International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers - Transportation Division v. CSX Transportation, Inc., 120518 FED6, 18-3323

Docket Nº:18-3323
Opinion Judge:JOHN K. BUSH, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Party Name:INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SHEET METAL, AIR, RAIL AND TRANSPORTATION WORKERS - TRANSPORTATION DIVISION, 'SMART-TD'; AMAZIAH P. BARNETTE; BRACKEN R. BURD; JUSTIN M. DEAN; MICHAEL T. FOSTER; BRIAN G. GRONAU; JEFFERY A. HABEL; NICHOLAS L. INGRODI; SHAWN P. KONNERTH; DAVID D. LYON; BRANT L. WALKER, Petitioners-Appellants, v. CSX TRANSPORTATION, I...
Judge Panel:BEFORE: SUHRHEINRICH, MOORE, and BUSH, Circuit Judges. KAREN NELSON MOORE, Circuit Judge, dissenting.
Case Date:December 05, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SHEET METAL, AIR, RAIL AND TRANSPORTATION WORKERS - TRANSPORTATION DIVISION, "SMART-TD"; AMAZIAH P. BARNETTE; BRACKEN R. BURD; JUSTIN M. DEAN; MICHAEL T. FOSTER; BRIAN G. GRONAU; JEFFERY A. HABEL; NICHOLAS L. INGRODI; SHAWN P. KONNERTH; DAVID D. LYON; BRANT L. WALKER, Petitioners-Appellants,

v.

CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Respondent-Appellee.

No. 18-3323

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

December 5, 2018

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION

ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO

BEFORE: SUHRHEINRICH, MOORE, and BUSH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

JOHN K. BUSH, CIRCUIT JUDGE

Appellants International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers - Transportation Division and several of its members (collectively, "SMART-TD") appeal the district court's grant of summary judgment to appellee CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSXT"), upholding an arbitration award in CSXT's favor. For the reasons that follow, we AFFIRM.

I. FACTS

Appellee CSXT is a railway carrier that employs the individually-named appellants. These individuals are members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers - Transportation Division union.

This case concerns the exercise of "displacement rights" by SMART-TD members. Displacement rights, or "seniority rights," allow employees to displace more junior employees from certain job assignments. The displaced employees then have a set amount of time in which to displace employees junior to them from their assignments.

In 1994, CSXT's predecessor in interest executed a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") with SMART-TD's predecessor that, in the CBA's Rule 8(d)(2), established the following time period for the exercise of displacement rights: "Road or yard men who have displacement rights and can hold a turn at the terminal where displacement occurred must either exercise their displacement rights or obtain a leave of absence within thirty (30) days or their service record will be marked VUA (Voluntary Unexplained Absence.)." (R. 13-4, Page ID# 405.) As a result of a VUA, an employee's name could be removed from the seniority roster after appropriate steps were taken by the employer.

In 1996, the union and carrier renegotiated the CBA, including its terms on displacement rights. Article XII of the new agreement, the "UTU National Agreement," reduced the time in which an employee must exercise displacement rights from thirty days to forty-eight hours:

Section 1

(a) Where agreements that provide for the exercise of displacement rights within a shorter time period are not in effect, existing rules, excluding crew consist agreements, are amended to provide that an employee who has a displacement right on any position (including extra boards)1 within a terminal or within 30 miles of such employee's current reporting point, whichever is greater, must, from the time of proper notification under the applicable agreement or practice, exercise that displacement right within forty-eight (48) hours.

(b) Failure of an employee to exercise displacement rights, as provided in (a) above, will result in said employee being assigned to the applicable extra board, seniority permitting. (The applicable extra board is the extra board protecting the assignment from which displaced.)

. . .

Section 2

This Article shall become effective June l, 1996 and is not intended to restrict any of the existing rights of a carrier.

(R. 13-2, Page ID## 275-76.)

The agreement also contained negotiated "Q&As" intended to "inform the application of Article XII . . . ." (R. 17, Page ID# 662.) The relevant Q&As are numbers 3 and 7: Q-3: How is an employee covered by this Article handled who fails to exercise seniority placement within 48 hours?

