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UNITED ELEC. v. GE

September 13, 1962

UNITED ELECTRICAL, RADIO AND MACHINE WORKERS OF AMERICA (UE) and Locals 120, 125, 297, 332 and 1012 of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), Plaintiffs.
v.
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FEINBERG

Plaintiffs, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America and five of its locals (collectively referred to herein as 'the Union') have brought suit under Section 301 of the Taft-Hartley Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 185, against General Electric Company ('the Company') to compel arbitration of various grievances. Both the Union and the Company have moved for summary judgment. The issues before the Court are (1) whether the collective bargaining agreement between the parties, dated April 2, 1956 ('the 1956-1960 agreement') provides for compulsory arbitration and, if so, (2) whether the grievances brought by the Union fall within the scope of the arbitration clause. For the reasons indicated below, both motions for summary judgment are denied.

The pertinent portions of the 1956-1960 agreement are as follows:

'ARTICLE XVI

 'ARBITRATION

 '1. Any grievance which involves the interpretation or application of this Agreement, and which remains unsettled after having been fully processed pursuant to the provisions of Article XV, shall be submitted to arbitration upon request of either the Union or the Company provided such request is made within 90 days after the decision of the Company has been given to the Union pursuant to Article XV, Section 1(c). In each case, the arbitrator shall be selected and the arbitration proceeding conducted pursuant to procedures mutually satisfactory to the Company and the Union.

 '2. If the Union requests arbitration of a grievance in compliance with the provisions of this Article, and the Company fails within ten days to agree that such grievance is one involving interpretation or application of this Agreement, or fails to agree upon procedures for selecting an arbitrator and conducting the arbitration, the provisions of Article XVII, Section 1(a) of this Agreement shall not be applicable to action taken in connection with such grievance by the Union or any Local concerned.

 '3. The award of an arbitrator selected upon any grievance submitted to him in accordance with the provisions of this Article shall be final and binding upon the Company, the Union and all Locals concerned. The arbitrator shall have no authority to add to, detract from, or in any way alter the provisions of this Agreement. In addition, it is specifically agreed that the establishment of a wage rate or job classification is subject to arbitration only by mutual agreement of the Union and the Company and it is further agreed that no provision of the 'Pension and Insurance Agreement' referred to in Article XXVII shall be subject to arbitration.

 'ARTICLE XVII

 'STRIKES AND LOCKOUTS

 '1. The Union or Local or their representatives will not cause or sanction their members to cause or take part in any strike, sitdown, stay-in, or slowdown or other stoppage of work, in any of the Works of the Company coming within the terms of this Agreement:

 '(a) In connection with any grievance or dispute until all the bargaining steps mentioned in the Grievance Procedure shall have been employed without success and the parties have failed to agree to arbitrate the matter; or the parties have failed to submit the grievance or dispute to arbitration;

 '(b) In connection with any request for modification or additions to this Agreement, or in connection with general economic issues including a request for general revision of wages, except in accordance with the provisions of Article XXVIII and Article XXX.

 '2. The Company will not lock out any employee or transfer any job under dispute from the local Works nor will the local Management take similar action while a disputed job is under discussion at any of the steps of the grievance Procedure set forth in Article XV, or if the parties agree to arbitrate the matter.' (Emphasis added.)

 The Company contends that the above quoted contract provisions, and, in particular, the underlined portions, do not provide for compulsory arbitration at all, but instead contemplate a case by case agreement of the parties as to whether a grievance which has gone through the various steps of the grievance machinery should be submitted to final arbitration. In support of its position, the Company relies not only on the language of the agreement, but also on the past practice of the parties, collective bargaining history, and statements attributed to representatives of the Union. The Company has submitted an affidavit of its chief negotiator on these matters, which states, among other things, the following: the Union's present lawyers have twice this year stated in briefs filed elsewhere involving matters between the parties here that the 1956-1960 agreement limited arbitration only to cases in which there was mutual agreement; the Union rejected a compulsory arbitration clause offered to it in the ...


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