Appeal From the United States District Court For the District of New Jersey - Newark. D.C. Civil No. 80-3774.
Hunter, Higginbotham, Circuit Judges, and Kelly,*fn* District Judge.
1. The principal question raised by this appeal is whether the six-month limitations period of section 10(b) of the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 160(b)(1982), applies to a hybrid duty of fair representation-breach of contract action under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, where the plaintiff-employee is seeking to enforce, rather than vacate, an arbitrator's decision. We construe the Supreme Court's decision in DelCostello v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 103 S. Ct. 2281, 76 L. Ed. 2d 476 (1983), as mandating application of the six-month limitations period to all section 301 actions that are predicated upon a union's breach of its duty of fair representation, and implicate no countervailing federal policy. We will therefore affirm the district court's order of summary judgment in favor of United Auto Workers Local 980*fn1 and against appellant Granville Taylor in his section 301 action.
2. In 1969, Ford Motor Company laid Taylor off from his position as a pumpman, and did not recall him until May, 1976. One month later, an arbitrator determined that Ford had breached its collective bargaining agreement with Local 980 by failing to notify Taylor of a vacancy that had occurred in his job classification in 1973, and by failing to recall him at that time. The arbitrator awarded Taylor pension rights and benefits from May 1973. When the UAW/Ford Retirement Board denied Taylor these retroactive pension credits, he sought the assistance of Local 980 in enforcing the arbitrator's award. However, on December 4, 1978, the president of the Local wrote Taylor that the union would take "no further action" in the matter. See Taylor v. Ford Motor Co. ("Taylor I"), 703 F.2d 738, 740-41 (3d Cir. 1983).
3. In 1980, Taylor brought his section 301 suit against Ford and Local 980 in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. The district court dismissed Taylor's action against Ford on the ground that it was time-barred by New Jersey's 90-day limitation period for confirmation of an arbitral award. On the same ground, the district court subsequently granted summary judgment in favor of Local 980. In March 1983, on appeal from this latter determination, this court determined that New Jersey's six-year statute of limitations for contract actions applied to Taylor's suit, heeding the Supreme Court's directive in AFL-CIO v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp., 383 U.S. 696, 16 L. Ed. 2d 192, 86 S. Ct. 1107 (1966), that courts in section 301 actions are to apply the most analogous state statute of limitations. See Taylor I, 703 F.2d at 741, 745. Taylor's action was then remanded to the district court. Id. at 745. However, in June 1983, the Supreme Court announced its decision in DelCostello, which held that the appropriate limitations period for a hybrid section 301 action is the six-month one contained in the NLRA. See 103 S. Ct. at 2293-94. Relying on DelCostello, the district court once again awarded summary judgment in favor of Local 980.
4. In DelCostello, an employee sought to vacate an arbitrator's award. Taylor's principal argument on this appeal is that DelCostello is inapplicable where, as here, an employee seeks in a section 301 action to enforce an arbitrator's award. We do not think that DelCostello can be so limited.
5. The basis of DelCostello was the Court's recognition that state actions dealing with contracts or commercial arbitrations are at best imperfectly analogous to a hybrid section 301 suit. Id. at 2291. Such a hybrid action is possible only where the union has breached its duty of fair representation in handling the employee's grievance against the employer. See Hines v. Anchor Motor Freight, 424 U.S. 554, 47 L. Ed. 2d 231, 96 S. Ct. 1048 (1976); Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 17 L. Ed. 2d 842, 87 S. Ct. 903 (1967). Because a union's breach of its duty of fair representation bears a "family resemblance" to an unfair labor practice under the NLRA, the policy determination underlying the NLRA's six-month limitations period - that the need for expeditious dispute resolution in the labor arena and for uniform procedural treatment of similar claims weighs against any need employees might have for lengthy periods in which to vindicate their rights - also applies to hybrid section 301 actions. See DelCostello, 103 S. Ct. at 2294. Thus the Court concluded that the NLRA's six-month period applies to hybrid actions.
6. DelCostello draws no explicit distinction between employee actions seeking vacation of arbitral decisions and those seeking enforcement. Nor can be conceive of any convincing reason for such a distinction. The "family resemblance" of a union's breach of its duty of fair representation to an unfair labor practice is not vitiated merely because the breach consists of a failure to enforce an arbitral decision rather than a failure to represent the employee's grievance adequately in the arbitral forum. Wherever this "family resemblance" exists, the need for rapid resolution of labor disputes and for uniformity mandates application of the NLRA's six-month limitation period, absent some countervailing federal policy. Compare Local Union 1397, USWA v. USWA, AFL-CIO, 748 F.2d 180 (3d Cir. 1984) (NLRA's six-month limitations period applies to an action brought under section 102 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, 29 U.S.C. § 412) with Adams v. Gould, Inc., 739 F.2d 858 (3d Cir. 1984) (limitations period of ERISA, rather than that of NLRA, applies to hybrid section 301 lawsuit for employer's breach of a pension agreement), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1122, 105 S. Ct. 806, 83 L. Ed. 2d 799 (U.S. Jan. 8, 1985). We hold, therefore, that the six-month limitations period of section 10(b) of the NLRA applies to a hybrid section 301 action to enforce an arbitration award.*fn2
7. Taylor contends that, even if DelCostello applies to 301 actions generally, it may not be applied retroactively in his action. This contention need not detain us long. We have already decided, in Perez v. Dana Corp., 718 F.2d 581 (3d Cir. 1983), that DelCostello applies retroactively. Having just held that DelCostello is not materially distinguishable from this case, there is no need to repeat the ...