Springfield Terminal Ry. Co. v. United Transp. Union, Civ. No. 88-0117-P.

Decision Date26 June 1991
Docket NumberCiv. No. 88-0117-P.
Citation767 F. Supp. 333
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maine


Charles S. Einsiedler, Jr., Pierce, Atwood, Scribner, Allen, Smith & Lancaster, Portland, Me., for plaintiff.

Michael Davidson, Senate Legal Counsel, Washington, D.C., for Sen. Kerry, etc.

Herbert E. Forrest, Federal Programs Branch, Civ. Div., U.S. Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., for National Mediation Bd.

Clinton J. Miller, III, Asst. General Counsel, Cleveland, Ohio, Craig J. Rancourt, Biddeford, Me., for defendant.

GENE CARTER, Chief Judge.


This case deals with a work stoppage begun by the United Transportation Union (UTU) against Springfield Terminal (ST) in November 1987. Invoking the protection of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA), 45 U.S.C. § 441, the UTU asserts that the work stoppage was prompted by hazardous conditions existing on ST's railroads. ST maintains that the withdrawal from service concerns work issues other than safety. In Civ. No. 87-342, a companion case arising from the same work stoppage, the UTU sought declaratory and injunctive relief after ST established a policy that employees involved in the work stoppage had resigned. This Court denied UTU's motion for a preliminary injunction, noting that resolution of the issues presented by the UTU was entirely dependent on factfinding statutorily committed to an arbitral tribunal. United Transportation Union v. Springfield Terminal Co., 675 F.Supp. 683 (D.Me.1987).

Shortly after the Court's decision, Public Law Board 4462 (Procedural) was established. That Board issued an award in April 1988, finding that a merits board should determine the propriety of the actions of ST and the UTU surrounding the work stoppage. ST filed Civ. No. 88-117 P to set aside the award. Public Law Board 4462 (Merits) issued its decision in June 1988, finding that the work stoppage was permissible under Section 10 of the FRSA and that ST's policy of treating striking employees as having resigned was impermissible discrimination. The award ordered the return to work of the employees with seniority rights unimpaired and back pay for the period of the work stoppage. Subsequent awards specifically detailed the back pay remedy.

ST sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to have Dr. Francis Quinn, the neutral arbitrator, removed from Public Law Board 4462 (Merits). That motion was denied by this Court after hearing on July 13, 1988. After Public Law Board 4462 issued its award on back pay in the fall of 1988, ST filed its third supplemental petition1 seeking to set aside all the awards of the Board. The UTU filed a counterclaim seeking enforcement of the awards. Now before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment.

A motion for summary judgment must be granted if:

The pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has aptly articulated the legal standard to be applied in deciding motions for summary judgment:

The movant must adumbrate `an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.' Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2554, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). When that is accomplished, the burden shifts to the opponent to establish the existence of a fact issue which is both `material,' in that it might affect the outcome of the litigation, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Hahn v. Sargent, 523 F.2d 461, 464 (1st Cir.1975), cert. denied, 425 U.S. 904 96 S.Ct. 1495, 47 L.Ed.2d 754 (1976), and `genuine,' in that a reasonable jury could, on the basis of the proffered proof, return a verdict for the opponent. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 106 S.Ct. at 2510; Oliver v. Digital Equipment Corp., 846 F.2d 103, 105 (1st Cir.1988). It is settled that the nonmovant may not rest upon mere allegations, but must adduce specific, provable facts demonstrating that there is a triable issue. `The evidence illustrating the factual controversy cannot be conjectural or problematic; it must have substance in the sense that it limns differing versions of the truth which a factfinder must resolve at an ensuing trial.' Mack v. Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co., 871 F.2d 179, 181 (1st Cir.1989). As the Supreme Court has said:
There is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-59 106 S.Ct. at 2510-16.

Brennan v. Hendrigan, 888 F.2d 189, 191-92 (1st Cir.1989).

