113 F.Supp. 137 (D.Mass. 1953), Civ. A. 52-503, Textile Workers Union of America (CIO) v. American Thread Co.

Docket Nº:Civ. A. 52-503
Citation:113 F.Supp. 137
Party Name:Textile Workers Union of America (CIO) v. American Thread Co.
Case Date:June 05, 1953
Court:United States District Courts, 1st Circuit, District of Massachusetts

Page 137

113 F.Supp. 137 (D.Mass. 1953)




Civ. A. No. 52-503.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 5, 1953

Page 138

Jacob Minkin, New Bedford, Mass., for plaintiff.

Francis J. Vaas, A. Lane McGovern and Ropes, Gray, Best, Coolidge & Rugg, Boston, Mass., for defendant.

WYZANSKI, District Judge.

This is a suit under Sec. 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, commonly called the Taft-Hartley Act, 61 Stat. 156, 29 U.S.C.A. § 185, to order defendant to submit to arbitration the question whether under certain provisions of a collective bargaining contract with plaintiff it is liable for separation pay.

Section 301(a) provides that 'Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce * * * may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties * * *.'

Since 1948 defendant, an employer, has had contracts with plaintiff, 'a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce.' The 1948 contract provided in Article VII that 'any * * * controversy of any nature * * * between the Union and the Company, which has not been satisfactorily adjusted within fifteen (15) working days after the initiation of conferences between representatives of the Union and the Company shall be promptly referred to arbitration * * *. Questions involving changes in the * * * provisions of this Agreement shall not be subject to * * * arbitration.' March 29, 1951 the parties, in two separate but substantially identical memoranda covering defendant's Hampton Yard Division and Merrick Mills, modified and extended the

Page 139

1948 contract. In each memorandum it was agreed that there shall be retirement separation pay which 'shall become effective upon approval by the appropriate governmental authority and shall not be retroactive'; the parties 'shall select by mutual agreement a new permanent arbitrator' (presumably in lieu of the person named in Article VII of the 1948 contract); and, as modified, the 1948 contract shall 'continue in full force and effect * * * until March 15, 1953.'

Defendant separated from employment ten persons whose cases are still in controversy. Plaintiff claims they are entitled to separation pay. Defendant rejects the claim on the ground that, in its view, the employees were separated before the 1951 memoranda received approval by the appropriate governmental agency. Plaintiff demanded that the controversy be submitted to arbitration; but defendant refused to comply.

Plaintiff, thereupon, brought this suit for specific performance of what it claims is defendant's obligation to submit its claim to arbitration. Defendant contends that there is no arbitrable issue and that, if there were, this Court has no power to direct specific performance of an agreement to arbitrate. Each party moved for summary judgment.

Defendant's first point can readily be answered. As was evident in the discussion at bar, the controversy between the parties turns partly on the question as to when these ten persons were in fact separated from employment. Such factual issues are plainly arbitrable under the contract. Furthermore, issues as to the meaning of the terms in the contract are also arbitrable for the parties have excluded from arbitration only 'changes in the terms and provisions' of the contract.

More troublesome is defendant's second point that this Court lacks the power specifically to enforce an arbitration provision in a collective bargaining contract.

Defendant's argument is that the federal courts grant specific performance of arbitration contracts in the absence of statutory authority, Red Cross Line v. Atlantic Fruit Co., 264 U.S. 109, 44 S.Ct. 274, 68 L.Ed. 582; United States Asphalt Refining Co. v. Trinidad Lake Petroleum Co., D.C.S.D.N.Y., 222 F.1006, and that the Federal Arbitration Act, 61 Stat. 669, 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., which excludes 'contracts of employment of * * * any * * * class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce' has been held not to give authority for specific performance of arbitration provisions in collective bargaining contracts. Amalgamated Ass'n of Street, Electric Ry. & Motor Coach Employees of American v. Pennsylvania Greyhound Lines, Inc., 3 Cir., 192 F.2d 310; International Union United Furniture Workers of American v. Colonial Hardwood Flooring Co., Inc., 4 Cir., 16 F.2d 33; Gatliff Coal Co. v. Cox, 6 Cir., 142 F.2d 876; Boston & Maine Transp. Co. v. Amalgamated Ass'n of Street & Electric Ry. & Motor Coach Employees of America, Division No. 718, D.C.D. Mass. 106 F.Supp. 334. Contra: Lewittes & Sons v. United Furniture Workers of America, D.C.S.D.N.Y., 95 F.Supp. 851. Compare...

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