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Local 73, Service Employees International Union v. Uchicago Argonne

February 11, 2011

LOCAL 73, SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UCHICAGO ARGONNE, LLC OPERATOR OF ARGONNE NATIONAL LABORATORY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles P. Kocoras, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case comes before the court on two motions. Plaintiff Local 73, Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO ("Local 73") has filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Defendant UChicago Argonne, LLC ("Argonne") has also filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, Local 73's motion is granted. Argonne's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

Argonne operates Argonne National Laboratory, a science and engineering research facility in Argonne, Illinois. Local 73 serves as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for those among its membership that are Argonne employees.

Argonne and Local 73 are parties to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") that became effective on June 9, 2007, and will expire on June 3, 2011. Section 7.1 of the CBA provides for the resolution of any controversies that are not satisfactorily resolved through the grievance process:

Any controversy with respect to the meaning or application of any provision of this Agreement which has been processed through the grievance procedure and not satisfactorily adjusted in Step Three of the grievance procedure and not satisfactorily adjusted in Step Three of the grievance procedure may be submitted for arbitration by the Union by notifying the Laboratory in writing no later than fifteen (15) calendar days after the final decision in Step Three of the grievance procedure is communicated to the Chairman of the Union Grievance Committee. Article VI of the CBA defines a grievance "as a difference of opinion between the Laboratory and the Union or between the Laboratory and an employee with respect to the meaning or application of any provision of this Agreement which is reduced to writing and filed for processing through the grievance procedure."

James Gleason ("Gleason") was a member of Local 73 who worked as a waste management mechanic at Argonne. Gleason's position required him to work with nuclear waste and other hazardous materials. Argonne mandated that its employees follow certain procedures when handling and disposing materials that had been subjected to radiological contamination. Before performing a task that involved potentially radioactive materials, workers had to review the Radiological Work Permit ("RWP") that described the task to be accomplished and specified the Personal Protective Equipment ("PPE") needed to complete the task safely. Employees assigned to a job subject to a RWP were obligated to follow the PPE requirements listed; the necessary attire varied depending on the nature of the hazard but ranged from safety shoes and safety glasses to a full body suit and respirator. A worker that did not wear the necessary PPE would be subject to discipline.

On February 8, 2007, Argonne suspended Gleason because of his non-compliance with PPE requirements. Gleason filed a grievance challenging the suspension. Argonne and Local 73 resolved the dispute through arbitration where the arbitrator determined that a three-day suspension would serve as an appropriate penalty for Gleason's conduct. On July 1, 2009, Gleason committed another PPE violation that could have resulted in his termination. In lieu of termination, however, Gleason, Local 73, and Argonne settled the matter short of employing the grievance mechanism and entered into a Last Chance Agreement on August 11, 2009. The Last Chance Agreement provided that:

In addition, if Gleason engages in any violations of the Laboratory's personal protective equipment ("PPE") requirements in the future and Gleason is terminated for said violations, Gleason and the Union hereby waive any and all rights Gleason and/or the Union may have to arbitrate such termination. Any future violations by Gleason that are not violations of PPE requirements shall not be governed by this Last Chance Agreement and will instead be addressed pursuant to Laboratory policies and past practice.

Argonne terminated Gleason on November 3, 2009, and notified him that the reason for his termination was an alleged violation of Argonne's PPE requirements that occurred on October 21, 2009. On November 16, 2009, Local 73 filed a grievance to protest Gleason's discharge which challenged Argonne's determination that Gleason committed a PPE violation on the date in question. Local 73 sought to pursue Gleason's grievance through arbitration but Argonne refused.

On May 11, 2010, Local 73 filed suit seeking to compel Argonne's participation in arbitration of Gleason's grievance pursuant to the Labor-Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, and the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 4. Local 73 and Argonne have now filed cross-motions for summary judgment.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate only when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could find for the non-movant. Buscaglia v. United States, 25 F.3d 530, 534 (7th Cir. 1994). The movant in a motion for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact by specific citation to the record; if the party succeeds in doing so, the burden shifts to the non-movant to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). In considering motions for summary judgment, a court construes all facts and draws all inferences from the record in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

When parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, each motion must be assessed independently, and denial of one does not necessitate the grant of the other. M. Snower & Co. v. United States, 140 F.2d 367, 369 (7th Cir. 1944). Rather, each motion evidences only that the movant believes it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the issues within its motion and that trial is the appropriate course of action if the ...


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