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05/28/96 JUPITER MECHANICAL INDUSTRIES v. SPRINKLER

May 28, 1996

JUPITER MECHANICAL INDUSTRIES, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
SPRINKLER FITTERS AND APPRENTICES LOCAL UNION NO. 281, AND LORI GAVIN, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. HONORABLE EDWIN M. BERMAN, JUDGE PRESIDING.

The Honorable Justice Wolfson delivered the opinion of the court: Buckley and Braden, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wolfson

The Honorable Justice WOLFSON delivered the opinion of the court:

The issue in this case is whether the collective bargaining agreement between a union and an employer requires that the two sides arbitrate the discharge of an employee when the agreement says nothing about conditions for discharge. The trial court entered an order compelling arbitration. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

On June 3, 1991, Jupiter Mechanical Industries, Inc. (Jupiter), as a member of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, Inc. (Association), entered into a collective bargaining agreement (Agreement) with the Sprinkler Fitters and Apprentices Local Union No. 281 (Union). The Agreement stated, in article 2, that it constituted "the entire agreement between the parties."

Article 16, entitled "Grievance Procedure and Arbitration", pertained to "all disputes and grievances by employees and employers relative to the interpretation or application of this Agreement." It provided for a four-step procedure.

First, the aggrieved employee was to advise the business agent of the local union of the problem (Step 1). Next, the agent would contact the employer and attempt to resolve the grievance (Step 2).

If this attempt failed, the next step was to file a written grievance, by registered mail, with the National Fire Sprinkler Association (Step 3). The exact date of the grievance, the nature of the grievance, and the provision of the Agreement alleged to have been violated were to be included in this written notice. The Association would then set up a meeting between the employer and the local union agent "to resolve said grievance."

If the parties still failed to resolve the grievance, the fourth step was to submit the matter for binding arbitration.

On July 6, 1994, Jupiter discharged one of its employees, Lori Gavin (Gavin), for refusing to perform certain tasks which were within her job description. Gavin, a member of the Union, contacted her Union agent. On July 19, 1994, the Union filed a written grievance against Jupiter on Gavin's behalf, in accord with the first paragraph of Step 3 of the grievance procedure. The grievance alleged that Gavin was wrongfully discharged because she had been unable to perform assigned tasks due to a work related injury. The Union did not indicate any specific provision of the Agreement which it alleged Jupiter to have violated.

A grievance hearing was held pertaining to Gavin's claim, in accord with the second paragraph of Step 3 of the procedure. Jupiter participated. But when the parties were unable to resolve the dispute and the Union filed a demand for binding arbitration, Jupiter refused to participate. Step 4 never took place. Instead, Jupiter filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County for declaratory judgment and a stay of arbitration, in accord with the Illinois Uniform Arbitration Act. 710 ILCS 5/1 et seq. (West 1992).

Jupiter argued that the grievance was not arbitrable. No violation of the Agreement was cited by the Union, Jupiter said, because the discharge of employees does not fall within the scope of the collective bargaining agreement between the parties. Therefore, said Jupiter, no right to arbitration attached.

After hearing argument by the parties, the circuit court denied Jupiter's request, finding that the arbitration agreement covered the underlying dispute. An order was issued compelling arbitration. ...


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