA") and allegations of violations of the NLRA, the federal district court and NLRB have concurrent jurisdiction. ( Sheet Metal Workers Local 20 Air Conditioning, Inc. v. Baylor Heating, 688 F. Supp. 462, 469 (S.D.Ind. 1988)). When the underlying controversy is primarily contractual, NLRB should defer to the courts. Sheet Metal Workers, 877 F.2d 547, 551.
In Sheet Metal Workers, NLRB filed a motion to stay on contractual issues raised by the parties. Baylor Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc. ("Company"), defendant-appellant, and Sheet Metal workers Local Union No. 20 ("Union"), plaintiff-appellee, signed a prehire collective bargaining agreement authorized by NLRA. The Union and the Sheet Metal Contractors' Association of Evansville, Inc. negotiated the agreement and, the Company voluntarily agreed to be bound by its terms. The agreement went into effect on May 1, 1984, and was scheduled to expire on April 30, 1987.
In January 1987 the Union anticipated renewal of the agreement and advised the Company that it wished to amend the agreement. On February 26, 1987 the Company advised the Union that it did not intend to sign a new agreement. The Company refused to negotiate with the Union. On March 6, 1987 the Union filed an unfair labor charge with the NLRB charging that the Company refused to bargain in violation of Section 8(a)(5) of the NLRA. 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(5). The NLRB found no violation by the Company and refused to issue a complaint for unfair labor practices against the Company. The Union invoked the collective bargaining agreement's interest arbitration clause to submit the dispute to the Adjustment Board ("Arbitrator") for resolution. In reliance on the NLRB's determination the Company chose not to participate in the proceeding before the Arbitrator. The Arbitrator decided in favor of the Union to enforce the interest Arbitration clause and ordered the Company to execute a new agreement with the Union beginning June 1, 1987 and ending June 30, 1991. The Union filed suit to enforce the arbitration award.
On November 19, 1987 the Company filed unfair labor charges with NLRB against the Union. The Company then moved the district court to stay its proceedings until the NLRB resolved the unfair labor charges. The district court denied the stay, found the Company's contractual duties were more exacting than its statutory duties, and granted summary judgment in favor of the Union enforcing the arbitration award. The Company appealed the decision of the district court.
The district court denied the stay and the court of appeals affirmed the decision of the district court. The court reasoned that: (1) when the underlying controversy is primarily contractual, NLRB should defer to the courts; and (2) granting a stay would not resolve the dispute promptly.
In the instant case, although the action has been pending before the NLRB only since October 12, 1994, there is no guarantee that a hearing on the unfair labor charge that underlies this controversy will be heard as expeditiously as this court can hear it. All discovery is complete and the case is ready for trial. This court is available to hear the case at trial in December, 1994. MSA likewise is ready to proceed. The union however, states that it cannot be ready until at least January, 1995. The counsel for NLRB represented that a hearing before that body could be held in an expedited fashion; however, upon questioning by the court counsel could not indicate when an administrative law judge (ALJ) would be available, when the ALJ would render its recommendation, or tell how long the NLRB would take in accepting or rejecting the recommendation of the ALJ. Federal policies favor disposition of labor disputes in 6 months under NLRA. ( United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Mitchell, 451 U.S. 56, 63, 101 S. Ct. 1559, 67 L. Ed. 2d 732 (1981); and 29 U.S.C. 160(b)). The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals stated in Sheet Metal Workers, 877 F.2d 547, 550, that further delay runs counter to a basic tenet in our national labor policy--labor disputes should be resolved promptly. Furthermore, as the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found in Sheet Metal Workers, this court finds in the instant case, that since the underlying controversy is primarily contractual, and taking into account the exigency of the situation, the NLRB should defer to the courts.
For the reasons discussed above and in the exercise of its sound discretion, this court denies the motion for stay of the court proceedings.
BLANCHE M. MANNING, Judge
United States District Court
DATED: December 15, 1994