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AFG Industries, Inc. v. United Steelworkers of America

April 16, 2007


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


Before the Court are cross motions for summary judgment filed by Defendants United Steelworkers of America and United Steelworkers of America, Local Union No. 456 (collectively "Defendants") and Plaintiff AFG Industries, Inc. ("Plaintiff") (Court File Nos. 11, 13). Both Defendants and Plaintiff filed memorandums in support of their motions (Court File Nos. 12, 14). Each party has filed responses to the opposing party's motion (Court File Nos. 16, 18), and replies to the responses (Court File Nos. 19, 21). For the following reasons, the Court will GRANT Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Court File No. 11) and will DENY Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Court File No. 13).


Summary judgment is proper where "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). Initially, the burden is on the moving party to conclusively show no genuine issues of material fact exist, Leary v. Daeschner, 349 F.3d 888, 897 (6th Cir. 2003), and the Court must view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88, (1986). However, the nonmoving party is not entitled to a trial merely on the basis of allegations, but must come forward with some significant probative evidence to support its claim. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). If the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of its case with respect to which it has the burden of proof, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Id. at 323.

The Court determines whether sufficient evidence has been presented to make the issue of fact a proper jury question, but does not weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, or determine the truth of the matter. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Weaver v. Shadoan, 340 F.3d 398, 405 (6th Cir. 2003). The standard for summary judgment mirrors the standard for directed verdict. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. The Court must decide "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Id. at 251-52. There must be some probative evidence from which the jury could reasonably find for the nonmoving party. If the Court concludes a fair-minded jury could not return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party based on the evidence presented, it may enter a summary judgment. Id.; Lansing Dairy, Inc. v. Espy, 39 F.3d 1339, 1347 (6th Cir. 1994).


Plaintiff and Defendants are parties to a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") that contains a grievance and arbitration procedure. Defendant United Steelworkers International Union is the exclusive bargaining representative for certain hourly employees at Plaintiff's Greenland, Tennessee plant as set forth in the CBA between the parties. Court File No. 5, Counterclaim of Defendants ("Ctrclm"), at ¶ 4. The CBA provides for a grievance resolution procedure "[s]hould any grievance or misunderstanding arise between the Company and the Union with respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment and other working conditions as to the interpretation or application of, or compliance with, the provisions of this Agreement[.]" Court File No. 1, Exh. 1A, CBA, at 9. If the parties are unable to settle or dispose of a grievance to their mutual satisfaction, either party may, within ten calendar days, request in writing the grievance be submitted to arbitration. Id. at 11.

On March 2, 1998, Defendant filed a grievance demanding the Cutter Machine Operator ("CMO") job classification be reevaluated. Court File No. 5, Part 2, Grievance No. L-10-8. Although Plaintiff agreed to review the position, the parties were unable to reach an agreement, so the grievance was appealed through the grievance procedure to arbitration. Ctrclm at ¶9. Both parties agreed to the arbitration and consented it be handled by Arbitrator William H. Holley. Id. On March 22, 2004, Arbitrator Holley issued an arbitration decision in Grievance No. L-10-8 establishing the appropriate rate of pay for certain employees in the CMO job classification. Court File No. 15, Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts ("Def.'s SUF"), at ¶¶4-5. During his analysis of the grievance, Arbitrator Holley stated, "[t]his decision applies to the evidence presented about CMOs on line two." Court File No. 1, Exh. 5, Arbitrator Holley's Opinion and Award ("Holley Award"), at 11. Arbitrator Holley ultimately directed Plaintiff to make changes in the points according to his opinion and "to make the changes in wages, effective 15 days prior to the filing of the Grievance and to pay to the CMOs the difference between wages actually received and the adjusted wages resulting from this decision from the date 15 days prior to the filing of the Grievance to the date of execution of this decision." Id. at 22.

Plaintiff interpreted the Holley Award as granting back pay only to workers on line two, but not those on line one. Court File No. 14, Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Memo"), at 5. Defendants, on the other hand, interpreted it as awarding back pay to all CMOs. Id. Both parties participated in a conference call with Arbitrator Holley in an attempt to clarify his award. Court File No. 14, Part 2, Plaintiff's Statement of Undisputed Facts ("Pl.'s SUF"), at ¶5. While it is disputed what actually occurred during this phone call,*fn1 it is undisputed Arbitrator Holley declined to issue a written clarification of his award. After the telephone conference, Plaintiff issued back pay to the CMOs on line two, excluding the CMOs on line one. Pl.'s SUF at ¶6. As a result of Plaintiff's implementation of the Holley Award, Defendant filed a second grievance, Grievance No. L-31-4, alleging Plaintiff failed to abide by Arbitrator Holley's decision by refusing to pay back pay to all CMOs. Def.'s SUF at ¶9. The parties were unable to settle the grievance, so it was appealed to Arbitrator Susan Brown on June 8, 2005. Id. at ¶12.

Arbitrator Brown concluded the plain language of the Holley Award commanded the wage determination should apply to all employees in the CMO job classification, regardless of which line they worked on. Def.'s SUF at ¶20. Arbitrator Brown acknowledged Arbitrator Holley's statement his decision applied to evidence presented about CMOs on line 2. Id. at 21. However, she concluded it only referred to the evidence consider by Arbitrator Holley and not the application of the award. Id. at ¶23. She went on to state if Arbitrator Holley had wanted the award to apply to only line 2 CMOs, he would have stated it in his award. Id. Arbitrator Brown directed Plaintiff to apply the remedy as set forth in the Holley Award to all CMOs who had yet to be paid back pay for the period of time set forth in the Holley Award. Id. at 25.

After receiving Arbitrator Brown's opinion, Plaintiff filed the instant action, requesting the Court to vacate Arbitrator Brown's Award ("Brown Award"). Court File No. 1, Complaint, at ¶1. Defendant counterclaimed requesting the Court to enforce the Brown Award; order Plaintiff to abide by, carry out and fulfill the terms of the award; order Plaintiff to pay prejudgment interest from the date the award was issued until the date of payment; and award Defendants the costs and reasonable attorney's fees incurred by it in the litigation of their counterclaim. Ctrclm. at p. 7. Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment, which are now before the Court.


Although there are two separate motions before the Court, both essentially involve the same issues. Plaintiff's argument is the Brown Award did not respect the finality of the Holley Award and did not draw its essence from the CBA. Plaintiff contends this means Arbitrator Brown was motivated by her own sense of fairness or industrial justice and requests the Court to vacate the Brown Award, or in the alternative, remand the case to Arbitrator Holley to resolve the issue of whether the Holley Award applied to all CMO workers or only line two CMO workers. Defendants argue the Brown Award was ...

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