Local 1982, International Longshoremen's Association, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Midwest Terminals of Toledo, International, Inc., Defendant-Appellant.
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Ohio at Toledo. No. 3:17-cv-01688-Jeffrey James
Helmick, District Judge.
L. Mason, Aaron T. Tulencik, MASON LAW FIRM CO., L.P.A.,
Dublin, Ohio, for Appellant.
C. Hoffman, Jr., Joseph D. Mando, FAULKNER, HOFFMAN &
PHILLIPS, LLC, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellee.
Before: ROGERS, STRANCH, and THAPAR, Circuit Judges.
B. STRANCH, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
third time, we are asked to review this dispute over a labor
arbitration award issued in 2012. In short, Local 1982 of the
International Longshoremen's Association successfully
pursued a grievance against Midwest Terminals to enforce
their contract requiring Midwest to establish pension and
welfare trust fund plans that comply with the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). In 2014, we enforced
the Joint Grievance Committee's award in Local 1982
I. When disputes arose about implementing that award,
Local 1982 returned to court seeking clarification from the
Committee, composed of one employer and one union arbitrator.
Midwest argued that no ambiguity existed and by engaging in
negotiations it had complied with the award and the grievance
was terminated. We ultimately affirmed remand of the award to
the arbitrators for clarification, Local 1982 II,
but before that could occur, Midwest's CFO was appointed
to the Committee as the representative for the employers; a
deadlock resulted. Local 1982 sought to follow the next step
of the grievance procedure in the contract; Midwest refused,
arguing that the deadlock terminated the grievance procedure.
The district court ordered the parties to proceed to the next
step. We AFFIRM.
prior decisions set out the specific facts, which are briefly
summarized here. At the time of the initial dispute, Local
1982 and Midwest were parties to a collective bargaining
agreement (CBA) that consisted of a Master Agreement, formed
between the parties' affiliated regional employer group
and the union, and a Local Agreement between the parties.
Local 1982, Int'l Longshoremen's Ass'n v.
Midwest Terminals of Toledo, Int'l, Inc., 560
Fed.Appx. 529, 530 (6th Cir. 2014) ("Local 1982
I"). Both agreements have provisions that address
the benefit, pension, and welfare plans relevant to the
underlying dispute. Id. at 531-32.
2011, the union filed a grievance against Midwest for its
failure to establish and contribute to such trust plans under
Section 5.5A of the Master Agreement. After Midwest responded
to the Union that it considered the grievance procedurally
invalid, the Union escalated the grievance to Step Two of the
Master Agreement grievance procedure-referral to a Joint
Grievance Committee comprised of an employer representative
and a union representative. Id. at 532.
refused to participate and did not respond to the requests of
the Joint Grievance Committee for explanation and
cooperation; the hearing went forward without Midwest
present. Id. at 532-33. The central question at the
hearing was whether Midwest established ERISA-compliant funds
in accordance with Section 5.5A of the Master Agreement,
which sets out "[t]he minimum contribution to affiliated
local union and employer ERISA approved benefit, pension, and
welfare plans." The Committee determined that Midwest
had failed to do so and issued its ruling against Midwest.
Id. at 533. Under the Master Agreement, Midwest
could appeal the unfavorable award within ten days but did
not do so; the award became final and binding, and the union
filed suit to enforce it. Id. at 534-35. Finding
that any contract ambiguity is an issue for the arbitrator,
not the courts, we directed the district court to enter an
order enforcing the award. Id. at 537, 540.
thereafter, the parties were back in court, this time over
ambiguities in the content of the award. The district court
found that the award was ambiguous and remanded to the
Committee for clarification. We affirmed in Local 1982
II, finding that where an award "leaves doubt
whether the submitted grievance has been fully executed, an
ambiguity arises which the arbitrator is entitled to
clarify." Local 1982, Int'l Longshoremen's
Ass'n v. Midwest Terminals of Toledo, Int'l,
Inc., 694 Fed.Appx. 985, 987 (6th Cir. 2017)
("Local 1982 II") (internal brackets,
citations, and quotation marks omitted). We ruled that the
award should be remanded for clarification, rejecting
Midwest's argument that it complied with the award by
negotiating about terms and conditions of the trust
agreement; we reasoned that those actions failed to fulfill
"the CBA requirement for the creation of a trust
fund" and "[c]ommon sense dictates that the
Committee intended something more." Id. at 989.
the remand but before clarification of the award, the
composition of the two-person Committee changed. Over the
opposition of the union, Midwest appointed its Chief
Financial Officer, Fred Diechert, to replace the employer
representative on the Committee. The new two-person Committee
deadlocked in clarifying the award. Local 1982 sought to
escalate the grievance to Step 3 of the Master Agreement for
review by an expanded grievance committee to resolve the
deadlock. Midwest opposed the escalation and argued that
Local 1982's earlier efforts to confirm the arbitration
award rendered it final, and a deadlock in interpreting the
award terminated the procedure. The district court found
Midwest's arguments to be unavailing, and Midwest