313 F.2d 179 (2nd Cir. 1962), 70, Black-Clawson Co., Paper Mach. Division v. International Ass'n of Machinists Lodge 355, Dist. 137

Docket Nº:70, 27624.
Citation:313 F.2d 179
Party Name:The BLACK-CLAWSON COMPANY, INC., PAPER MACHINE DIVISION, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS LODGE 355, DISTRICT 137, Defendant, and Theodore A. Best, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:December 22, 1962
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Page 179

313 F.2d 179 (2nd Cir. 1962)



INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS LODGE 355, DISTRICT 137, Defendant, and Theodore A. Best, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 70, 27624.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

December 22, 1962

Argued Nov. 8, 1962.

Page 180

Carrol & Amyot, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (James F. Carroll, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Robert P. Best, Gloversville, N.Y., of counsel), for appellant.

J. Mack Swigert, Cincinnati, Ohio (Taft, Stettinius & Hollister and Frank H. Stewart, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Dunk, Conboy, McKay & Bachman, and Carl O. Bachman and Robert J. Maloney, Watertown, N.Y., of counsel), for appellee.

Before MEDINA, SMITH and KAUFMAN, Circuit Judges.

KAUFMAN, Circuit Judge.

The plaintiff, Black-Clawson Company, Inc., (hereafter referred to as Black-Clawson or the employer) is engaged in the manufacture of machinery for the paper-making industry in various states. In July 1959, Black-Clawson entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the International Association of Machinists, Lodge 355, District 137 (hereafter referred to as the Union), which served as the exclusive bargaining representative for certain production and maintenance employees in the plaintiff's Watertown, New York plant. One member of the unit represented by the Union was Theodore A. Best who, along with the Union, was joined as a defendant in the court below in a suit for a declaratory judgment brought by Black-Clawson. Best was an employee of the company from June 4, 1951 until May 8, 1961, when his employment was terminated by a written notice informing him that the cause for discharge was his failure to return to work at the end of a protracted period of sick leave. The collective bargaining agreement between Black-Clawson and the Union established a four-step grievance procedure, terminating in arbitration, for resolution of employee grievances. Best, purporting to have complied with the preliminary steps of the grievance procedure, demanded that the employer go to arbitration in order to remedy what Best contended was a wrongful discharge in violation of the collective agreement.

Page 181

Black-Clawson, invoking section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, and the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C.§ 2201, commenced an action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York for a declaration that this dispute was not arbitrable under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, joining the Union and Best as codefendants. The defendants, in separate answers, requested a dismissal of the complaint as well as affirmative declaratory relief and an order compelling the plaintiff to submit to arbitration. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the District Judge held that the defendants were to be restrained from taking any action, based upon the agreement, to compel the arbitration of Best's grievance. He held that no such right was conferred upon an individual employee by the contract or by the applicable rules of law; he also held that neither Best nor the Union had complied with the four-step procedure set down in the agreement, which barred them from compelling the employer to arbitrate. From this judgment, only Best appeals.

We affirm the judgment of the District Court.


As a preliminary matter, we hold that an action for declaratory judgment may be brought under the terms of section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act 1 as implemented by the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act. 2 Some courts have held that the language of section 301(a), 'suits for violations of contracts,' does not countenance an action by a party to a collective bargaining agreement who asserts that he has in fact adhered to the terms of the agreement and who fails to allege its 'violation' by the opposing party. See Mengel Co. v. Nashville Paper Products and Specialty Workers Union, 221 F.2d 644 (6th Cir. 1955) (with Circuit Judge, now Justice, Stewart dissenting); Hall v. Sperry Gyroscope Co. Division of Sperry Rand Corp., 183 F.Supp. 891 (S.D.N.Y.1960); Wamsutta Mills v. Pollock, 180 F.Supp. 826 (S.D.N.Y.1959). By far the great majority of courts, however, read section 301(a) more expansively and permit suits for a declaration of rights in circumstances such as those in the case before us. See Fried v. Glenn Elec. Heater Corp., 198 F.Supp. 248, 254-255 (D.N.J. 1961); Local Union 28, Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers v. Maryland Chapter, Nat'l Elec. Contractors Ass'n, Inc., 194 F.Supp. 491, 493 (D.Md.1961); Weyerhaeuser Co., Shipping Container Division v. International Brotherhood of Pulp etc., Workers, 190 F.Supp. 196 (D.Me.1960); Employing Plasterer's Ass'n. v. Operative Plasterers, etc., Ass'n, 172 F.Supp. 337, 340 (N.D.Ill. 1959); Prudential Ins. Co. of America v. Insurance Agents' Intern. Union, 169 F.Supp. 534 (S.D.N.Y.1959); Armstrong-Norwalk Rubber Corp. v. Local Union 283, United Rubber, etc., Workers, 167 F.Supp. 817, 818 (D.Conn.1958), appeal dismissed, 269 F.2d 618 (2d Cir. 1959); Studio Carpenters Local Union No. 946 v. Loew's Inc., 84 F.Supp. 675 (S.D.Cal.1949). 3

Page 182

We find nothing in the history of section 301(a) which indicates an intention to restrict that section to suits for damages or specific enforcement. In fact, the one item of relevant material in the legislative history points quite clearly to the opposite conclusion and supports the result we reach today. In a discussion on the floor of the House concerning the effect of section 302 of the House bill, predecessor to the present section 301, Congressman Hartley, the sponsor of the act, adopted this construction:

'* * * Section 302 * * * contemplates not only the ordinary lawsuits for damages but also such other remedial proceedings, both legal and equitable, as might be appropriate in the circumstances; in other words, proceedings could, for example, be brought by the employers, the labor organizations, or interested individual employees under the Declaratory Judgments Act in order to secure declarations from the Court of legal rights under the contract.' 93 Cong.Rec. 3656-57 (1947).

We do not doubt that if the codefendants here had desired to press Best's grievance to arbitration they could have brought an action under section 301(a) to compel the company to do so, in the event Black-Clawson had refused to go to arbitration. See Textile Workers Union of America v. Lincoln Mills of Ala., 353 U.S. 448, 77 S.Ct. 912, 1 L.Ed.2d 972 (1957); United Steelworkers of America v. Warrior & Gulf...

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