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Teamsters Local 312 v. Matlack

July 8, 1997





On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

(D.C. No. 95-cv-05661)

Before: SLOVITER, Chief Judge, GREENBERG and SCIRICA, Circuit Judges

SLOVITER, Chief Judge.

Filed July 8, 1997

Submitted Pursuant to Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a)

January 14, 1997


This appeal presents the issue of the appropriate procedure to be used by the district court when it concludes that there were fundamental procedural irregularities in the course of an arbitration hearing between parties to a collective bargaining agreement.


A. Historical Facts

Teamsters Local 312, affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, AFL-CIO, ("Local 312" or "the Union") is the certified bargaining unit for truck drivers and haulers operating in the Bensalem, Pennsylvania waste water transportation terminal of appellee Matlack, Inc. ("Matlack"). Local 312 and Matlack are partners to a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") that has been extended indefinitely by mutual agreement. As part of its operations, Matlack arranges for non-employee owner-operators who are under its supervision to drop off their trailers containing shipments of waste water to Matlack's Bensalem terminal. Those trailers arriving in Bensalem are not certified to haul waste water to their ultimate destinations in New Jersey. Local 312 employees are responsible for obtaining the necessary health and safety certifications from Trenton, New Jersey and then hauling the deposited trailers to environmental treatment facilities in either Deepwater or Logan Township, New Jersey.

According to Article 50.1 of the parties' Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is entitled "Work Preservation," Matlack is expressly prohibited from diverting or subcontracting to any other plants, businesses or non-bargaining unit employees, or to any other mode of operation, any of the hauling work that was then performed or to be assigned to the bargaining unit. See Art. 50.1, App. at 38. *fn1

Sometime in April 1994, employees of Local 312 noticed that the number of trailer loads of waste water arriving in the Bensalem terminal was decreasing markedly. After making some inquiries, the employees were informed that many of Matlack's incoming waste water loads were being deposited at another terminal in Elkton, Maryland. Based on this information, on June 1, 1994, Union President Timothy Lehman filed a grievance letter with the Company which constituted Step 1 of the grievance procedures set out in Section(s) 7.2 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. *fn2 The letter stated:

Please consider this letter as a formal grievance under our current collective bargaining agreement regarding waste water loads that were previously handled by the Bensalem, PA terminal and are now handled by your Elkton, MD terminal utilizing a tractor that was transferred from Swedesboro.

To the best of my knowledge, these loads originate in Muscatine, Iowa or other parts of the Northern Region and are relayed into New Jersey out of Elkton, MD.

We view this as a violation of Article 50 and, as such, request a meeting as scheduled at once to discuss. App. at 41.

On August 9, 1994, Lehman met with Michael Lynch, the Bensalem Terminal Manager, in accordance with Step 2 of the grievance procedures to discuss the grievance contained in the letter. At the meeting Lynch informed Lehman that the waste water loads in question were originating from locations in addition to those in Muscatine, Iowa or other parts of the Northern Region. Lehman then made a handwritten amendment to the grievance letter indicating that the grievance was meant to cover all allegedly diverted shipments ever assigned to the Bensalem terminal, not only those suspected to originate from Muscatine, Iowa or"other parts of the Northern Region." App. at 41 ("Amended --8/9/94 -- 9:31 am -- To any waste water that came into and out of this terminal!"). Although Lynch refused to sign the amended grievance, he did not object to it, and Lehman noted this fact on the letter. Id.

Nothing was resolved at this grievance meeting or at a Joint Committee meeting held on September 12, 1994, in accordance with Step 3 of the grievance procedures. The Company maintained at both grievance proceedings that any shipments coming from Muscatine or elsewhere had never been actually "assigned" to Bensalem as contemplated by the "Work Preservation" guarantee of the CBA, but were part of "system-wide work" which could be dispatched to any terminal location without regard to the jurisdictional restriction in Article 50. The Union's position was that proof of a marked decrease in the number of wastewater shipments from locations such as Muscatine, in the absence of company evidence to the contrary, satisfied the contractually required presumption that work is being diverted to other, non-bargaining units in violation of Article 50.

The parties agreed to arbitration and a hearing was held on April 27, 1995 before Arbitrator Charles D. Long. Matlack was represented by J. Carlisle Peet and Local 312 by Mark Muller. There was considerable confusion in the course of the arbitration proceeding. At the outset of the hearing, Matlack's counsel announced that he wanted to raise two procedural defenses not previously mentioned in the prior grievance proceedings: the first, a"timeliness" objection arguing that the Union's June 1, 1994 grievance letter was filed after the seven day filing requirement set forth in the CBA; the second, an objection that the"scope" of the grievance contained in the letter was limited to those allegedly improper shipments that originated out of

Muscatine, Iowa alone and not those referred to by the clause "or other parts of the Northern Region" or by the handwritten amendment. Matlack also announced that it was not prepared to address the substantive issue of the grievance, namely whether there was an actual diversion of shipments "assigned" to Bensalem bargaining unit employees in violation of Article 50. App. at 190-92, 197.

After Union counsel objected to Matlack's attempt to focus the hearing only on the procedural aspects of the grievance letter, the arbitrator said to Matlack:

You'd better present your arguments as to what the grievance was and the scope of the substance, subject to jurisdiction hearing this, and then proceed on to the substance. So (inaudible) -- so far as it relates to the limited load that the company speaks of. App. at 199.

Soon after, Matlack reiterated that it was unprepared to address anything beyond the scope of the grievance, to which the arbitrator replied, "I will try and make an effort, in order to determine how we can agree to that -- in effect, as long as we're all here, let's go with the Muscatine part of the substance." App at 201. He continued, "I will make . . . a determination on the scope of the issue prior to the holding of a second meeting, because that determination will determine whether or not the second day of hearing is necessary." Id.

Later, after confusion about the proper scope of a cross-examination, the arbitrator said,

Because everybody is here, I'm going to let the union proceed, even though the case may extend beyond Muscatine. If, after the hearing today, I determine that the issue is broader than just Muscatine, we'll have to reconvene for the company to deal with these other issues. And if it means recalling these particular witnesses so you can reopen cross-examination, I'll certainly permit you to do that.

App. at 216. Again, after more controversy over the scope of the day's hearing, the arbitrator said:

I am more concerned that, in resolving this problem, it is resolved on a full factual record and, therefore, if, in fact, the issue is determined to go beyond the scope of Muscatine, Iowa, I'll permit the ...

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