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WESTVACO CORP. v. UNITED PAPERWORKERS INTL. UNION

October 6, 1976.

WESTVACO CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED PAPERWORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, LOCAL 1388, AFL-CIO, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HAIGHT

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

HAIGHT, District Judge:

 Plaintiff Westvaco Corporation ("Westvaco") sues to enjoin defendant United Paperworkers International Union, Local 1388, AFL-CIO (the "Union") from proceeding to arbitration of a dispute allegedly arising out of a collective bargaining agreement between Westvaco and the employees of its mill at Tyrone, Pa.

 The Union moves for an order dismissing the complaint, for summary judgment, for judgment on the pleadings, and for such other relief as may be appropriate.

 Disregarding to some extent the precise form of the original pleadings in order to confront the substantive issues, the Court will treat the case as a motion by Westvaco to enjoin arbitration, and a cross-motion by the Union to compel arbitration. This Court has jurisdiction to grant either remedy under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185. Sperry Systems Management Division v. Engineers Union, 371 F. Supp. 198, 200 (S.D.N.Y.1974); Charmers Industries, Inc. v. Liquor Salesmen's Union, 415 F. Supp. 781, 783 (S.D.N.Y.1976).

 I deny Westvaco's motion to enjoin arbitration and grant the Union's cross-motion to compel.

 The collective bargaining agreement between the parties (hereinafter the "contract") was made effective on February 17, 1974. Its original term was through February 16, 1976.The parties agreed to extend the contract for an additional year, from February 17, 1976 to February 17, 1977.

 Article 1 of the contract provides, in essence, that it is applicable "to all production and maintenance employees... at the Westvaco Plant, Tyrone, Pennsylvania", with certain exceptions not here pertinent.

 Article 20, captioned "PENSIONS", provides:

 "The present Pension Plan will be continued during the life of this Agreement, unless mutually agreed otherwise as a result of discussions during the term of this contract."

 Article 24, captioned "GRIEVANCES AND ARBITRATION", provides in Section 1:

 "Issues subject to the grievance procedure are limited to differences arising out of the interpretation, application or alleged violation of any provision of this Agreement; and differences relative to working conditions not specifically covered by this agreement which are of such detail or minor character as not to involve fundamental principles or relationships or any substantial economic advantages or disadvantages to the parties."

 Section 2 of Article 24 sets up machinery by which disputes pass through several steps of the grievance procedure, involving increasingly senior representatives of Company and Union. Ultimately the Company makes known its decision on the disputed issue. The Union then has thirty days to notify the Company in writing "whether it will proceed to arbitrate", Section 2, subpara. Fourth. Arbitration, if demanded, is conducted in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association. The arbitrator's decisions are binding on the parties. Section 2, sub-para. Fifth (a).

 Article 24, Section 2, sub-para. Fifth (d) provides:

 "The arbitrator shall have no power to add to, subtract from, or amend any of the terms of this Agreement."

 The Dispute

 The Union seeks arbitration of its claim that Westvaco has breached Article 20 of the contract, relating to pensions, by failing to provide increased pension benefits to the Tyrone mill employees while granting such increases to employees of other facilities in the Westvaco complex.

 This issue arises in the following manner. Westvaco is engaged in the manufacturing, processing and distribution of paper, paper products and chemicals. The Company owns a number of mills and other facilities around the country. Thus there are Westvaco mills at Luke, Maryland and Covington, Virginia (the "Appalachian mills"); other mills exist at Charleston, South Carolina, Mechanicville, New York, and Tyrone, Pennsylvania. The present case involves employees at the Tyrone mill.

 From some time prior to 1963 until the present time, Westvaco has been a party to a multi-plant collective bargaining agreement covering certain employees at the Appalachian mills. In or about 1963, the subject of pensions was introduced during negotiations for a renewal of Westvaco's agreement with the Appalachian mills. It has been Westvaco's practice to invite union representatives from the Company's other facilities to attend these pension discussions, although Westvaco emphasizes that the individuals in question attended the negotiations only as observers, and Westvaco reserved the right to offer negotiated pension benefits to employees at other facilities or not, as it chose.

 The Union sharply disputes that contention. It is the basic factual premise of the Union that pensions were negotiated on a multi-plant basis; and that agreements reached in negotiations on that subject were binding on the parties, subject only to ratification by the Union members affected by the changes.

 It appears from the papers before me that, in or about 1969, Union representatives of the Tyrone mill, recently organized, began attending Westvaco's negotiating sessions with the Appalachian mills. Over a number of years such negotiations resulted in a common pension benefit offer to all the mills, which the various unions (including the defendant Union, representing the Tyrone employees) submitted to their membership for ratification.

 In 1973, after Westvaco had concluded its pension negotiations with the Appalachian mills, it again offered the negotiated pension benefits to the other mills. Several unions at the Charleston, South Carolina mill advised Westvaco that they would not accept the offer. In consequence, a different pension settlement was reached in further negotiations between Westvaco and the union at Charleston. The defendant Union, however, accepted the Company's negotiated settlement with the Appalachian mills concerning pension improvements.

 It is that pension plan, first negotiated by Westvaco and its employees at the Appalachian mills, and thereafter offered to and accepted by the defendant Union at the Tyrone mill, which is referred to in Article 20 of the contract between plaintiff and defendant. As noted above, that contract became effective on February 17, 1974; was originally intended to run for two years; and by consent of the parties was extended (in mid-1974) to run for an additional year, terminating in February, 1977.

 This one-year extension had been offered by Westvaco to all its mills. The Appalachian mills ...


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