United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
May 5, 2005.
AMERITECH CORPORATION d/b/a SBC MIDWEST, Plaintiff,
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, LOCAL 21, AFL-CIO, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge
This matter is before the court on Plaintiff Ameritech
Corporation's ("Ameritech") motion for summary judgment. This
matter is also before the court on Defendant International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 21, AFL-CIO's ("Local
21") motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below,
we deny Ameritech's motion for summary judgment and we grant both
of Local 21's motions for summary judgment.
Ameritech entered into a collective bargaining agreement with
Local 21 ("CBA"). In September of 2002, Ameritech informed Local 21 that
there would be layoffs beginning on December 27, 2002, due to
business reasons. Local 21 then filed a grievance claiming that
the intended layoffs would violate Section 1.03 of the CBA. The
grievance was heard by an arbitrator in November of 2002 and on
December 2, 2002, the arbitrator made a decision to deny Local
On December 27, 2002, Ameritech laid off hundreds of members of
Local 21 and Local 21 filed a new grievance alleging a violation
of Section 1.03 of the CBA ("Section 1.03"). The parties then
submitted their dispute to a second arbitrator ("second
arbitrator") who rendered a decision on June 23, 2004, sustaining
the grievance filed by Local 21. Since the decision of the second
arbitrator, Ameritech and Local 21 have disputed whether or not
Ameritech has been in compliance with the award of the second
arbitrator. Ameritech brought the instant action seeking to have
the second arbitrator's award vacated to the extent that it
requires Ameritech to participate in the review and allotment
process (Count I), and to produce information regarding the
contracting out of work which has never been performed by the
bargaining unit employees (Count II). Ameritech also asks the
court to vacate a supplemental decision made by the second
arbitrator on September 10, 2004, based on the fact that he
lacked jurisdiction (Count III). Finally Ameritech requests that
the court vacate the order by the second arbitrator issued on
September 10, 2004, ordering Ameritech to produce certain
information. Ameritech and Local 21 have moved for summary judgment on the complaint and Local 21 has
moved for summary judgment on its counterclaim.
Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c). In seeking a grant of summary judgment the moving party
must identify "those portions of `the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with
the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)). This initial burden may be satisfied by presenting
specific evidence on a particular issue or by pointing out "an
absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case."
Id. at 325. Once the movant has met this burden, the non-moving
party cannot simply rest on the allegations in the pleadings,
but, "by affidavits or as otherwise provided for in [Rule 56],
must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). A "genuine issue" in the
context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a
"metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586
(1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict
for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc.,
216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). The court must consider the record as a
whole, in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, and
draw all reasonable inferences that favor the non-moving party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v. Cassens Transport Co.,
212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000).
The Seventh Circuit has made it clear that "judicial review of
arbitration awards under collective bargaining agreements is
extremely narrow." Amax Coal Co. v. United Mine Workers of
America, Intern. Union, 92 F.3d 571, 575-76 (7th Cir. 1996).
When ruling on a collective bargaining agreement dispute, "an
arbitrator is confined to interpretation and application of the
collective bargaining agreement. . . ." Id. at 575. The
arbitrator may "look for guidance from many sources" and the
arbitration award "is legitimate only so long as it draws its
essence from the collective bargaining agreement." Id. (stating
that "the central determination to be made is whether the
arbitrator, who was delegated the power to interpret the
agreement between the parties, has `exceeded the powers delegated
him by the parties.'"). Since the established policy of promoting
the settlement of "labor disputes by arbitration would be undermined if courts had the
final say on the merits of awards" the courts cannot vacate
arbitration awards if the arbitrators are "even arguably
construing or applying the contracts and acting within the scope
of [the arbitrators'] authority . . ." Id. (quoting United
Steelworkers of America v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp.,
363 U.S. 593 (1960)). The courts cannot "review the arbitrator's
decision on the merits despite allegations that the decision
rests on factual errors or misinterprets the parties' agreement."
International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 139, AFL-CIO
v. J.H. Findorff & Son, Inc., 393 F.3d 742, 745 (7th Cir.
