Pilot Freight Carriers, Inc. v. International Broth. of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America

Decision Date14 September 1981
Docket NumberNo. 80-1547,80-1547
Citation659 F.2d 1252
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

Robert J. Higgins, Washington, D. C. (Leslie J. Ruben, Charles W. Saber, George Kaufmann, Dickstein, Shapiro & Morin, Washington, D. C., on brief), for appellant.

J. W. Alexander, Jr., Charlotte, N. C. (William Kearns Davis, Winston-Salem, N. C., Blakeney, Alexander & Machen, Charlotte, N. C., Bell, Davis & Pitt, Winston-Salem, N. C., on brief), for appellee.

Before BUTZNER, SPROUSE and ERVIN, Circuit Judges.

BUTZNER, Circuit Judge:

The principal issue in this appeal is whether Pilot Freight Carriers' claim against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) for damages attributed to a strike should have been submitted to arbitration. Pilot brought this action under § 301 of the Labor Management and Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 141 et seq. IBT pleaded as an affirmative defense that the controversy was subject to arbitration and moved for summary judgment on the ground that the bargaining agreement required Pilot to grieve its claim. The district court denied the motion and subsequently ruled that the strike breached the bargaining agreement. The court submitted the question of damages to a jury which returned a verdict for Pilot in the amount of $3,030,625. Judgment was entered on the verdict. Because we believe the controversy should have been submitted to arbitration in accordance with provisions of the bargaining agreement, we vacate the judgment of the district court and remand the case with directions that the complaint be dismissed without prejudice to Pilot's submission of its claim to arbitration.


The facts and the history of related litigation between the parties are fully set forth in the district court's opinion and in an opinion of the Fifth Circuit dealing with a related aspect of this litigation. See Pilot Freight Carriers, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 495 F.Supp. 619 (M.D.N.C.1980); Boire v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 479 F.2d 778 (5th Cir. 1973). Briefly recounted, the bargaining agreement which is the basis of Pilot's claim is the National Master Freight Agreement and the Southern Conference Supplement effective from April 1, 1970, to June 30, 1973. The Master Agreement was applicable to all signatory employers, including Pilot, and all Teamster locals. The Southern Supplement dealt primarily with regional concerns. Together, they constituted the parties' bargaining agreement. The bargaining agreement made provision for a Multi-State Grievance Committee and a National Grievance Committee, both composed of employer and employee representatives.

The strike arose over a dispute about the application of the accretion clause of the Master Agreement to Pilot's terminal operations in Florida. The locals submitted their claims of accretion to the Multi-State Grievance Committee, and the company submitted its claim of no accretion to the National Grievance Committee, asserting that the Multi-State Grievance Committee lacked jurisdiction under the terms of the agreement. The Multi-State Grievance Committee took jurisdiction and held that the accretion clause applied. Pilot refused to accede to this ruling and unsuccessfully sought an injunction against enforcement of the award in Florida. The union then struck. The district court enjoined the strike, but when the National Grievance Committee also ruled that the bargaining agreement was applicable to Pilot's Florida terminals, the court dissolved its injunction. The union threatened to resume the strike. In the meantime, Pilot sought relief from the NLRB which obtained an injunction against the strike and subsequently ruled that accretion was unlawful.

Pilot asserts that a proper interpretation of the bargaining agreement required IBT to submit the grievance over the Florida terminals to the National Grievance Committee. It argues that the union's strike after the award of the Multi-State Committee violated IBT's contractual obligation not to strike "without first using all means of settlement as provided" in the agreement. IBT contends that the dispute over the obligation not to strike must be submitted to arbitration. Additionally, it contends that by the terms of the agreement it assumed no liability for the performance of the agreement and that, in any event, the locals had a contractual right to strike to enforce the arbitration award of the Multi-State Grievance Committee. It relies on a clause of the Master Agreement which permits strikes "in case of ... failure to comply with majority decisions under this agreement or any supplement." Contrary to Pilot's position, IBT argues that the bargaining agreement gave the Multi-State Grievance Committee authority to decide the locals' grievance.


We deem it improvident for us to undertake a discussion of the correct interpretation of all of the various provisions of the bargaining agreement which the parties press. Under the terms of the agreement and the national policy pertaining to arbitration of labor disputes enunciated by the Supreme Court, we believe that these issues are properly the subject of arbitration.