Standard of Review

Section 3, First of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 153, First (g), as incorporated by the FRSA, 45 U.S.C. § 441(c)(1), provides specific, very limited grounds for the review of arbitration awards. An award may be set aside "for failure of the arbitration board to comply with the requirements of this Act, for failure of the order to conform, or confine itself, to matters within the scope of the board's jurisdiction, or for fraud or corruption by a member of the board making the order." 45 U.S.C. § 153, First (q). As has often been reiterated, "judicial review of an arbitration award is among the narrowest known in the law." Maine Central R.R. v. Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, 873 F.2d 425, 428 (1st Cir.1989).2 This Court has previously stated, however, that the narrowness of the review does not deprive the Court of the power to review awards for violations of due process. Springfield Terminal R.R. Co. v. United Transportation Union, 711 F.Supp. 665, 666 n. 2 (D.Me.1989); Maine Central R.R. v. Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, 691 F.Supp. 509, 510 (D.Me. 1988).

The Court of Appeals has routinely looked to non-rail arbitration cases for an articulation of the method to be used in applying the standard of review in rail labor cases. See Maine Central R.R. v. Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, 873 F.2d at 428 (citing United Paperworkers Int'l Union v. Misco, Inc., 484 U.S. 29, 108 S.Ct. 364, 98 L.Ed.2d 286 (1987), a non-rail case, as the "beacon" guiding judicial review in a rail case). Thus, this Court finds helpful in its current endeavor the Court of Appeals' recent description of the review process in the realm of contractual arbitration:

We do not sit as a court of appeal to hear claims of factual or legal error by an arbitrator or to consider the merits of the award. We cannot vacate the award because the arbitrator misreads the contract, where there is room to do so, nor are we authorized to reject his honest judgment as to the appropriate remedy, if the contract gives him authority to decide that question. `As long as the arbitrator is even arguably construing or applying the contract and acting within the scope of his authority, that a court is convinced he committed serious error does not suffice to overturn his decision.'

Challenger Caribbean Corp. v. Union General de Trabajadores, 903 F.2d 857, 860-61 (1st Cir.1990) (quoting Georgia-Pacific Corp. v. Local 27, United Paperworkers Int'l Union, 864 F.2d 940, 944 (1st Cir.1988) and Misco, 484 U.S. at 38, 108 S.Ct. at 370).

Although the prescribed review is highly deferential, the Supreme Court made clear in Misco, 484 U.S. at 38, 108 S.Ct. at 371 (1987), that "an arbitrator's award settling a dispute with respect to the interpretation and application of a labor agreement must draw its essence from the contract and cannot simply reflect the arbitrator's own notions of industrial justice." In a case like this one, where the dispute involves interpretation and application of the statute mandating the arbitration, it is plain that the award must draw its essence from the statute; i.e., the arbitrator must, at the very least, have arguably construed or applied the statute. See, id.

Initially, ST argues that an arbitration board's determination of its own jurisdiction is not entitled to the usual deference on review, but rather that Court should examine the jurisdiction question de novo. ST cites AT & T Technologies, Inc. v. Communications Workers, 475 U.S. 643, 651, 106 S.Ct. 1415, 1419, 89 L.Ed.2d 648 (1986) and United Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 583 n. 7, 80 S.Ct. 1347, 1353 n. 7, 4 L.Ed.2d 1409 (1960) for the general proposition that the question of arbitrability is to be decided by a court, not by the arbitrator. The Court, of course, does not disagree with this general principle.

ST, however, neglects to mention the condition on the general rule imposed by both of these decisions. As the Court put it in AT & T: "Unless the parties clearly and unmistakably provide otherwise, the question of whether the parties agreed to arbitrate is to be decided by the court." AT & T Technologies, Inc. v. Communications Workers, 475 U.S. at 649, 106 S.Ct. at 1418. The reason for the general rule is that arbitration is generally a matter of contract. Therefore, "a party cannot be required to submit to arbitration any dispute which he has not agreed so to submit." United Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. at 582, 80 S.Ct. at 1353. Because of this link to the contractual nature of arbitration, "the judicial inquiry ... must be strictly confined to whether the reluctant party did agree to arbitrate the grievance or did agree to give the arbitrator power to make the award he made." Id.

In this case arbitration is the explicit choice of Congress, not the result of an agreement between the parties. Congress gave the...

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