Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
(D.C. Civ. No. 93-cv-01991)
Before: MANSMANN, SCIRICA and WEIS, Circuit Judges.
Today we determine if the normally favored "presumption of arbitrability," in section 301 labor relation cases, has been overcome by language in a collective bargaining agreement circumscribing the jurisdiction of a dispute resolution body. Here the union filed a grievance before the Peer Review Panel over the extent of health insurance benefits.
Because we find that the union, in essence, seeks to have the Peer Review Panel effectuate a change in benefits, a matter expressly reserved from its jurisdiction in the collective bargaining agreement, we will affirm the judgment of the district court entered in favor of the company.
North American Directory Corporation II, ("NADCO"), produces telephone directories. At the time of this litigation, its Hazelton, Pennsylvania, plant employed approximately 200 production and maintenance employees who were represented by Local 735-S of the Graphic Communications International Union.
NADCO and the union entered into a collective bargaining agreement effective December 1, 1992 to November 30, 1995. During the negotiation period, the concept of "peer review" was introduced by NADCO as an alternative to the traditional arbitration system. Under this peer review system, employee grievances are brought before a 5-person panel dominated by non-managerial members (3 employees/2 management). Despite some initial skepticism, the union agreed to accept the Peer Review Panel as the decision maker in certain workplace situations.
The description of the Peer Review Panel process at NADCO is found in Article 26 of the parties' collective bargaining agreement. The procedure for the filing of grievances, abbreviated for our purposes, is as follows:
Article 26.1 A grievance is defined and restricted to an allegation that the employer has violated a specific provision of the collective bargaining agreement. A grievance as defined herein, shall be processed as follows:
STEP 1: A grievance shall be brought to the attention of the grievant's supervisor within five (5) working days of the act or omission being grieved . . . . The supervisor must answer the grievance within three (3) working days of the presentation.
STEP 2: If agreement is not reached at the Step 1 discussion, the grievant shall have three (3) working days thereafter in which to file a written grievance with his/her department head (or designated Company representative) . . . . The department head (or designated Company representative) must answer the grievance in writing within five (5) working days of its presentation or any meeting.
STEP 3: If the grievance is not settled at Step 2, the grievant shall have three (3) working days from receipt of the Step 2 answer in which to appeal the Step 2 decision in writing, by submitting the grievance to 1) a Peer Review Panel, or 2) the Plant Manager (Senior Management), whose decision(s) will be final and binding on the grievant, management and the Union. . . . The Peer Review Panel or Plant Manager shall have five (5) working days after meeting in which to answer the grievance in writing.
The Panel will not have the authority to render a decision which will add to, subtract from, or change the meaning of specific provisions of the contract; nor shall the Panel have any authority to change Company or plant policy, pay rates, benefits, work rules or to determine future contract terms.
Details of the peer review procedure were finalized by a joint committee of union members and NADCO management and were incorporated into the collective bargaining agreement. The addendum reads in relevant part:
The company and the union recognize that from time to time an associate may encounter a problem, question or complaint that, if left unresolved, could affect ...