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Boardwalk Regency Corp. v. Unite Here Local 54

March 3, 2009

BOARDWALK REGENCY CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITE HERE LOCAL 54, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jerome B. Simandle, United States District Judge

HON. JEROME B. SIMANDLE

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court upon the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment [Docket Items 14 and 17]. Plaintiff Boardwalk Regency Corporation ("Boardwalk" or the "Employer") and Defendant Unite Here Local 54 ("Unite Here" or the "Union") are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (the "CBA" or "Agreement") governing the terms and conditions of employment of certain employees at the Ceasars Atlantic City casino owned and operated by Plaintiff. After a dispute arose between Boardwalk and Unite Here concerning certain gratuities to which the casino's doormen, represented by Unite Here, believed they were entitled, a member of the Union filed a grievance pursuant to the CBA with the American Arbitration Association. The matter was referred to a mutually selected arbitrator, Robert Kyler (the "Arbitrator"), who, following the presentation of evidence and arguments by both parties, issued a written award sustaining the Union's grievance.

Following the issuance of the arbitration award, Boardwalk filed this lawsuit, in which it seeks to vacate the arbitration award on the grounds that the award does not draw its essence from the CBA and that the Arbitrator exceeded the authority afforded to him under the CBA and the Union's grievance. The Union filed a counterclaim, seeking to enforce the arbitration award. Each party has moved for summary judgment. The principal issue is whether the Arbitrator's two main conclusions -- that Boardwalk terminated the Memorandum of Understanding and violated the CBA when it determined to no longer assign doormen to load and unload buses, and that Boardwalk thereby breached its duty of good faith to the Union -- derive their essence from the parties' CBA, within the narrow review of such arbitration awards under the Federal Arbitration Act.

As the Court explains below, although it is mindful of the "very limited" degree of judicial review to which labor arbitration awards are subject, Major League Baseball Players Ass'n v. Garvey, 532 U.S. 504, 509 (2001), the Court is constrained to conclude that the award in this case does not draw its essence from the CBA, and will accordingly grant Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and deny Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

1. The Parties' Agreement and the Dispute over Doorman Gratuities

The material facts are not in dispute. Plaintiff Boardwalk owns and operates the Caesars casino located in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Joint Stip. ¶ 1.) Defendant Unite Here is the collective bargaining agent for multiple employee units at the Caesars casino, including the casino's doormen and bellmen. (Id. at ¶ 3.) Boardwalk and Unite Here are parties to a CBA, which is effective between November 3, 2004 through September 14, 2009, (id. at ¶ 4), and a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU"), which was signed originally in 1988 and which has been renewed as part of the parties' CBA in each agreement since 1988. (Id. at ¶ 5.)

The dispute in this case concerns Plaintiff's assignment of doormen to load and unload tour buses, and the gratuities that doormen received from such assignments. The CBA and the MOU each contain provisions that bear upon this issue. First, as a general matter, Article 3, Section 1 of the CBA provides that "[t]he Employer shall have the sole right to direct and control its employees. The Employer reserves the right, which is hereby recognized by the Union, to schedule . . . [and] assign . . . according to the requirements of the business and according to skill and efficiency, giving proper and adequate consideration of seniority as hereinafter defined."*fn1 (CBA, reproduced in Compl. Ex. A, at 9.)

With regard to the gratuities owed to doormen and bellmen for the loading and unloading of tour buses, the CBA states:

In all package plans, tour deals, or prearranged bus tours where guests stay overnight, the gratuity per person, in and out[,] shall be as follows:

Effective 9-15-04 $3.50

The above gratuity shall be shared by bell person, bell captain and doorperson, where applicable. (Id. at 43.) The parties' MOU addresses the issue in greater detail, and, owing to its importance in this matter, is set forth in full below:

This will confirm the understanding between Caesars Atlantic City and H.E.R.E., Local 54 concerning Article XV, Section 5(a) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. In all package plan tour deals, or prearranged bus tours where guests stay overnight, the gratuity per person, in and out[,] shall be divided between Bellmen and Doormen when both classifications load or unload the tour bus.

1. At Management's discretion, Doormen and Bellmen may both work to load ...


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