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Chauffeurs v. Stroehmann Brothers Co.

decided: June 30, 1980.

CHAUFFEURS, TEAMSTERS AND HELPERS, LOCAL UNION NO. 765, APPELLANT
v.
STROEHMANN BROTHERS COMPANY (D.C. CIVIL NO. 78-0949)



ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Before Seitz, Chief Judge and Gibbons and Rosenn, Circuit Judges.

Author: Gibbons

Opinion OF THE COURT

Food Drivers, Salesmen, Dairy & Ice Cream Workers, Local Union No. 765 (the Union), an affiliate of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, appeals from the order of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania granting summary judgment in favor of Stroehmann Brothers Company (the Employer) in a suit by the Union to compel arbitration of a dispute over a work assignment. We conclude that the trial court erred in deciding a matter that under the collective bargaining agreement should have been referred to arbitration, and we reverse.

The Union and the Employer are parties to a collective bargaining agreement which provides for grievance of "any difference in opinion or dispute between the Company and the employee regarding the interpretation or application of any provision of this Agreement." Article XV. The contract provides for a three-step grievance procedure and provides further that

(if) a settlement of the grievance is not effected in Step 3, then either party to the Agreement may, within fifteen (15) calendar days, submit the dispute to arbitration under the rules of the American Arbitration Association . . . A copy of the submission must be mailed at the same time to the opposite party.

Article XV(d).

The Union represents truck drivers who, on July 27, 1978 on their return from route deliveries, were directed by a supervisor to run their trucks through a truck washer, a task that previously had been performed by garage personnel. The drivers grieved on the ground that this direction required them to do other employees' work without pay. The Employer contends that the last grievance meeting took place on August 21, 1978. Negotiations to settle the grievance were unsuccessful. On August 29, 1978 the Union submitted the grievance to the American Arbitration Association, by a letter that advised the Association of the Employer's address. The Union did not notify the Employer of the demand for arbitration until September 18, 1978. Upon receiving this notification, the Employer informed the Union that for three reasons it would not arbitrate the grievances. It contended: (1) that the issue was not arbitrable because work assignment is a management prerogative; (2) that the submission to the American Arbitration Association on August 29, 1978, was not timely; and (3) that the Union's failure to mail a copy of the submission to the Employer at the same time that notice was mailed to the American Arbitration Association excused the Employer from arbitration. The Union's complaint seeking to compel arbitration followed. When the Union moved for summary judgment, the Employer contended that there were genuine issues of material fact bearing on its duty to arbitrate. The trial court denied the Union's motion for summary judgment and entered summary judgment instead in favor of the non-moving party. In so doing it relied upon the language in Article XV(d) of the contract, which provides that

(a) copy of the submission must be mailed at the same time to the opposite party.

Article XV(d). Since it is not disputed that a copy of the submission was not mailed to the Company simultaneously with its mailing to the American Arbitration Association, the court reasoned that arbitration could not be ordered.

The parties agree that the underlying dispute concerning the work assignment is arbitrable. They differ over both the significance of the Union's procedural default and whether the significance of that default is arbitrable. The Employer urges that the court, not the arbitrator, must make the determination that all preconditions to arbitration have been met. Plainly, however, the significance of a default in literal compliance with a contractual procedural requirement calls for a determination of the intention of the parties to the contract. Such a determination is no different in kind from a dispute over a substantive contract provision. Both types of determination are, under the governing case law, matters for the arbitrator.

In John Wiley & Sons v. Livingston, 376 U.S. 543, 84 S. Ct. 909, 11 L. Ed. 2d 898 (1964), an employer resisted a demand for arbitration because of a procedural default by the Union in pursuing the first two steps of a multi-step grievance procedure. The Court said:

Doubt whether grievance procedures or some part of them apply to a particular dispute, whether such procedures have been followed or excused, or whether the unexcused failure to follow them avoids the duty to arbitrate cannot ordinarily be answered without consideration of the merits of the dispute which is presented for arbitration. . . . Once it is determined . . . that the parties are obligated to submit the subject matter of a dispute to arbitration, "procedural" questions which grow out of the dispute and bear on its final disposition should be left to the arbitrator.

Id. at 557, 84 S. Ct. at 918. In International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150 v. Flair Builders, Inc., 406 U.S. 487, 490-91, 92 S. Ct. 1710, 1712, 32 L. Ed. 2d 248 (1972) the Court held that a clause providing for arbitration of "any difference" between the parties required submission to the arbitrators of a contention that laches barred arbitration. It rejected the distinction made in the Court of Appeals between intrinsic and extrinsic untimeliness, holding that timeliness of a demand was an arbitrable issue. In this court we have applied the holdings of John Wiley & Sons and Flair Builders, Inc. to require arbitration both of the underlying dispute and of the defense to arbitration that one party had totally repudiated the contracting containing the arbitration clause. Controlled Sanitation Corp. v. District 128, 524 F.2d 1324, 1331 (3d Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 424 U.S. 915, 96 S. Ct. 1114, 47 L. Ed. 2d ...


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