International Union of Elec., Radio and Mach. Workers, AFL-CIO v. General Elec. Co.

Citation174 A.2d 298,148 Conn. 693
Decision Date26 September 1961
Docket NumberL-C
CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut

Bertram Diamond, Stamford, for appellant (plaintiff).

Norman K. Parsells, Bridgeport, with whom, on the brief, was John Barron, Bridgeport, for appellee (defendant).


KING, Associate Justice.

This case involves a controversy as to the arbitrability of a grievance under the provisions of a five-year labor management contract, hereinafter referred to as the contract. It was entered into as of August 15, 1955, between the defendant and the plaintiff, of which an affiliated local was the exclusive bargaining representative for such of the defendant's employees as were involved in the controversy. The grievance arose out of the defendant's action in giving to an independent contractor the job of moving the fan manufacturing department from one part of the defendant's Bridgeport plant to another. The defendant apparently acted in reliance on the general rule concerning the power of management to contract out work, in good faith. Note, 57 A.L.R.2d 1399. The plaintiff did not deny the defendant's general right to contract out the work but claimed that certain 'skilled trades' employees of the defendant who belonged to the plaintiff's local should have been employed on the removal job to the extent of performing the portion of the job which consisted of the type of work which they normally performed and properly could perform. The parties, after going through the preliminary grievance procedure required by the contract, remained in disagreement. The plaintiff demanded arbitration under the arbitration provisions of the contract.

The contract (art. 15[a]) made arbitrable '[a]ny grievance * * * which involves * * * the interpretation or application of a provision of this Agreement.' It provided (art. 15[b]) that if either party indicated that an unresolved grievance 'does not, in its opinion, raise an arbitrable issue,' no arbitration could be had until the grievance had been held arbitrable in a final judgment in a court. The defendant claimed that the grievance in question was not arbitrable, and the plaintiff instituted this application to the Superior Court, under General Statutes § 52-410, for an order directing the defendant to proceed with arbitration. Without such a court determination of arbitrability, the defendant, under the foregoing provisions of the contract, admittedly was under no obligation to arbitrate the dispute. The defendant demurred to the application as amended. The demurrer was sustained and, the plaintiff failing to plead further, judgment was rendered for the defendant on January 8, 1960. The judgment in effect denied the application on the ground that the dispute was not arbitrable. The plaintiff appealed.

The demurrer attacks the application as a whole (see Practice Book § 96) and, as drafted, is divided into three grounds. The second ground, as well as the third, comprises a number of claims which to a considerable extent are repetitious and overlapping. The defendant in its brief sets forth various reasons why the application failed to state facts showing that the dispute was arbitrable, but does not clearly relate these reasons to the purported three grounds of the demurrer. In an endeavor to expedite this litigation, we have decided to review the action of the court below in sustaining the demurrer on the basic ground that as matter of law the application failed to allege an arbitrable dispute. See Anselmo v. Cox, 135 Conn. 78, 79, 60 A.2d 767.

The first ground of demurrer in effect merely asserts that the controversy alleged in the application does not present an arbitrable issue involving the interpretation or application of a provision of the contract. Since under General Statutes § 52-92 all demurrers must be special, under no theory could the demurrer properly have been sustained on the first ground, and we need give that ground no further consideration. See cases such as Cornwall v. Hartford, 107 Conn. 351, 353, 140 A. 723.

We turn now to the second and third grounds of demurrer. The effect of the demurrer was to admit the material allegations of the application to which it was addressed. Arsenault v. General Electric Co., 147 Conn. 130, 132, 157 A.2d 918, certiorari denied 364 U.S. 815, 81 S.Ct. 42, 5 L.Ed.2d 46 (a case, incidentally, involving the same contract). 'The allegations of the * * * [application] attacked by [a] demurrer must be 'tested by the facts provable under them.' We must give to them the same favorable construction that a trier might deem itself required to give in admitting evidence under them to prove the facts asserted.' McNish v. American Brass Co., 139 Conn. 44, 48, 89 A.2d 566, 568. Stated in another way, '[t]he demurrer admitted any facts provable under * * * [the allegations of the application].' Stamford Dock & Realty Corporation v. Stamford, 124 Conn. 341, 345, 200 A. 343, 345; Progressive Welfare Ass'n, Inc. v. Morduchay, 124 Conn. 485, 490, 200 A. 813. Thus, the decisive question is whether, within the purview of the allegations of the application, the plaintiff could prove facts showing that the grievance was arbitrable. If it could, then the demurrer was erroneously sustained.

