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International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 176 v. Balmoral Racing Club

June 13, 2002


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 98 C 5846--James B. Zagel, Judge.

Before Posner, Manion, and Diane P. Wood, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Diane P. Wood, Circuit Judge.


The issue before us in this case is whether Balmoral Racing Club, Inc. and Balmoral Park Trot, Inc. (collectively Balmoral) must arbitrate a labor dispute between itself and IBEW Local 176 (Local 176) arising out of Balmoral's brief direct employment of certain camera workers. As is normal with such cases, the answer depends on the language of the agreement--both its arbitration clause and other related provisions. In addition, in this particular instance the resolution of the arbitrability question is closely tied to the merits of the underlying dispute. That is because the central question--whether the camera workers were covered by the relevant agreement--is also the most important issue for the merits of the dispute. Our responsibility, however, is limited to the arbitrability issue, even if there are some inevitable overlaps between that and the merits. The district court found that the relevant workers fell within the scope of a collective bargaining agreement that Balmoral had with Local 176 and that the dispute is therefore arbitrable; it therefore dismissed the case entirely. We agree and accordingly affirm the district court's judgment.


Balmoral has owned and run horse racing facilities in Illinois since at least 1983. It employs electricians at its race tracks who perform a variety of tasks customarily assigned to electricians. At all relevant times, the electricians at the race track were covered by a collective bargaining agreement (the Agreement) between Balmoral and Local 176. Balmoral also uses the services of camera workers who record the races and transmit them to off-track betting parlors. For a number of years, Balmoral contracted with a separate company, World Wide Broadcasting (World Wide), to provide the personnel needed to perform the camera work; until 1996, World Wide's camera workers were covered by a separate agreement between World Wide and Local 176, to which Balmoral was not a party.

In September 1996, the World Wide camera workers honored the picket line of another union that was on strike at the time. Because World Wide could not provide its employees to Balmoral during this period, Balmoral terminated its contractual relationship with World Wide and announced to the union that it no longer had any use for Local 176 members for camera work; around the same time, it hired non-union personnel to perform those tasks. Local 176 was not happy with this arrangement and began discussing alternatives with Balmoral. On September 26, Balmoral agreed to hire the former World Wide camera workers and to give them the same pay and benefits that World Wide had provided under its contract with Local 176. The workers thereafter performed both camera work and occasional general electrical work of a type normally done by "inside electrical workers" (a term defined in the IBEW Constitution, about which we have more to say later).

Balmoral and Local 176 met to try to reduce this temporary agreement to a more permanent one, but they failed. At this point, Balmoral decided once again to terminate the union camera workers who had previously worked for World Wide and to employ non-union camera workers instead.

The standstill, coupled with Balmoral's actions, prompted Local 176 in November 1996 to file two grievances with Balmoral pursuant to the Agreement, in which it challenged the termination of the former World Wide camera workers and the pay practices of Balmoral with respect to these workers. The union took the position that the World Wide camera workers had come within the coverage of the Agreement, and because the Agreement contains a broad arbitration clause, its dispute with Balmoral was therefore subject to the full grievance procedure set forth in the Agreement, up to and including arbitration. Balmoral disagreed, claiming that the camera workers had never come within the scope of the Agreement, and for that reason it refused to arbitrate. Local 176 then filed this action seeking an order compelling arbitration of the grievances.


Both parties moved for summary judgment on whether the workers were covered by the Agreement, which in turn (all agreed) governed whether arbitration was required. The district court entered summary judgment for Balmoral and denied Local 176's motion on June 24, 1998. It did not rule on the merits per se; instead, the court found that a condition precedent to arbitration had not been satisfied. Under the terms of the Agreement, the International President of the IBEW had to make a formal determination concerning the jurisdictional scope of the Agreement before the camera workers' grievance could be entertained, and no such determination had been requested or produced by the time the grievance was filed. In that procedural posture, Local 176 was not entitled to prevail in its effort to compel arbitration. Nonetheless, the district court hinted in its decision that Local 176 (which by the time of the decision had obtained the necessary ruling from the IBEW President) could refile its grievances against Balmoral.

Local 176 took the hint and filed a new action. Presented with new cross-motions for summary judgment, in an order dated March 27, 2001, the district court this time agreed with the union. The court relied on a letter from the International President that (the court was satisfied) concluded that the camera workers were covered by Local 176 and that Balmoral was required to arbitrate the disputes. Balmoral appeals that judgment.


The usual Rule 56 standard of review applies to crossmotions for summary judgment, and our review is de novo. Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians v. Voigt, 700 F.2d 341, 349 (7th Cir. 1983). To the extent that Balmoral challenges the court's decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the union, we construe the record in the light most favorable to Balmoral. Hendricks-Robinson v. Excel Corp., 154 F.3d 685, 692 (7th Cir. 1998). To the extent that Balmoral asserts that the court erred in refusing to grant its own motion for summary judgment, the record is evaluated in the light most favorable to Local 176. Id. Either way, summary judgment is proper if the record demonstrates ...

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