Lincoln Mills of Ala. v. Textile Workers Union

Decision Date31 January 1956
Docket NumberNo. 15697.,15697.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

Frank A. Constangy, Atlanta, Ga., Patrick W. Richardson, Robert K. Bell, Bell, Morring & Richardson, Huntsville, Ala., for appellant.

Jerome A. Cooper, Wm. E. Mitch, Hugo L. Black, Jr., Birmingham, Ala., Benjamin Wyle, New York City, and Cooper, Mitch & Black, Birmingham, Ala., for appellee.

Before RIVES, JONES and BROWN, Circuit Judges.

JONES, Circuit Judge.

Lincoln Mills of Alabama, the defendant below, is a corporation owning and operating a textile mill in Huntsville, Alabama. It is engaged in an industry affecting commerce and hence subject to Federal legislation relating to labor. Textile Workers Union of America, CIO, the plaintiff below, is an unincorporated association and labor organization. We will refer to the parties, for brevity and clarity, as Employer and Union.

In chronological sequence, the facts from which this controversy developed were as follows:

A written collective bargaining agreement between the Union and the Employer was executed June 27, 1953, to continue until July 3, 1954, and for one-year terms thereafter unless written notice of termination should be mailed by either party to the other sixty days prior to the end of the current term, in which event the agreement would terminate at the end of the current term. Article VIII of the agreement set up procedures to be followed in the adjustment of grievances, and provided that if a grievance had not been adjusted by the Article VIII procedures within the time specified, the party presenting the grievance should be governed by the provisions of Article IX(F) of the agreement.

By Article IX of the agreement the parties agreed that the contract grievance procedures were adequate to provide a fair and final determination of all grievances arising under the terms of the agreement. The desire of the parties to avoid strikes and work stoppages was recited. Paragraphs (A) to (E) inclusive of Article IX contained "nostrike" provisions. In Paragraph (F) of Article IX, of the agreement it was provided that any disagreement or dispute, arising from the operation or interpretation of the agreement, pertaining to wages, rates of pay, hours of work or other conditions of employment which had not been satisfactorily adjusted within the time limited, might be submitted to arbitration by the giving of written notice within ten days after the expiration of the applicable time limit. It was further provided that if the parties did not agree upon an arbitrator, the American Arbitration Association should be requested to furnish the names of five qualified arbitrators and the parties should alternately strike one name each from the list until a single name remained and the person so designated should serve.

The Union filed with the Employer seven grievances on June 23, 1954, and three grievances on June 24, 1954, all of which were of the type specified in Article IX(F). The Employer followed the procedures of the agreement up to the point of rejecting the claims, the rejections being made at various dates on and subsequent to July 14, 1954. Pursuant to timely notice given pursuant to its terms, the agreement terminated on July 3, 1954. The Union requested the Employer to submit the grievances to arbitration pursuant to Article IX(F) of the agreement. The Employer refused to do so. Thereafter the Union brought this suit against the Employer asking that the Employer be required to submit the grievances to arbitration and praying for damages. The District Court declined to award damages to the Union, saying that none were proven, but decreed that the Employer submit the grievances to arbitration as provided in Article IX(F) of the agreement. Jurisdiction was found under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C.A. § 185.

Presented for our consideration are questions which may be substantive as well as procedural. Since there is no diversity of citzenship apparent we are, at the outset, required to ascertain whether there is a basis for Federal jurisdiction. The Congress has provided 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, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties". Sec. 301 (a), Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C.A. § 185(a).

This grant has given Federal courts jurisdiction for the consideration and determination of questions such as the one presented in this case. It has given to Federal courts the power to adjudicate, where a violation of a contract is asserted, causes of action between employers and labor organizations and to determine whether or not a cause of action exists in a particular case. It does not follow, though, from the existence of the judicial power to determine a cause of action or controversy that the right asserted has legal sanction. It does not follow from the grant of jurisdiction to hear a litigant in a Federal forum that rights have been created or remedies provided which are denied to others. That there is a right to seek relief in a Federal court does not mean that the relief sought is necessarily available. More specifically, our question is whether Section 301, taken in context, requires or permits the enforcement of an executory covenant for the submission to arbitration of grievances pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement between a union and an employer.

