Before the Court in this labor-management dispute are cross motions for summary judgment presenting the narrow question whether a board duly appointed to arbitrate a labor-management dispute exceeded its jurisdiction when two of its three members issued an order clarifying an earlier award of the same board.
Plaintiff United Transportation Union (UTU) represents train service employees. In 1992, UTU and defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) signed agreements giving UTU the benefit of any wage package the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) might eventually negotiate with Amtrak, provided that UTU give Amtrak the benefit of any work rule relief the BLE and Amtrak might agree upon. When the BLE and Amtrak concluded their labor negotiations later in 1992, and the BLE wage package was richer than the UTU wage package, UTU elected to exercise its option. The agreement between Amtrak and BLE provided for the modification of a number of work rules, one of which -- the subject of the present dispute -- permitted Amtrak to combine "extra boards" for engineers and assistant engineers.
Amtrak and UTU were not able to agree about how the Amtrak/BLE agreement on combined extra boards for engineers should be applied to the train service employees represented by UTU. The parties agreed to arbitrate the point. The arbitration agreement created a three-member board, called Public Law Board No. 5347 (PLB 5347), whose members were a representative of UTU, a representative of Amtrak, and a neutral person.
PLB 5347 issued an Opinion and Award on July 16, 1993, resolving most of the issues but remanding for further negotiation the issue of which employees would be "grandfathered" to receive a conductor's higher guarantee pay on the combined extra boards. When UTU and Amtrak were not able to reach agreement, PLB 5347 decided the outstanding issue in a Supplemental Opinion and Award dated November 8, 1993.
A dispute then arose about the meaning of the Supplemental Opinion and Award. UTU took the position that the combined extra boards formed pursuant to the Supplemental Opinion and Award should be characterized as assistant passenger conductor extra boards so as to fit existing procedures: Amtrak would first offer any vacancy to senior, qualified assistant conductors on the crew; if none chose to fill the vacancy, Amtrak could assign the junior, qualified member of the crew to the vacant position and then call an extra board employee to fill the position vacated by the junior member. Amtrak, on the other hand, took the position that the combined extra boards were not subject to those procedural requirements and that the rule established by the Supplemental Opinion and Award permitted Amtrak to call employees assigned to the extra boards for all protected vacancies.
Amtrak sought to reconvene PLB 5347 in order to resolve the dispute. UTU refused to join in Amtrak's request. On May 4, 1994, the neutral member of PLB 5347 scheduled a meeting of the Board. The UTU member declined to participate. The neutral member, joined by the Amtrak representative, then issued an Interpretation to the Board's Opinion and Award and the Board's Supplemental Opinion and Award (Interpretation) on May 16, 1994.
The Interpretation concluded that the newly created combined board was a "generic extra board," properly characterized as both an assistant passenger conductor extra board and a passenger conductor extra board. The ruling was that the combined board was not subject to the existing procedures that limited use of assistant passenger conductor extra boards and that Amtrak could draw directly from the combined board without first offering vacancies to senior, qualified crew members.
The Amtrak representative and the neutral member of the Board invoked paragraph H of the parties' arbitration agreement in issuing the Interpretation. Paragraph 4 provides in relevant part:
In case a dispute arises involving an interpretation or application of the award, the Board, upon request of either party, shall interpret the award in light of the dispute . . . .