Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth. v. Local 689, Amalgamated Transit Union

Decision Date17 February 2011
Docket NumberCivil No. PJM 09–3030.
Citation191 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2499,818 F.Supp.2d 888
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts


Lesley Pate Marlin, Robert G. Ames, Venable LLP, Washington, DC, for Petitioner.

Douglas Taylor, Paul MacKenzie Tyler, Gromfine Taylor and Tyler PC, Alexandria, VA, for Respondent.


PETER J. MESSITTE, District Judge.

This action concerns the validity of an arbitration award issued by a three-person Board of Arbitration (“Board”) convened for the purpose of arbitrating a collective bargaining dispute between Petitioner Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA” or the “Authority”) and Respondent Local 689 of the Amalgamated Transit Union (“Local 689” or the “Union”). It presents a question of first impression in this or any court—namely, the extent to which the federal National Capital Area Interest Arbitration Standards Act (“Standards Act” or “Act”), 40 U.S.C. §§ 18301–18304, abrogates the law of arbitration as it applies to certain labor disputes involving interstate compact agencies operating in the national capital area.

For the following reasons, WMATA's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment [Paper No. 36] is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. The Union's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment [Paper No. 38] is also DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. WMATA's Motion for an Order Requiring the Submission of the Entire Record [Paper No. 45] is GRANTED. In addition, the Court DIRECTS the Board and its Neutral Chairman, Richard R. Kasher, to render a Second—and final—Supplemental Opinion demonstrating the extent to which the Board has fully complied with the requirements of the Standards Act, as interpreted and applied by the Court in this Opinion.1


The facts and procedural background of this case are these:

WMATA is a corporate and political subdivision of the District of Columbia and the states of Maryland and Virginia. The Authority was formed in 1967 pursuant to an interstate compact among its three governing jurisdictions for the purposes of planning, developing, building, financing, and operating a mass public transportation system in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. See D.C.Code § 9–1107.01 (adopting the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Compact (“Compact”) for the District of Columbia); Md.Code Ann., Transp. § 10–204 (adopting the Compact for the state of Maryland); Va.Code. Ann. §§ 56–529, 56–530 (adopting the Compact for the state of Virginia). Today WMATA operates the second largest rail transit system and the sixth largest bus network in the United States. See Metro Facts, http:// www. wmata. com/ about_ metro/ docs/ metrofacts. pdf (last visited Feb. 16, 2011). The Authority serves a population of approximately 3.5 million people across a geographic area spanning some 1,500 square miles.2 See id.

Pursuant to the Compact, WMATA's operating expenses are to be borne, “as far as possible, ... by the persons using or benefiting from the Authority's facilities and services,” with any remaining costs to be equitably shared by the signatory jurisdictions “by agreement among them.” Md.Code Ann., Transp. § 10–204. According to statistics provided by the Authority during the underlying arbitration, fares and other revenue currently fund approximately 57.6 percent of daily operating expenses, while funds provided by the signatory jurisdictions cover the remaining 42.4 percent. See Metro Facts, supra.

Local 689 is a labor union that represents some 7,700 WMATA employees, who comprise approximately 70 percent of the current WMATA workforce. As required by the Compact, WMATA collectively bargains with the Union “concerning wages, salaries, hours, working conditions, and pension or retirement provisions.” Md.Code Ann., Transp. § 10–204. When collective bargaining fails to resolve a labor dispute between WMATA and the Union, the Compact requires that the dispute be submitted “to arbitration by a board composed of three persons, one appointed by the Authority, one appointed by the labor organization representing the employees, and a third member to be agreed upon by the labor organization and the Authority.” Id. In any such arbitration, the determination of a majority of the board of arbitration “shall be final and binding on all matters in dispute.” Id. In this type of arbitration, commonly referred to as “interest arbitration,” the “arbitrator, instead of interpreting and applying the terms of an agreement to decide a grievance, determines what provisions the parties are to have in their collective bargaining agreement.” See U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Labor–Management Relations Glossary, available at http:// www. opm. gov/ lmr/ glossary/ glossaryi. asp.

