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Local 827, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. Verizon New Jersey

August 17, 2006

LOCAL 827, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, AFL-CIO
v.
VERIZON NEW JERSEY, INC.; VERIZON SERVICES CORPORATION, APPELLANTS



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. Nos. 03-cv-03523, 03-cv-03613, 03-cv-06097) District Judge: Honorable Katharine S. Hayden.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sloviter, Circuit Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued July 13, 2006

Before: SLOVITER, McKEE and RENDELL, Circuit Judges

In this appeal, we must decide between the conflicting conclusions reached by two district judges in the same court regarding the interpretation of the same collective bargaining contract. One has held that the contract's arbitration clause is narrow, while the other has held that it is broad. Although only one of the cases is on appeal before us, we write to resolve the conflict because the interpretation of that clause is central to our disposition.

In this case, appellants Verizon New Jersey, Inc. and Verizon Services Corporation (collectively, "Verizon") appeal from the District Court's order granting summary judgment to Local 827, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO ("Local 827"). Local 827 brought suit against Verizon, seeking to compel arbitration of three grievances relating to overtime. Verizon contends that these grievances do not fall within the scope of the arbitration clause of the parties' Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA"). Both parties moved for summary judgment and the District Court granted Local 827's motion, finding as a matter of law that grievances relating to the assignment of overtime work are substantively arbitrable under the CBA.

The District Court had jurisdiction pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 185. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

I.

Local 827 represents Verizon's non-supervisory employees with respect to collective bargaining for rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, and other conditions of employment. The parties' CBA contains a "Plant Contract" covering the Plant and Engineering Departments and an "Accounting Contract." It is the Plant Contract that is at issue here and which Local 827 contends covers arbitration of the three overtime grievances.

Grievance One alleges that Verizon violated the CBA and a related prior agreement by improperly assigning overtime work involving Facilities Technicians in Local 827's Northern Suburban District. Specifically, the grievance alleged violations of Article II (Recognition and Collective Bargaining) of the CBA,*fn1 the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and past practices under the CBA.

Grievance Two alleges that Verizon violated the provisions of Article II of the CBA by improperly assigning overtime work involving Repair Service Clerks in Local 827's Southern Suburban District. This grievance relates to Verizon's alleged violations of additional provisions of the CBA as well as an established past practice of utilizing an overtime list.

Grievance Three alleges that Verizon violated the provisions of the CBA by improperly assigning construction overtime work involving a Facilities Technician (a job classification under the agreement) in Local 827's Southern Jurisdictional Area. Specifically, the grievance alleged violations of Articles II and XI (Grievance Procedure) of the CBA, the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and past practices.

During the grievance proceedings, Local 827 argued that for over twenty-five years, an overtime list tracked the hours worked by each employee. This list was to serve as the basis for overtime assignments, and Verizon was obligated to offer overtime first to those employees with the least amount of overtime. Local 827 argued that by failing to assign overtime in accordance with the overtime list, Verizon violated Article II, the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and past practices under the CBA. Local 827 also alleged violations of Articles IV (Working Conditions), and V (Wages) of the CBA. All three grievances were processed through the grievance procedures outlined in Article XI of the CBA, and Verizon denied each grievance at each step of the grievance process. Local 827 then sought to arbitrate the three grievances, but Verizon refused to arbitrate, contending that the grievances fell outside the scope of the Arbitration Clause of the CBA. Local 827 then brought suit to compel arbitration.

The District Court granted Local 827's motion for summary judgment and held that the grievances were arbitrable.

II.

The Arbitration Clause of the CBA, Article ...


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