United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REMANDING CASE TO
S. KLEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Monongalia County Coal Company (“Plaintiff”)
brought this action pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor
Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, against the
United Mine Workers of America, International Union, and the
United Mine Workers of America, Local Union 1702
(collectively, “Defendants”), moving to vacate an
arbitration award. This matter comes before the Court on the
parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. The motions
have been fully briefed and are now ripe for review. For the
reasons set forth below, this Court will remand the case to
the arbitrator for clarification regarding the award.
collective bargaining agreement governing this dispute is the
National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 2011
(“NBCWA”). ECF No. 13-1. The NBCWA establishes
work jurisdiction of union-represented employees and provides
restrictions on Plaintiff's ability to contract out this
work. Id. at 16-21. Article XXIII of the NBCWA
provides a procedure for the final and binding resolution of
disputes that may arise regarding the application of the
NBCWA's provisions. Id. at 305-14. The parties
may settle the dispute themselves or they may submit the
dispute to a binding arbitration. Id.
dispute involves work performed at the Monongalia County Mine
in Wana, West Virginia, on (1) April 2, 3, and 4, 2016, and
(2) April 8, 2016. ECF No. 13-3 at 6, 10. On these dates,
Plaintiff used non-bargaining unit personnel to assemble a
longwall mining unit. Id. Tim Gibson, a member of
Local 9909, filed two grievances, alleging that Plaintiff
violated the terms of the NBCWA because Plaintiff hired
contractors to perform work reserved for union members.
parties could not come to a resolution, so the two grievances
were consolidated for a hearing before Arbitrator Jacquelin
Drucker. ECF No. 13-2. Drucker categorized the work performed
as “of the type customarily related” to the
production of coal and, therefore, bargaining unit work.
Id. at 14. She found that Plaintiff violated Article
1A, Section (a), of the NBCWA. Id. She ordered that
Plaintiff “cease and desist from contracting for this
work” and awarded that the grievant “be made
whole through compensation equivalent to the straight-time
rate for time attributable to the hours worked by the
contractor” on the dates in question. Id. at
15. Plaintiff is not challenging the arbitrator's finding
of a violation; it is challenging only the award. ECF No.
14-1 at 9 n.6.
Court may review labor arbitrators' decisions under
Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29
U.S.C. § 185, but this power of review is
“extremely limited.” Cannelton Indus., Inc.
v. Dist. 17, UMWA, 951 F.2d 591, 593 (4th Cir. 1991)
(citing United Steelworkers of America v. Enterprise
Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593 (1960)). This is
because “[t]he parties to a collective bargaining
agreement bargained for the arbitrator's interpretation,
and ‘so far as the arbitrator's decision concerns
construction of the contract, the courts have no business
overruling him because their interpretation . . . is
different from his.'” Island Creek Coal Co. v.
Dist. 28, UMWA, 29 F.3d 126, 129 (4th Cir. 1994) (citing
Enterprise Wheel, 363 U.S. at 599). The Supreme
Court of the United States, in the
“Steelworkers Trilogy, ” has
“emphasized that federal courts should refuse to review
the merits of an arbitration award under a collective
bargaining agreement.” Mutual Mining, Inc. v. Dist.
17, UMWA, 47 F.3d 1165, at *2 (4th Cir. 1995)
(unpublished). Both an arbitrator's findings of fact and
interpretation of the law are accorded great deference.
Upshur Coals Corp. v. UMWA, Dist. 31, 933 F.2d 225,
229 (1991). In addition, “[t]he selection of remedies
is almost exclusively within the arbitrator's
domain.” Cannelton, 951 F.2d at 593-54 (citing
United Paperworkers Int'l Union v. Misco, 484
U.S. 29 (1987)).
there are some limitations on arbitration awards. The award
“must draw its essence from the contract and cannot
simply reflect the arbitrator's own notions of industrial
justice.” Misco, 484 U.S. at 38. In addition,
an arbitrator may not “impose a punitive award or
punitive damages” unless a provision in the collective
bargaining agreement provides for them. Island
Creek, 29 F.3d at 129 (citing Cannelton, 951
F.2d at 594). In deciding whether an award is punitive or
whether it draws its essence from the agreement, courts
should be mindful that arbitrators “need not give their
reasons for an award, ” but courts may rely on
arbitrators' reasoning to determine whether the
arbitrator has applied “his own brand of industrial
justice.” Cannelton, 951 F.2d at 594. In such
situations, a (1960); and United Steelworkers of America
v. American Mfg. Co., 363 U.S. 564 (1960). court may
vacate an award or remand for clarification. Id. In
reviewing arbitration awards, courts “must be concerned
not to broaden the scope of judicial review of arbitration
decisions nor to lengthen a process that is intended to
resolve labor disputes quickly.” Id. at 595.
punitive awards are invalid, the Fourth Circuit has upheld
district court decisions vacating awards when no evidence of
monetary loss was produced. See, e.g., Westinghouse v.
IBEW, 561 F.2d 521, 523-24 (4th Cir. 1977) (noting that
“[w]ith respect to vacation shutdowns, compensatory
damages may be awarded only when a breach of the bargaining
agreement causes a monetary loss”); Baltimore
Regional Joint Bd. v. Webster Clothes, 596 F.2d 95, 98
(4th Cir. 1979) (concluding that there had been no showing of
actual damages, and, therefore, the arbitrator had issued a
Fourth Circuit has also found that cases should be remanded
when the basis of an award is unclear. See, e.g.,
Cannelton, 951 F.2d at 595 (finding that it was unclear
whether an award was issued for a notice violation or a
contracting violation and, therefore, remanding for
clarification). The United States District Court for the
Southern District of West Virginia has also remanded cases
for clarification when an arbitrator provided no evidence
that an award was compensatory. In Eastern v. UMWA,
during a vacation shutdown of the plant, Eastern hired
outside contractors to perform work. No. 2:04-0641, 2006 WL
2819537, at *1 (S.D. W.Va. Sept. 28, 2006). The union filed a
grievance after concluding that the work was reserved for its
members under the collective bargaining agreement.
Id. The arbitrator held for the union, finding there
was a violation of the agreement. Id. At the end of
the arbitration award, the arbitrator wrote that “the
union is entitled to be compensated for the amount of the
time that the outside contractor spent tearing out the
concrete and removing it from beneath the 437 belt.”
arbitrator filed extensive reasoning to support his finding
of a violation, but only one sentence addressed the remedy.
Id. at *2. Eastern filed a lawsuit, asking the court
to vacate the award (challenging only the remedy, not the
finding of a violation). Id. at *1. It contended
that the remedy was punitive because no employee suffered an
actual loss. Id. The court wrote that “[u]nder
the unusual circumstances presented here, where the issue of
damages is practically left open without discussion,
Cannelton teaches by analogy that remand is the best
course.” Id. at *10. It then upheld the
finding of a violation but remanded the case for
consideration of damages, noting that “[r]emand [would]
allow (1) the arbitrator to illuminate the basis for his
unliquidated monetary award, and (2) then permit the court to
discharge its limited review function if a further challenge
is made.” Id.
United States District Court for the Northern District of
West Virginia took a very similar approach in McElroy v.
UMWA. In McElroy, as in Eastern, the
remedy was one sentence as well: “McElroy is ordered to
pay the local union the reasonable value of the sixteen
man-hours involved in changing the No. 13 belt.” No.
5:07cv41, 2009 WL 367699, at *5 (N.D. W.Va. Feb. 10, 2009).
Upon reconsideration of the case, the court found the
analysis in Eastern persuasive and relevant in
deciding whether the award was compensatory or punitive ...