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OFFICE OF COMM. OF BASEBALL v. WORLD UMPIRES ASSOC.

January 28, 2003

OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF BASEBALL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WORLD UMPIRES ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lewis A. Kaplan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

These cross-motions for summary judgment present the question of the effect to be given provisions in a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") which ban third-party arbitration of disputes involving the discipline or termination of umpires.

Facts

A. The Dispute Resolution Procedures of the Collective Bargaining Agreement

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball (the "Commissioner's Office") and the World Umpires Association (the "WUA" or the "Union") are parties to a CBA covering the terms and conditions of employment of umpires employed by the Commissioner's Office.*fn1

The CBA contains two mechanisms for resolving disputes. Disputes concerning umpire discipline or termination are governed solely and exclusively by Article 10, which states in relevant part:

"The procedures and remedies, if any, that are set out in this Article 10 shall be the sole and exclusive means available to an umpire (and to the Union) to challenge any decision by the Office of the Commissioner to discipline, or to terminate (for disciplinary, performance or other reasons) the employment of, an umpire. An umpire (and the Union) shall have no remedy or right of recourse other than those set out in this Article 10. Except as otherwise provided in this Article 10, any such decision by the Office of the Commissioner shall be final and binding. No decision by the Office of the Commissioner (including those review determinations by the Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations and the Commissioner of Baseball) made under this Article 10 shall be subject to the grievance procedure (Article 23) or to challenge in any other forum."*fn2

The dispute resolution procedure for an umpire suspended without pay for seven days or less or fined $2,000 or less is to have the Executive Vice Present of Baseball Operations review the discipline.*fn3 The Vice President's decision "shall be final and binding and shall not be subject to the grievance procedure (Article 23) or to challenge in any other forum."*fn4

The other dispute resolution mechanism is set forth in Article 23, which permits third-party arbitration of "grievances" that are not resolved informally. "Grievance" is defined as:

"any dispute or disagreement involving the interpretation or application of any provision of this Agreement. A claim that a rule, policy, directive or instruction issued by the Office of the Commissioner pursuant to Article 5.B of this Agreement is inconsistent with a provision of this Agreement, the Official Playing Rules [of Major League Baseball] or the [Major League Baseball Umpiring] Manual shall be considered a dispute or disagreement involving the interpretation or application of a provision of this Agreement."*fn5

Article 23 refers to and restates the limitation in Article 10 of an umpire's right to challenge or dispute discipline or termination:

"Disputes involving the discipline or termination (for disciplinary, performance or other reasons) of any umpire shall not be considered a dispute or disagreement concerning the interpretation or application of a provision of this Agreement and shall not be subject to resolution in accordance with the grievance procedure established by this Article 23 and not in any other forum."*fn6

B. The May 10, 2002 Letter to John Hirschbeck


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