The parties are in dispute as to the law governing the determination of the arbitrability of the grievance under the provisions of the contract. The plaintiff claims that the applicable law is to be found in certain federal cases hereinafter discussed, while the defendant claims that the applicable law is that of New York as set forth in certain decisions of the Court of Appeals and of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. Obviously, the validity of the demurrer cannot properly be determined until the question of what law controls the construction of the contract has been decided.

The contract provided (art. 15): 'This Agreement and its interpretation and application shall in all respects be governed by the law of the State of New York.' The contract by its preamble covered the plaintiff's locals in shops and factories of the defendant throughout the United States. It is clear that the provision as to the applicability of the law of New York was inserted in order that the law of that state alone would apply, regardless of where a particular controversy involving the contract might arise. To what extent this provision was effective to make applicable the statutory or detailed procedural law of New York we need not inquire, since both parties are voluntarily proceeding under the Connecticut arbitration statutes and no claim is made by either under any New York statute. See McCarroll v. Los Angeles County District Council of Carpenters, 49 Cal.2d 45, 63, 64, 69, 315 P.2d 322, certiorari denied 355 U.S. 932, 78 S.Ct. 413, 2 L.Ed.2d 415. But for certain considerations hereinafter mentioned, the provision would have been effective to make at least the substantive case law of New York operative and controlling in this controversy. Pollack v. Danbury Mfg. Co., 103 Conn. 553, 557, 131 A. 426.

Subsequent to the decision of the court below, the Supreme Court of the United States, on June 20, 160, decided two cases involving the question of the arbitrability of disputes under the variant wordings of the arbitration clauses in two different labor management contracts. These cases were United Steelworkers of America v. American Mfg. Co., 363 U.S. 564, 80 S.Ct. 1343, 4 L.Ed.2d 1403, and United Steelworkers of America v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 80 S.Ct. 1347, 4 L.Ed.2d 1409. On the same day, a decision as to the powers of an arbitrator under the terms of the submission under such a contract was rendered in United Steelworkers of America v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corporation, 363 U.S. 593, 80 S.Ct. 1358, 4 L.Ed.2d 1424. See, also, the concurring opinion in Warrior and American Mfg., reported in 363 U.S. 569, 80 S.Ct. 1363, 4 L.Ed.2d 1432. The Warrior case, like the case now before us, involved the arbitrability of a grievance arising out of the contracting out of work. These federal cases did not change the well-settled rule, as stated in Warrior, supra, 363 U.S. at page 582, 80 S.Ct. at page 1353, that 'arbitration is a matter of contract and a party cannot be required to submit to arbitration any dispute which he has not agreed so to submit.' But they do hold that a suit to compel arbitration is a suit to determine 'whether the reluctant party has breached his promise to arbitrate.' Ibid. Where, as here, that promise is contained in a labor management contract which affects interstate commerce (Lavery's Main St. Grill, Inc. v. Hotel Employees Union, 146 Conn. 93, 101, 147 A.2d 902), such a suit is a suit for a violation of a contract, and jurisdiction to entertain it is given to the United States District Courts under the provisions of § 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947 (Taft-Hartley Act), 61 Stat. 156, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a) [29 U.S.C.A. § 185(a)]. In other words, this proceeding could, and more properly should, have been instituted in the United States District Court for the district of Connecticut. Ingraham Co. v. Local 260, D.C., 171 F.Supp. 103, 106; Minkoff v. Scranton Frocks, Inc., D.C., 172 F.Supp. 870, 874, affirmed 2 Cir., 279 F.2d 115. The plaintiff had a right, however, to bring it in the Superior Court, as it did. Connecticut Co. v. Division 425, 147 Conn. 608, 616, 164 A.2d 413; Philadelphia Marine Trade Ass'n v. International Longshoremen's Ass'n, 382 Pa. 326, 333, 115 A.2d 733, certiorari denied 350 U.S. 843, 76 S.Ct. 84, 100 L.Ed. 751; 31 Am.Jur. 655, § 329.

But of even more importance is the fact that the United States Supreme Court, in Warrior, supra, promulgated a new and broader rule of law governing the construction of arbitration provisions when, as...

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