Maher was designated by the District Council and respondent Trustees from the three arbitrators named in the Agreement to arbitrate disputes. On September 18, 1995, Mr. Maher issued a Notice of Hearing to Mic-Ron to arbitrate the dispute. Mic-Ron proceeded to bring an Order to Show Cause against the Trustees in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Westchester County to stay arbitration. On September 27, 1995, the Honorable Anthony Scarpino, Jr. granted a temporary restraining order staying arbitration of the dispute between the Trustees and Mic-Ron pending his decision on Mic-Ron's petition for a permanent injunction against arbitration. On October 3, 1995, the Trustees removed the action to federal court. On November 14, 1995, the Trustees submitted the instant motion to dismiss the petition and to compel arbitration. On November 29, 1995, the Trustees renewed its demand for arbitration on the ground that the temporary restraining order issued by the New York Supreme Court had expired ten days after its removal to federal court. Petitioner Mic-Ron now seeks a preliminary injunction against proceeding with the arbitration pending this court's consideration of Mic-Ron's petition for declaratory judgment permanently enjoining arbitration of this dispute.
We need not consider Mic-Ron's application for preliminary injunction because, based on consideration of Mic-Ron's petition for declaratory judgment permanently enjoining arbitration, we now deny Mic-Ron's petition for declaratory judgment. We conclude that Mic-Ron may not escape its contractual obligation to arbitrate benefit fund payment disputes with the District Council by seeking to enjoin the Trustees from compelling arbitration. The Agreement unambiguously reflects the parties' intent to arbitrate between them all disputes arising out of the Agreement, including benefit fund payment disputes.
I. The Steelworkers Trilogy
As set forth in the celebrated Steelworkers trilogy, there is a presumption of arbitrability of disputes arising out of a collective bargaining agreement. See United Steelworkers of America v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 582, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1409, 80 S. Ct. 1347 (1960) ("An order to arbitrate the particular grievance should not be denied unless it can be said with positive assurance that the arbitration clause is not susceptible to an interpretation that covers the asserted dispute. Doubts should be resolved in favor of coverage."); United Steelworkers of America v. American Manufacturing Co., 363 U.S. 564, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1403, 80 S. Ct. 1343 (1960); United Steelworkers of America v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1424, 80 S. Ct. 1358 (1960). Furthermore, the presumption in favor of arbitrability of labor disputes applies to disputes involving benefit issues. See, e.g., Nolde Bros., Inc. v. Local No. 358, Bakery and Confectionery Workers Union, AFL-CIO, 430 U.S. 243, 51 L. Ed. 2d 300, 97 S. Ct. 1067 (1977); Bressette v. International Talc Co., 527 F.2d 211 (2d Cir. 1975).
The special nature of the collective bargaining agreement was formally recognized when the Supreme Court decided Textile Workers Union of America v. Lincoln Mills of Ala., 353 U.S. 448, 1 L. Ed. 2d 972, 77 S. Ct. 912 (1957). There, the union commenced an action in federal court under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, to compel the employer to arbitrate a dispute in accordance with the parties' collective bargaining agreement. The Supreme Court held that an agreement to arbitrate is the quid pro quo for an agreement not to strike and that section 301 "expressed federal policy that federal courts should enforce these agreements on behalf of or against labor organizations and that industrial peace can best be obtained that way." 353 U.S. at 455.
However, the presumption of arbitrability arguably does not apply where a benefit fund (or its trustees) asserts its interest as third party beneficiary to the collective bargaining agreement. In Schneider Moving & Storage Co. v. Robbins, 466 U.S. 364, 80 L. Ed. 2d 366, 104 S. Ct. 1844 (1984), while recognizing the general applicability of the Steelworkers trilogy, the Supreme Court declined to extend the presumption of arbitrability to reach disputes involving third-party beneficiaries to a collective bargaining agreement:
Such a presumption [of arbitrability] furthers the national labor policy of peaceful resolution of labor disputes and thus best accords with the parties' presumed objectives in pursuing collective bargaining. . . . There is less, however, to commend the presumption in construing the applicability of arbitration clauses to disputes between the employer and trustees of employee-benefit funds. . . . The presumption of arbitrability is not a proper rule of construction in determining whether arbitration agreements between a union and the employer apply to disputes between trustees and employers.
466 U.S. at 367. The Court noted that a collective bargaining agreement containing provisions for the benefit of an employee benefit trust fund is "not a typical third-party beneficiary contract." Id. at 371 n.11 (citing Lewis v. Benedict Coal Corp., 361 U.S. 459, 468, 4 L. Ed. 2d 442, 80 S. Ct. 489 (1960)).
II. The Presumption of Arbitrability
As a matter of law, we find that the audit dispute involves the District Council as well as the Funds and Mic-Ron. The notice of arbitration delivered to Mic-Ron clearly identifies the District Council as the party demanding arbitration:
PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that, as legal counsel for the District Council. . . and the . . . Funds and pursuant to the terms of its collective bargaining agreements with your company . . . we hereby submit to arbitration before the Contract Arbitrator . . . the following dispute. . . .