plaintiff's counsel informing her that the suit should have been commenced in the United States District Court rather than the Superior Court and that the grievance had nevertheless been fully resolved. Further, defendant's counsel stated that the suit was frivolous and that the Union would seek sanctions and attorneys' fees pursuant to Federal Rule 11.
According to the Union by-laws, after being informed of the local union's disposition of his grievance, a member has 15 days to file an appeal to the Executive Board. The Executive Board will consider the appeal at its next regular meeting, and advise the member of its decision within 30 days. Finally, any member who does not appeal the local union's disposition of his grievance is deemed to have acquiesced in such disposition. See By-laws, Article XVII, "Appeals of Member From Local Unions' Disposition of Grievances". Plaintiff admits in his deposition that he has not at any time filed an appeal with the Union.
1. Summary Judgment Standard
When the moving party establishes that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that [it] is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law," summary judgment must be granted. (Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). Once the movant has met that burden, the opposing party must set forth specific facts that show that a genuine issue exists and cannot rest upon mere allegations or denials of its pleadings. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). In other words, the opposing party must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986). Finally, the facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and any reasonable doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue of fact must be resolved against the moving party. Continental Insurance Co. v. Bodie, 682 F.2d 436, 438 (3d Cir. 1982). With these principles in mind, the Court now examines the defendants' contentions.
2. Summary Judgment as to the Union
A. Whether the Union's Refusal to Arbitrate Amounts to Bad Faith.
Plaintiff contends that the Union's investigation of his grievance and refusal to arbitrate were motivated by bad faith. Plaintiff's Opposition Memorandum at 4. In response to that allegation, the Union claims that it did not arbitrate plaintiff's grievance simply because it was settled, with plaintiff's consent, on November 25, 1986.
Alternatively, the Union contends that even if plaintiff had not consented to the settlement, the terms of the settlement were "eminently fair to plaintiff," and it was within the legal authority of the Union to make such a settlement, with or without the employee's consent.
The law provides that because a union is authorized to act as the exclusive bargaining agent for the employees, it has a duty to provide fair representation in the negotiation, administration, and enforcement of the collective bargaining agreement. Findley v. Jones Motor Freight, 639 F.2d 953, 957 (3d Cir. 1981). To establish a breach of the duty, an employee must show that the Union's conduct was "arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith." Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 190, 87 S. Ct. 903, 916, 17 L. Ed. 2d 842 (1967); see Humphrey v. Moore, 375 U.S. 335, 84 S. Ct. 363, 11 L. Ed. 2d 370 (1964). The law affords the Union a "wide range of reasonableness" in performing its functions subject to "good faith and honesty of purpose." Hines v. Anchor Motor Freight, Inc., 424 U.S. 554, 563-64, 96 S. Ct. 1048, 1056, 47 L. Ed. 2d 231 (1976); Donadio v. Supermarkets General Corp., No. 86-4567 (D.N.J. March 1987) (opinion of Debevoise, J., read into record) (appended to defendant Union's brief). "Proof that the union may have acted negligently or exercised poor judgment is not enough to support the claim of unfair representation." Bazarte v. United Transportation Union, 429 F.2d 868, 872 (3d Cir. 1970).
The Court in Vaca recognized that a union may not arbitrarily ignore a meritorious grievance or treat it in a perfunctory manner, but noted that an individual employee does not have an absolute right to arbitration of his grievance regardless of the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. Vaca, 386 U.S. at 191, 87 S. Ct. at 917. The court stated that through the provision of a grievance and arbitration procedure by which the union is given discretion to "supervise the grievance machinery and invoke arbitration, the employer and the union contemplate that each will endeavor in good faith to settle grievances short of arbitration. Through this settlement process, frivolous grievances are ended prior to the most costly and time-consuming step in the grievance procedures." Id.
If an individual employee could unilaterally invoke arbitration of his grievance regardless of its merit, the settlement procedures of the contract would be substantially undermined and it would be doubtful, according to the Vaca Court, whether "parties to collective bargaining agreements would long continue to provide for detailed grievance and arbitration procedures." Id. A union is required, as statutory agent of the employees, to make decisions as to the merits of particular grievances in good faith, and in a nonarbitrary fashion. The Union will not be deemed to be in breach of its duty of fair representation and thereby open to suit by the employee for breach of contract, "merely because it settled the grievance short of arbitration." Id. at 92, 87 S. Ct. at 918; see also Bazarte v. United Transportation Union, 429 F.2d 868, 872 (3d Cir. 1970). A union is only required to take those grievances to arbitration which it believes honestly and in good faith have merit. Vaca, 386 U.S. at 193, 87 S. Ct. at 918; Singer v. Flying Tiger Line, Inc., 652 F.2d 1349, 1355 (9th Cir. 1981). In fact, a union is obligated not to press grievances which it believes lack merit:
The union has an obligation in exercising its power as bargaining agent to act fairly under the collective bargaining agreement and not to assert grievances or press grievances which it believes in good faith do not warrant such action. An employee, therefore, is subject to the union's discretionary power to settle or even to abandon a grievance, so long as it does not act arbitrarily, and this is true even if it can later be demonstrated that the employee's claim was meritorious.