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November 11, 1990


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert P. Patterson, Jr., District Judge.


Plaintiffs Hygrade Operators, Inc., Bushey Towing Co., Inc. and Tanker Ira S. Bushey, Inc. move for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 to vacate, and defendant Local 333, United Marine Division, I.L.A., AFL-CIO (the "Union") cross moves to affirm, an Arbitral Award ("A.A.") dated December 28, 1989, finding plaintiffs had violated the no-lockout provision of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (the "Agreement") and awarding the defendant $50,000 in damages.

At issue is whether the amount of the award has sufficient basis in fact and whether the arbitrator's determination has been explained "in terms that offer even a barely colorable justification for the outcome reached." Andros Compania Maritima S.A. v. Marc Rich & Co., 579 F.2d 691, 704 (2d Cir. 1978). See also, New York Typographical Union No. 6 v. Printers League Section of the Ass'n of Graphic Arts, 878 F.2d 56, 60 (2d Cir. 1989).


The arbitral proceeding evolved in the following factual context.

Plaintiffs, who operate collectively under the name Spentonbush/Red Star Companies ("Spentonbush"), are engaged in the business of transporting oil by tug boat and barge. The Union represents Spentonbush's employees, as well as those of other companies in the industry. The Agreement binding Spentonbush and the Union was due to expire at midnight on the Lincoln's Birthday holiday, February 15, 1988. As the expiration date neared, the parties remained far apart in their negotiations which had begun in January 1988 for a new agreement, and a strike was expected by both sides at the Agreement's expiration. The strike vote was scheduled for the afternoon of February 15, 1988.

On Sunday, February 14, 1988, Spentonbush tied up its tugs and barges and dismissed the crews, telling them not to return if there were a strike and to return to work as usual if there were no strike. This action was taken in a departure from past Spentonbush practice.*fn1 In the past, it had always tied up its boats for the duration of a strike and allowed a few vessels and crews to complete their trips past the strike deadline. This time, however, the Union knew Spentonbush intended to hire replacement employees and had lined up a number of replacements so it could keep operating in the event of a strike. On February 16, 1988, those replacement crews began operating plaintiffs' vessels.*fn2

The Union claimed the tying up of vessels and layoff of employees constituted a lockout in violation of Article 1, Section 9 of the Agreement and the parties submitted the issue to arbitration in the following language: "Did the Employer violate Article 1, Section 9 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement by locking out the employees prior to the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement? If so, what shall be the remedy?"

Article 1, Section 9 reads as follows:

Section 9. Lockouts

    The Employers agree that during the life of this
    Agreement, or during any period of negotiations
    for a new agreement, or for the modification or
    renewal of this Agreement, there shall be no
    lockout of the Employees and, upon violation of
    this provision by the Employers, this Agreement
    may be terminated by the Union. However, the
    prohibition against lockouts contained herein
    shall not be construed to prevent the Employers
    or any one of them from laying up any vessels,
    or discontinuing their operation and laying off
    their crews (Employees), in whole or in part, at
    any time when for business reasons the Employers
    deem it advisable to do so.

Arbitration hearings were held on September 7 and 28, 1989. Post-hearing briefs were submitted on November 13, 1989. The arbitrator rendered an Opinion and Award on December 28, 1989 finding Spentonbush did violate the no-lockout provision of Article 1, Section 9, of the Agreement and ordering Spentonbush to pay the Union $50,000.


Spentonbush seeks to have this Court vacate the arbitral award on the grounds that (1) the arbitrator's determination that a lockout occurred is irrational and (2) there was no evidence of damages presented to support his award of $50,000 to the Union. The Union responds that the arbitral determinations in the award are explained in terms that offer more than the requisite "barely colorable justification" as stated in New ...

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