The most recent collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between WMATA and the Union covered the period from May 1, 2004 through June 30, 2008. In August 2008, when negotiations over the terms and conditions of a new CBA reached an impasse, the matter proceeded to interest arbitration before a three-person Board, as required by the Compact. The three-person Board consisted of Thomas R. Roth (representing the Union), R. Theodore Clark, Jr. (a member of WMATA's board of directors), and Richard R. Kasher (an experienced arbitrator who was designated to serve as the Board's Neutral Chairman).

On November 4, 2009, after 15 days of hearings, extensive briefing, and the submission of some 500 exhibits, the Board issued a 15–page Interest Arbitration Opinion and Award (“Award”) that defined key terms and conditions of a new CBA for the period from July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2012. Of particular relevance to this appeal, the Award granted Union members the following general wage adjustments: a 2 percent lump-sum payment effective July 1, 2008; and annual 3 percent general wage increases effective on July 1 in the years 2009, 2010, and 2011. The Award declined to “increas[e] pension formulas or chang[e] the character of the [employee pension plan] from a defined benefit plan to a plan requiring employee contributions ....”

The two partisan members of the Board issued partially dissenting opinions. Union Representative Roth objected to certain adjustments to the Union members' employee health plan and the exclusion of certain classes of employees from a provision granting additional wage increases to elevator and escalator maintenance personnel. WMATA Representative Clark objected to the Award's general wage increases and its refusal to make adjustments to the Union members' employee pension plan. Of particular note, Clark argued that the Board's decision failed to comply with the Standards Act, 40 U.S.C. §§ 18301–18304, which requires an “arbitrator rendering an arbitration award involving the employees of an interstate compact agency operating in the national capital area” to consider certain statutorily-imposed factors when making “a finding or a decision for inclusion in a collective bargaining agreement governing conditions of employment,” 40 U.S.C. § 18303(b). Among the factors that the Standards Act requires an arbitrator to consider is the “public welfare,” 40 U.S.C. § 18303(b)(7), which is defined to include “the financial ability of the individual jurisdictions participating in the compact to pay for the costs of providing public transit services,” 40 U.S.C. § 18303(a)(1). According to Clark, the Award merely declared that the Neutral Chairman had “given full and thorough consideration to the criteria” outlined in the Standards Act, but failed to provide any discussion or analysis applying the statutory factors to the evidence in the record. This, Clark argued, violated the Standards Act's requirement that “the arbitrator shall issue a written award that demonstrates that all the factors set forth in [the Standards Act] have been considered and applied.” 40 U.S.C. § 18303(d)(1).

On November 5, 2009, the day after the Board handed down the Award, WMATA announced its intention to appeal the Board's decision. See Press Release, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Metro Will Appeal Decision of Arbitration Award as Legally Flawed (Nov. 5, 2009), available at http:// www. wmata. com/ about_ metro/ news/ Press Release Detail. cfm? Release ID= 4135. A few days later, on November 9, 2009, the Union filed its own suit in this Court, seeking to obtain confirmation and enforcement of the Award. Then, on November 13, 2009, WMATA followed with its suit in this Court, in which it asked the Court to vacate the wage increase and pension benefits provisions of the Award. By Order dated January 27, 2010, the Court consolidated the two lawsuits.

On April 1, 2010, following oral argument on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court issued an Order confirming the Award except as to those provisions addressing general wage adjustments and pension benefits. 3 Concluding that the disputed provisions of the Award did not demonstrate the required compliance with the Standards Act,4 the Court remanded the case to the Board “to render a supplemental opinion within 90 days regarding the General Wage Adjustments and Pension sections that complies with the [Standards Act], specifically 40 U.S.C. § 18303(d).” The Court retained jurisdiction to review the supplemental opinion and issue a final ruling on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment.

On June 22, 2010, the Board, through Neutral Chairman Kasher, issued an eight-page Supplemental Opinion. Although the Supplemental Opinion contained a brief additional discussion of the various statutory factors outlined in the Standards Act, like its predecessor it contained no detailed analysis of those factors, nor did it provide a roadmap that might direct the Court to the specific evidence the Board had considered and weighed in reaching its conclusions. For example, with respect to the Standards Act's requirement that the Board...

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