Article 8(a) of the Master Agreement provides: "All grievances or questions of interpretation arising under this Master Agreement or Supplemental Agreements thereto shall be processed as set forth below." The agreement next establishes elaborate grievance procedures for the arbitration of disputes. Article 45 of the Supplement provides: "The Unions and the Employers agree that there shall be no strikes, lockouts, tie-ups or legal proceedings without first using all possible means of settlement as provided for in this Agreement of any controversy which might arise."

In its opinion rejecting IBT's claim that the controversy was subject to arbitration, the district court held the arbitration clause was not as broad as those in cases in which arbitration had been recognized as the proper forum. The court also pointed out that the arbitration process established procedures for settling disputes concerning "unauthorized" strikes but that it was silent about "authorized" strikes. Referring to a clause that reserved to the parties the right to institute legal actions except as specifically set forth in the arbitration clause, the court held that Pilot could resort to its legal remedy for an "authorized" strike. See Pilot Freight Carriers, Inc. v. Teamsters Local 391, 83 Lab.Cas. (CCH) P 10,572 at 18,222 (M.D.N.C.1977).

We are not persuaded that these reasons sufficed for denying IBT's claim that the controversy was subject to arbitration. The question of arbitrability is a matter of contract to be determined by the courts. Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining Co., 370 U.S. 238, 241, 82 S.Ct. 1318, 1320, 8 L.Ed.2d 462 (1962). In construing the contract, doubts must be resolved in favor of arbitration. United Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 583, 80 S.Ct. 1347, 1353, 4 L.Ed.2d 1409 (1960). It has long been settled that an employer's damage claim for breach of a no-strike clause is subject to arbitration. Drake Bakeries v. Bakery Workers, 370 U.S. 254, 82 S.Ct. 1346, 8 L.Ed.2d 474 (1962).

In Drake, 370 U.S. at 257, 82 S.Ct. at 1348, the arbitration clause provided:

"The parties agree that they will promptly attempt to adjust all complaints, disputes or grievances arising between them involving questions of interpretation or application of any clause or matter covered by this contract or any act or conduct or relation between the parties hereto, directly or indirectly."

In Long-Airdox Co. v. UAW, Local 772, 622 F.2d 70, 71 (4th Cir. 1980), the bargaining agreement provided for the arbitration of grievances which were defined as " 'any complaint, request, or dispute which involves the meaning, interpretation or application of this agreement.' " In H. K. Porter Co., Inc. v. Local 37, USW, 400 F.2d 691, 693 (4th Cir. 1968), the agreement provided: " 'It is understood and agreed that neither party will institute civil suits or legal proceedings against the other for alleged violation of any of the provisions of this labor contract; instead all disputes will be settled in the manner outlined in Section 10 Grievances.' " In each of these cases, arbitration of an employer's damage claim that the union breached a no-strike clause was held to preclude the employer's recourse to a suit under § 301 of the Labor Act.

The arbitration clause of the Master Agreement does not materially differ from those in Drake, Long-Airdox, and H. K. Porter. It embraces "all grievances or questions of interpretation," and, consequently, it is broad enough to include Pilot's claim that IBT breached the agreement's no-strike clause. Because the grievances of both parties are facially governed by the agreement, "the means chosen by the parties for settlement of their differences" must be given "full play." United Steelworkers v. American Manufacturing Co., 363 U.S. 564, 566, 80 S.Ct. 1343, 1346, 4 L.Ed.2d 1403 (1960). Whether Pilot is right or wrong in claiming that the union violated the no-strike clause when it struck after Pilot refused to comply with the award of the Multi-State Committee is a question of contract interpretation for the arbitrator. 363 U.S. at 568, 80 S.Ct. at 1346.

We cannot accept the suggestion that grievances over "authorized" strikes are by implication excluded from arbitration because the Master Agreement establishes procedures for settling "unauthorized" strikes without mentioning "authorized" strikes. We addressed the question of exclusion from arbitration by implication in H. K. Porter Co. v. Local 37, USW, 400 F.2d 691, 695 (4th Cir. 1968):

The canons of construction require the courts not to deny...

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