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United States Pipe and Foundry Co. v. United Steelworkers of America

November 13, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Curtis L. Collier Chief United States District Judge

Chief Judge Collier


Before the Court are Plaintiff United States Pipe and Foundry Company's (the "Company") Motion for Summary Judgment (Court File. No. 17) and Defendants United Steel Workers of American and United Steel Workers of America, Local 3508's (collectively, the "Union") Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Court File No. 14). The Company seeks summary judgment asking the Court to vacate and set aside the industrial arbitration award at issue and dismiss the Union's counterclaim. The Union seeks partial summary judgment asking the Court to enforce the arbitrator's award. This matter arises under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a), as it involves rights under an agreement between an employer and a labor union. For the following reasons, the Court will DENY the Company's Motion for Summary Judgment and will DENY the Union's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment because the issues before the Court are moot.


The Company is an Alabama Corporation which owned and operated a Valve and Fittings Plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee until its closure in 2006. The Company has since sold the plant to a third party real estate group. (Court File No. 30, Ex. 2). The third party real estate group plans to remove all machinery and transform the land into a mixed use development (id.). The Union is a labor organization that was the authorized bargaining representative for the Company's Chattanooga Valve and Fittings Plant. The Company and the Union have been parties to collective bargaining agreements during all relevant periods relating to this dispute. The collective bargaining agreement (the "Agreement") governed the relationship between the parties. The Agreement authorized the Company to "manage its plant" including the right to hire and discharge employees for just cause unless otherwise limited by the Agreement (Court File No. 12, Ex. 5).

William Patterson worked as a truck driver at the plant and was a member of the bargaining unit (Court File No. 30, Ex. 2). In September 2004, the Company moved Patterson from a truck-driver position to another position inside the plant (id.). The Union claimed the Company allowed outside contractors to perform truck driving work after Patterson was moved (id.). The Union filed a grievance on September 23, 2004, under the procedures laid out in the Agreement, claiming the Company violated Articles I, V-A, VI-C-5 and XVII-4-D by allowing outside contractors to perform Patterson's previous job (id.). The grievance was denied and thereafter the grievance was submitted to arbitration under the procedure specified in the Agreement (Court File No. 7). When the Company denied the grievance, it stated the grievance "deals with the Company employing outside contractors . . . [and] there are no contractual restrictions in regard to the use of sub-contractors." (Court File No. 12, Ex. 5).

Charles Hall ("Hall") was selected as the arbitrator under procedures outlined in the Agreement and a hearing was conducted by Hall on July 21, 2005 (Court File No. 12, Ex. 2). At the time of the arbitration hearing, Patterson was employed on a full-time basis and earned the same hourly wage as he did while working in the truck-driver position (id.).

On September 29, 2005, Hall issued his decision and award (the "Decision") (Court File No. 12, Ex. 2). The Decision stated the issue to be determined was whether the Company "[e]ngaged in contracting out bargaining work in violation of the collective bargaining contract." (id.). The Decision found it was "clear that Article I [of the Agreement], Recognition identifies the work in question as work provided by bargaining unit employees by identifying the job classification of truck driver." (id.). The Decision went on to say that if "an employer were allowed to bring into the plant outside contractors to provide the work of bargaining unit employees then the Union would eventually cease to exist." (id.). In the award section of the Decision, Hall stated the "Company shall cease and desist assigning outside contractors to perform bargaining unit work" and "[g]rievant [Patterson] shall be restored to his previous position of truck driver and made whole for any loss of pay or other emoluments of office." (id.).

On November 23, 2005, the Company filed suit in this Court asking the Court to vacate and set aside the Decision, relieve the Company from all obligations under the Decision and to determine no violation occurred under the Agreement (Court File No. 1). From information furnished by the parties, the Court became concerned the issues were moot depriving the Court of subject matter jurisdiction to decide the matter (Court File No. 23). The parties filed initial memorandum and responses on the issue of mootness (Court File Nos. 27, 28, 29, 30).


The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently laid out the principle of mootness as follows:

A federal court has no authority to render a decision upon moot questions or to declare rules of law that cannot affect the matter at issue. Church of Scientology v. United States, 506 U.S. 9, 12, 121 L.Ed. 2d 313, 113 S.Ct. 447 (1992). A case becomes moot "'when the issues presented are no longer 'live' or parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome.'" County of Los Angeles v. Davis, 440 U.S. 625, 631, 59 L.Ed. 2d 642, 99 S.Ct. 1379 (1979) (quoting Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 496, 23 L.Ed. 2d 491, 89 S.Ct. 1944 (1969)). In other words, a case becomes moot only when subsequent events make it absolutely clear that the allegedly wrongful behavior cannot reasonably be expected to recur and "interim relief or events have completely and irrevocably eradicated the effects of the alleged violation." Id.

Cleveland Branch, N.A.A.C.P. v. City of Parma, 263 F.3d 513, 530-31 (6th Cir. 2001). An inquiry into mootness must be made at every stage of the case and not solely at the time the complaint is filed. United States v. City of Detroit, 401 F.3d 448, 451 (6th Cir. 2005). If a case becomes moot, a court ...

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