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SIU de Puerto Rico, Caribe Y Latinoamerica v. Virgin Islands Port Authority

filed: December 13, 1994.

SIU DE PUERTO RICO, CARIBE Y LATINOAMERICA, AFFILIATED TO SEAFARERS INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA, AFL-CIO, APPELLANT
v.
VIRGIN ISLANDS PORT AUTHORITY



On Appeal from the District Court of the Virgin Islands. (D.C. Civ. No. 92-cv-00186).

Before: Sloviter, Chief Judge, Scirica and Cowen, Circuit Judges.

Author: Sloviter

Opinion OF THE COURT

SLOVITER, Chief Judge.

Appellant SIU de Puerto Rico, a union that is the exclusive representative of certain employees of the Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA), appeals from the district court's dismissal of its claim against VIPA to enforce an arbitration settlement awarding payment for accumulated sick leave to retiring employees represented by SIU. This court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

I.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On December 23, 1987, SIU and VIPA entered into a collective bargaining agreement (Agreement), effective from October 1, 1987 to September 30, 1990. The Agreement specified that "all sick leave in excess of 90 days shall be paid in lump sum as compensation" to retiring employees at their rate of pay. App. at 16. Sometime after signing the Agreement, VIPA stopped paying retirees for accumulated sick leave, claiming that the sick leave provision of the Agreement violated Virgin Islands law. SIU filed a grievance against VIPA and submitted it to arbitration. SIU and VIPA then settled, agreeing that VIPA would comply with the sick leave provision. The arbitrator approved the agreement on September 18, 1991.

However, VIPA continued to refuse to pay for accumulated sick leave. SIU then filed a complaint in the district court to enforce the arbitration settlement. The district court denied VIPA's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and SIU moved for summary judgment. In response, VIPA argued that at the time the Agreement was in place it lacked statutory authority to pay for accumulated sick leave and that the inclusion of the sick leave provision was inadvertent. VIPA also claimed that it had entered into the stipulated settlement only because of an "abrupt change in personnel." App. at 84. The district court denied summary judgment for SIU and dismissed its claim with prejudice because it found that VIPA lacked legal authority to pay for accumulated sick leave. SIU filed a timely appeal.

II.

Discussion

A.

Although VIPA has not filed a brief with this court and thus has not renewed its argument that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, we must assure ourselves of jurisdiction.

The district court asserted subject matter jurisdiction under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 185, which confers jurisdiction on federal courts to hear suits between labor organizations and employers for violations of collective bargaining agreements.*fn1 VIPA had argued that section 301 did not confer jurisdiction on the district court because VIPA's dispute with SIU concerned a violation of an individual employment contract, not a violation of the collective bargaining agreement.*fn2 In Smith v. Evening News Ass'n, 371 U.S. 195, 9 L. Ed. 2d 246, 83 S. Ct. 267 (1962), the Supreme Court said, "The concept that all suits to vindicate individual employee rights arising from a collective ...


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