The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard J. Holwell
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court are cross-petitions concerning a June 13, 2007 arbitration award in favor of UFCW Local 174 Commercial Health Care Fund and UFCW Local 174 Commercial Pension Fund (collectively the "Funds") and against Supreme Oil Company, Inc. ("Supreme Oil"). Moving under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a) ("ERISA"), and the Labor-Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a) ("LMRA"), the Funds seek confirmation of the award and attorney's fees, while Supreme Oil seeks vacatur. For the reasons that follow, the Court confirms the award, denies the petition to vacate, and awards the Funds attorney's fees.
Supreme Oil and Local 174 of the United Food & Commercial Workers, AFLCIO ("Local 174") entered into a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"), on October 1, 2000. The CBA was renewed with minor modifications by memoranda of agreement ("MOA") in 2003 and 2006. Together, the CBA and MOA require Supreme Oil to make monthly contributions to the Funds to provide health and pension benefits for Supreme Oil's employees. The CBA mandated that the parties resolve any disputes through arbitration. The parties disagreed over the appropriate increase in monthly contributions specified in the 2003 MOA and submitted the dispute to arbitration. The arbitrator decided in favor of the Funds, and the present cross-petitions followed.
The 2003 MOA set out a schedule for annual increases ("step-ups") in the monthly contributions to the health care fund as follows:
Effective October 1, 2003 $458.00 per month Effective October 1, 2004 $508.00 per month* Effective October 1, 2005 $558.00 per month* *Rates may be increased by up to $25.00 per month in accordance with a call-up to all contributing Employers.
Single Coverage Effective October 1, 2003 $271.00 per month Effective October 1, 2004 $295.00 per month* Effective October 1, 2005 $334.00 per month* *Rates may be increased by up to $25.00 per month in accordance with a call-up to all contributing Employers (Local 174 Br. in Opp'n to Mot. to Vacate ("Local 174 Br."), Ex. B. at 1--2.)
Call-ups were made in 2004 and 2005. ((Id., Ex. A, Arbitrator's Opinion and Award ("Ex. A") at 16--17.)
The chief dispute submitted to arbitration was the effect of a call-up during the second year on the contribution amount during the third year. The Funds contended that the agreed-upon step-ups required Supreme Oil to increase contributions by a specific sum each year. On the Funds' interpretation, a call-up during the second year effectively carried over into the third year. For example under the family plan, if a call-up occurred during the second year the contribution amount for the third year would start at $583.00 ($558.00 $25.00), subject to the possibility of an additional $25.00 call-up during the third year. (Ex. A at 5--6.) Supreme Oil contended that each step-up increased contributions to a specified amount, and hence that a call-up during the second year did not carry over to the third year. (Id. at 10--11.) At the arbitration hearing, the Funds presented evidence and testimony regarding the interpretation of the CBA by board members and staff of the Funds, including some involved in the renewal of the CBA. Supreme Oil sought to introduce testimony by the attorney representing them in the arbitration, but the arbitrator refused to admit his testimony. (Id. at 3--12.)
On June 13, 2007, the arbitrator issued a decision for the Funds on all issues submitted for arbitration,*fn1 adopting the Funds' proffered interpretation of the CBA, and awarding $294,665 in contributions due under the CBA, liquidated damages of 20% of the contributions outstanding, interest at the New York State statutory rate of 9%, and attorney fees in the amount of $19,425, (Ex. A at 19-20) for a total award of $399, 542.85. (Local 174 Br., Ex. G. at 1.)
Court review of an arbitration award is extremely deferential under both §301 of the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. §185, and § 9 of the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), 9 U.S.C. §9.*fn2 Under the LMRA, an arbitration award should be upheld as long as it "draws its essence from the collective bargaining agreement." United Steelworkers of America v. Enter. Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 597 (1960). Even if the Court is convinced that the"[the arbitrator] committed serious error," the award should not be vacated so long as the arbitrator is "even arguably ...