A-3: Such employee is assigned to the applicable extra board, seniority permitting, pursuant to Section 1(b) and subsequently governed by existing rules and/or practices.

. . .

Q-7: Is it the intent of Article XII to impose discipline on employees who fail to exercise seniority within 48 hours?

A-7: No, Section 1(b) provides that in these circumstances the employee will be assigned to the applicable extra board, seniority permitting. The employee will then be subject to existing rules and practices governing service on such extra board.

(R. 13-2, Page ID## 277-78.)

CSXT has also unilaterally imposed a "minimum availability" attendance policy, which it amended in 2010. This policy provides that any employee who is "unavailable for any non-compensated reason (other than rest days and time off mandated by the Hours of Service Act . . .) on 2 or more days in a rolling 4-week period will be subject to review." (R. 13-4, Page ID# 423.) Under the policy, an employee is "unavailable" if he is "off" work for a non-compensated reason for more than twelve hours. (Id. at Page ID## 430-31.)

CSXT issued Q&As to accompany the 2010 attendance policy. Relevant to this appeal, Q&A 3 reads, "Will the revised standards violate schedule agreement displacement rules? . . . . No. Contractual displacement rules will be respected." (Id. at Page ID# 430.)

This dispute arose when each of the individual appellants was displaced at least once within a four-week period. All but three of them exercised their seniority rights near the end of the forty-eight-hour window set by the CBA. Thus, they were each unavailable for two days under CSXT's attendance policy.

CSXT disciplined the individual appellants for their unavailability. SMART-TD objected, arguing that the CBA protected employees from discipline so long as they exercised their displacement rights within forty-eight hours. Unable to resolve the disagreement, the parties submitted the matter to arbitration before the National Railroad Adjustment Board, as required under 45 U.S.C. § 153.

The arbitrator found in favor of CSXT on all claims. She determined that the CBA and CSXT's availability policies were not in conflict because the CBA did not give employees a right to be free from discipline for unavailability. Furthermore, the arbitrator considered previous arbitration awards interpreting the same or similar CBA provisions; several of the previous awards had found that the displacement policies did not affect CSXT's rights to set and enforce disciplinary policies. The arbitrator also considered the 1996 Q&As and found that they did not speak to CSXT's disciplinary powers either. In light of all of this evidence, the arbitrator ruled that CSXT had not violated the CBA by imposing discipline on the SMART-TD members.

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

SMART-TD sued CSXT in federal district court, arguing that the arbitrator had "ignored the plain and unambiguous . . . language of . . . Article XII (Displacement) of the 1996 UTU National Agreement, including Q&A 7" in denying the individual appellants' claims for relief. (R. 1, Page ID# 6.) CSXT moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted the motion.

SMART-TD appealed.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

We review a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Bhd. of Locomotive Eng'rs & Trainmen v. United Transp. Union, 700 F.3d 891, 898 (6th Cir. 2012). "Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact such that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Id. (citation omitted). "Where the court reviews de novo the district court's decision to enforce or vacate an arbitrator's award, 'the focus is on the arbitrator's analysis, not that of the district court.'" Id. (quoting Truck Drivers Local No. 164 v. Allied Waste Sys., Inc., 512 F.3d 211, 216 (6th Cir. 2008)).

IV. DISCUSSION

To state the standard for review of a labor arbitrator's decision is to resolve this case. We established the standard in Michigan Family Resources, Inc. v. Service Employees International Union Local 517M, 475 F.3d 746, 753 (6th Cir. 2007) (en banc): Did the arbitrator act outside his authority by resolving a dispute not committed to arbitration? Did the arbitrator commit fraud, have a conflict of interest or otherwise act dishonestly in issuing the award? And in resolving any legal or factual disputes in the case, was the arbitrator arguably construing or applying the contract? So long as the arbitrator does not offend any of these requirements, the request for judicial intervention should be resisted even though the arbitrator made serious, improvident or silly errors in resolving the merits of the...

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