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C.F. Mueller Co. v. United Bakery

Decided: April 13, 1961.

C.F. MUELLER COMPANY, A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED BAKERY, CONFECTIONERY, CANNERY, PACKING & FOOD SERVICE WORKERS UNION OF NEW JERSEY, LOCAL 262, C.I.O., AFFILIATED WITH THE UNITED RETAIL, WHOLESALE & DEPARTMENT STORE WORKERS UNION, C.I.O., AN UNINCORPORATED ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANT



Collester, J.s.c.

Collester

This is an action brought by the plaintiff, C.F. Mueller Company, a corporation, (hereinafter referred to as the company) against the defendant, United Bakery, Confectionery, Cannery, Packing and Food Service Workers Union of New Jersey, Local 262, C.I.O., Affiliated with the United Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Workers Union, C.I.O., a labor organization, (hereinafter referred to as the union), for a judgment under the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Law (N.J.S. 2A:16-50 et seq.).

The facts are not in dispute. Briefly stated, the union filed a grievance with the company on behalf of one John Nash, a member of the union and an employee of the company, claiming that Nash should receive a day's pay for December 12, 1959. The first two steps in the grievance procedure provided for in the collective bargaining contract between the company and the union were completed, and on December 21, 1959, pursuant to step 3 of the grievance

procedure, a meeting was held between the plaintiff's plant manager and the defendant's business agent. On the same date, following the meeting, the company notified the union in writing that it would not pay Nash the one day's pay involved in the dispute.

On January 12, 1960 the union through its attorney gave notice to the company of its desire to take the disputed issue to arbitration. The plaintiff refused to participate in the proposed arbitration, contending that such notice was not given within the time period provided for in the contract, and thereafter filed its complaint in this court. The arbitration has been restrained pending a determination of the issues raised in this case.

The first issue raised relates to the jurisdiction of this court, namely, whether this court has the power to decide the issues raised or whether they must be decided by the New Jersey State Board of Mediation.

The plaintiff contends that the particular grievance here involved is not arbitrable under the terms of the contract itself and that this court should interpret the arbitration clause of the contract to determine whether the dispute is arbitrable thereunder since a procedural requisite was not complied with by the defendant.

The defendant concedes that state courts have concurrent jurisdiction to enforce federal law including section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (29 U.S.C., sec. 185(a), 29 U.S.C.A. ยง 185(a). However, the defendant contends that the issue of whether or not the grievance is arbitrable is solely for the arbitrator named in the agreement.

Both parties have referred to the decisions rendered by the United States Supreme Court on June 20, 1960, viz: United Steelworkers of America v. American Manufacturing Company , 363 U.S. 564, 80 S. Ct. 1343, 4 L. Ed. 2 d 1403 (1960), and the companion cases of United Steelworkers of America v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Company , 363 U.S. 574, 80 S. Ct. 1347, 4 L. Ed. 2 d 1409 (1960), and United

Steelworkers of America v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corporation , 363 U.S. 593, 80 S. Ct. 1358, 4 L. Ed. 2 d 1424 (1960). The American and Warrior cases involved actions to compel arbitration, whereas Enterprise involved an attack upon an arbitrator's award.

In Steelworkers v. American Mfg. Co., supra [363 U.S. 564, 80 S. Ct. 1345], suit was brought by a union under section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 to compel the employer to arbitrate a dispute pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. The employer contended that the dispute involved was not arbitrable under the agreement. The relevant arbitration provision of the agreement stated:

"Any disputes, misunderstandings, differences or grievances arising between the parties as to the meaning, interpretation and application of the provisions of this agreement, which are not adjusted as herein provided, may be submitted ...


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