The provisions of the contract between the parties to this appeal from which spring the problems presented are not novel, yet we do not find that the precise point presented has heretofore been considered by an appellate court. In the absence of statute it is the general rule that executory contracts to submit disputes to arbitration will not be specifically enforced. Red Cross Line v. Atlantic Fruit Co., 1924, 264 U.S. 109, 44 S.Ct. 274, 68 L.Ed. 582. Tejas Development Co. v. McGough Bros., 5 Cir., 1947, 165 F.2d 276. Such is the rule as found by the framers of the Restatement of the Law. Restatement, Contracts, § 550 (1932). The Supreme Court of Alabama, announcing the rule, has said:

"The courts are almost unanimous in declaring that equity will not decree specific performance of a contract to submit a cause to arbitration, while it will, in proper cases, entertain a bill to enforce an award." Ex parte Birmingham Fire Ins. Co., 1937, 233 Ala. 370, 172 So. 99, 101.

If there be a right to specific performance of an arbitration provision in a collective bargaining agreement we must find it in an act of Congress. The Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 101 et seq., does not preclude the granting of the relief sought. Graham v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, 1949, 338 U.S. 232, 70 S.Ct. 14, 94 L.Ed. 22.

The United States Arbitration Act expressly provides that nothing therein "contained shall apply to contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce." 9 U.S.C.A. § 1.

In Section 2 it is said:

"A written provision in any maritime transaction or a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter arising out of such contract or transaction, or the refusal to perform the whole or any part thereof, or an agreement in writing to submit to arbitration an existing controversy arising out of such a contract, transaction, or refusal, shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract." July 30, 1947, c. 392, § 1, 61 Stat. 669, 9 U.S.C.A. § 2.

Section 3 of the Arbitration Act provides:

"If any suit or proceeding be brought in any of the courts of the United States upon any issue referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for such arbitration, the court in which such suit is pending, upon being satisfied that the issue involved in such suit or proceeding is referable to arbitration under such an agreement, shall on application of one of the parties stay the trial of the action until such arbitration has been had in accordance with the terms of the agreement, providing the applicant for the stay is not in default in proceeding with such arbitration." 9 U.S. C.A. § 3.

The Arbitration Act also provides that courts of the United States may direct arbitration in accordance with the terms of written agreements. 9 U.S.C.A. § 4.

The Court of Appeals of the Third Circuit has had a number of occasions to consider the application of the Arbitration Act to collective bargaining agreements, and we cannot reconcile its views as expressed in its several opinions. It first held that the stay of proceedings provisions in Section 3 of the Act applied in a class suit for unpaid over-time compensation claimed under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 201 et seq. Donahue v. Susquehanna Collieries Co., 3 Cir., 1943, 138 F.2d 3, 149 A.L.R. 271. Section 1 of the Arbitration Act, containing the exclusion clause was set forth in a footnote but was not mentioned in the opinion. The Donahue case, supra, was followed in Watkins v. Hudson Coal Co., 3 Cir., 1945, 151 F.2d 311, certiorari denied 327 U.S. 777, 66 S.Ct. 522, 90 L.Ed. 1005, where it was said that the exclusion clause of Section 1 was not an over-all limitation. On a second appeal of the Donahue case a stay of proceedings was directed pursuant to Section 3 until arbitration was had. Donahue v. Susquehanna Collieries Co., 3 Cir., 1947, 160 F.2d 661. The same result was reached in Evans v. Hudson Coal Co., 3 Cir., 1948, 165 F.2d 970. Before the next consideration of the question by the Third Circuit, Congress had...

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