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ARTHUR GROVES v. RING SCREW WORKS

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES No. 89-1166 111 S. Ct. 498, 498 U.S. 168, 112 L. Ed. 2d 508, 59 U.S.L.W. 4043, 1990.SCT.46261 <http://www.versuslaw.com> decided: December 10, 1990. ARTHUR GROVES, BOBBY J. EVANS AND LOCAL 771, INTERNATION UNION UAW, PETITIONERSv.RING SCREW WORKS, FERNDALE FASTENER DIVISION CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT. Laurence Gold argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs were Jordan Rossen and George Kaufmann. Terence V. Page argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief was Richard M. Tuyn.*fn* Stevens, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. Author: Stevens


CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT.

Stevens, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Author: Stevens

 JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The collective-bargaining agreements between the parties provide for voluntary grievance procedures and reserve the parties' respective rights to resort to economic weapons when the procedures fail to resolve a dispute. The collective-bargaining agreements are silent as to judicial remedies. The question presented is whether, upon failure of the grievance procedures, such contracts should be construed to bar recourse to the courts under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947 (LMRA), 61 Stat. 156, 29 U. S. C. § 185. We granted certiorari to resolve a conflict in the Circuits,*fn1 494 U.S. 1026 (1990), and we now conclude that the judicial remedy under § 301 is available to petitioners.

I

Two almost identical collective-bargaining agreements (CBA's) between respondent Ring Screw Works (company) and the union*fn2 prohibit discharges except for "just cause." Petitioners Groves and Evans contend that they were discharged in violation of this provision.

Both CBA's provide that the parties will make "an earnest effort" to settle every dispute that may arise under the agreement. App. 16. Both CBA's also contain a voluntary multistep grievance procedure, but neither includes a requirement that the parties submit disputes to binding arbitration.*fn3 The CBA's prohibit strikes or lockouts until the grievance machinery has been exhausted. The no-strike clause provides:

"The Union will not cause or permit its members to cause, nor will any member of the Union take part in any strike, either sit-down, stay-in or any other kind of strike, or other interference, or any other stoppage, total or partial, of production at the Company's plant during the terms of this agreement until all negotiations have failed through the grievance procedure set forth herein. Neither will the Company engage in any lockout until the same grievance procedure has been carried out." Id., at 34 (emphasis added); see id., at 69.*fn4

The dispute in this case arose out of the company's decision to discharge petitioners.*fn5 With the assistance of the union, petitioners invoked the grievance procedures, but without success.*fn6 At the end of the procedures, the company decided not to call for arbitration, and the union decided not to exercise its right to strike.*fn7 Instead, petitioners filed this action invoking federal jurisdiction under § 301, 29 U. S. C. § 185.

Following the Sixth Circuit's decision in Fortune v. National Twist Drill & Tool Division, Lear Siegler, Inc., 684 F.2d 374 (1982), the District Court granted the company's motion for summary judgment and the Court of Appeals affirmed. 882 F.2d 1081 (1989). The Sixth Circuit explained:

"We believe that the CBA's in question do bring about an inference that a strike, or other job action, is the perceived remedy for failure of successful resolution of a grievance absent agreed arbitration. Such resolution, by work 'stoppage or other interference' is not a happy solution from a societal standpoint of an industrial dispute, particularly as it relates to the claim of a single employee that he has been wrongfully discharged. Were we deciding the issue with a clean slate, we might be disposed to adopt the rationale of Dickeson [v. DAW Forest Products Co.], 827 F.2d 627 [(CA9 1987)]." 882 F.2d, at 1086.*fn8

II

Section 301(a) of the LMRA provides a federal remedy for breach of a collective-bargaining agreement.*fn9 We have squarely held that § 301 authorizes "suits by and against individual employees as well as between unions and employers," including actions against an employer for wrongful discharge. Hines v. Anchor Motor Freight, Inc., 424 U.S. 554, 562 (1976). Our opinion in Hines described the strong federal policy favoring judicial enforcement of collective-bargaining agreements. We wrote:

"Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act . . . reflects the interest of Congress in promoting 'a higher degree of responsibility upon the parties to such agreements . . . .' S. Rep. No. 105, 80th Cong., 1st Sess., 17 (1947). The strong policy favoring judicial enforcement of collective-bargaining contracts was sufficiently powerful to sustain the jurisdiction of the district courts over enforcement suits even though the conduct involved was arguably or would amount to an unfair labor practice within the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board. Smith v. Evening News Assn., 371 U.S. 195 (1962); Atkinson v. Sinclair Rfg. Co., 370 U.S. 238 (1962); Teamsters v. Lucas Flour Co., 369 U.S. 95 (1962); Charles Dowd Box Co. v. Courtney, 368 U.S. 502 (1962). Section 301 contemplates suits by and against individual employees as well as between unions and employers; and contrary to earlier indications § 301 suits encompass those seeking to vindicate 'uniquely personal' rights of employees ...


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