2004) (stating that "if an `arbitrator is even arguably
construing or applying the contract and acting within the scope
of his authority, the fact that a court is convinced he committed
serious error does not suffice to overturn his decision."). When
an action is brought in federal court seeking a review of an
arbitrator's decision, the court cannot base its ruling on an
examination of "whether the arbitrator or arbitrators erred in
interpreting the contract." Id. Rather, the sole focus by the
court must be on whether the arbitrator "interpreted the
Ameritech argues that the second arbitrator's decision did not
draw its essence from the CBA because the decision ignores the
plain language of Section 1.03. Section 1.03 provides that the
CBA "covers work customarily performed by employees defined" in
the CBA, but that Ameritech "may continue to contract out such
work as is now customarily contracted out and has been
customarily contracted out by" certain other companies "under previous collective
bargaining agreements." (CBA Sec. 1.03). Section 1.03 further
provides that "[i]f such work to be contracted out causes
layoffs, or part-timing to prevent the rehiring of employees with
seniority standing, such contracting out of work will be reviewed
by [Ameritech] with [Local 21] and allotted on the basis of what
[Ameritech] is equipped to perform and what the employees
represented by [Local 21] are able and trained to perform. (CBA
Sec. 1.03). Ameritech argues that the second arbitrator ignored
Ameritech's right to continue to contract out work and summarily
ordered Ameritech to commence the review and allotment process
without addressing whether or not the work that was contracted
out caused layoffs or prevented the rehiring of bargaining unit
Ameritech argues that it is seeking a vacation of the decision
because the Arbitrator ignored specific language of Section 1.03
which Ameritech contends "reduced Section 1.03" to a meaningless
absurdity" (DSJ A 2). Ameritech claims that the second
arbitrator's decision "twists and perverts" Section 1.03.
Ameritech, in pursuing such an argument, ignores the controlling
precedent on this issue. As indicated above, and which is omitted
from Ameritech's recitation of the law, when an action is brought
in federal court seeking a review of an arbitrator's decision,
the court must determine whether the decision "draws from the
essence" of the collective bargaining agreement, and in making
such a determination the court cannot engage in an examination of
"whether the arbitrator or arbitrators erred in interpreting the contract." J.H. Findorff & Son, Inc.,
393 F.3d at 745. Rather, the sole focus by the court must be on whether
the arbitrator "interpreted the contract." Id. It is Ameritech
that attempts to "twist?" the law when it argues that because
the arbitrator did not adopt its interpretation of Section 1.03,
the arbitrator's decision was not based upon the provisions of
the CBA. Such a position is wholly untenable and is unsupported
by the controlling precedent. We must simply decide whether or
not the second arbitrator "interpreted the contract." J.H.
Findorff & Son, Inc., 393 F.3d at 745. The second arbitrator
clearly based his decision on the CBA, in particular Section
1.03. We are not convinced by Ameritech's argument that the
second arbitrator was acting beyond the terms of the CBA simply
because he rejected Ameritech's interpretation of Section 1.03.
No reasonable trier of fact could find otherwise. Ameritech
agreed to the arbitration and Ameritech was dissatisfied with the
result. The law does not allow Ameritech to appeal the merits of
the arbitrator's decision to this court.
Ameritech repeatedly cites Anheuser-Busch, Inc. v. Local Union
No. 744, Affiliated with the Intern. Brotherhood of Teamsters,
280 F.3d 1133 (7th Cir. 2002) in support of its arguments.
For example, Ameritech cites Anheuser-Busch, Inc. for the
proposition that "an arbitrator cannot shield himself from
judicial correction by merely making noises of contract
interpretation." Id. at 1138. First of all it is clear in the
instant action that the second arbitrator actually interpreted
Section 1.03 and did much more than make "noises of contract interpretation."
Id. Secondly, in a more recent case the Seventh Circuit has
declined to extend the holding of Anheuser-Busch, Inc. to the
broad extent that it is employed by Ameritech. In International
Union of Operating Engineers, Local 139, AFL-CIO v. J.H. Findorff
& Son, Inc., 393 F.3d 742 (7th Cir. 2004), the Seventh
Circuit made clear the narrow scope of judicial review of an
arbitrator's ruling. Id. at 745. The Court in J.H. Findorff &
Son, Inc., recognized the holding in Anheuser-Busch, Inc., but
emphasized that the court's focus is not a review of the merits
of the arbitrator's contract interpretation and decision. Id.
The Seventh Circuit made it clear that the court's focus is
whether the arbitrator "interpreted the contract." Id.
Therefore, we grant Local 21's motion for summary judgment on the
complaint and deny Ameritech's motion for summary judgment on the
Local 21 has moved for summary judgment on the counterclaim.
Based upon the above analysis and the undisputed facts in this
action no reasonable trier of fact could conclude that Ameritech
has been in compliance with the decision of the second
arbitrator. It is clear that the second arbitrator acted within
his authority and jurisdiction on June 23, 2004 and September 10,
2004. The decision of the second arbitrator was rendered in
accordance with the provisions of the CBA to which Ameritech is a
party and Ameritech can no longer avoid its obligations under the
CBA. Therefore, we grant Local 21's motion for summary judgment
on the counterclaim. CONCLUSION
Based on the foregoing analysis, we deny Ameritech's motion for
summary judgment. We grant Local 21's motion for summary judgment
on the complaint and grant Local 21's motion for summary judgment
on the counterclaim.
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