The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN
Plaintiff Local 2094, American Federation of State, County And Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO ("the Union") and defendant Howard University Hospital ("the Hospital") are parties to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"). In 1995, the Hospital laid off a number of employees covered by the CBA, the term of art for the layoffs being a reduction in force ("RIF"). The Union filed grievances protesting the Hospital's selection of the employees that were laid off or "RIFed." Pursuant to the CBA, the grievances were aired in an evidentiary hearing before a mutually selected arbitrator, Richard Bloch ("Bloch"). Before reaching all of the Union's grievances, Bloch determined that the parties sharply differed on the correct interpretation of the contract provision governing RIFs. With the parties' agreement, he severed that issue, took evidence with respect to that issue, and granted an award in favor of the Hospital with respect only to the correct interpretation of one section of the CBA.
The Union filed its complaint in this action seeking to vacate the Bloch award, and now both parties have filed motions for summary judgment.
The Court's review of arbitration awards such as this is quite limited; the party seeking to vacate an award must show that the award fails to draw its "essence" from the CBA and is instead an exercise of "industrial justice." The Court has concluded that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and that the Bloch award draws its essence from the CBA. Therefore, the Union's motion for summary judgment will be denied and the Hospital's motion for summary judgment will be granted.
The Union and the Hospital have had a long-standing collective bargaining relationship. The agreement at issue in this dispute became effective on September 28, 1992. The contract provision at issue in this case is Article X, § 3:
In the event it becomes necessary to lay off employees for any reasons, [sic] the Union shall have the opportunity of discussing alternate actions with the Employer. If layoff cannot be avoided, employees shall be laid off in the inverse order of their seniority within the unit. At least 30 days written notice shall be given to any affected employee prior to any such action. Any affected employee who is not so notified shall receive regular pay for the thirty-day period or any part thereof for which notification was not given.
Pl. Mot. Ex. A at 14 (emphasis added).
In June 5, 1990, under the predecessor agreement, which contained the same Article X language as in the 1992 agreement, the Hospital laid off 300 employees. The Hospital laid them off in the inverse order of their seniority within their respective job classifications rather than in the inverse order of their seniority within their respective units or departments. The Union filed a grievance with respect to one employee, claiming that under Article X, § 3, the Hospital was obliged to apply seniority by unit rather than by job classification. The grievance went to arbitration before Arbitrator Marvin Johnson ("Johnson").
While that arbitration was pending decision, the CBA expired. However, the CBA provided that its terms would remain in effect during the negotiation of a successor CBA. At the outset of the negotiation, the negotiators for both parties established ground rules that provided that once a contract provision had been agreed to tentatively, it could not be reopened for negotiation without mutual consent of the Chief Negotiators. Def. Summ. J. Mem. Ex. 2 ("CO Ex. 2"). Somewhat oddly, while both parties remained at risk of receiving an adverse interpretation of Article X from Johnson, the negotiators tentatively agreed on January 21, 1992 to carry over the language of Article X, § 3 into the successor CBA. See Def. Summ. J. Mem. Ex. 1 at 5 (hereafter "Bloch Op.") & Ex. 2 ("U # 3").
On May 12, 1992, Johnson issued his award in favor of the employee, holding that Article X, § 3 required the Hospital to lay off employees by seniority within each department rather than by seniority within job classification. Bloch Op. at 5. Hospital officials responded by drafting a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") that, in part, would avoid "what they considered a disastrous interpretation of the labor agreement." Id. They proposed that the parties enter into a side agreement to avoid reopening Article X for negotiation. Id. at 13.
Bloch found that there were, in fact, multiple versions of the MOU that were signed by various negotiators for both sides,
but the upshot was its provision that:
Bloch Op. at 6 (emphasis added); see also id. at 12.
When the final CBA was agreed upon by the negotiators, it was ratified by the Union membership and signed by the President of the University. The Union did not submit the MOU to its membership for ratification, nor did the Union inform the Hospital that the MOU had not been ratified. Id. at 12-14.
On January 24, 1995, and again on August, 8, 1995, the Hospital laid off employees covered by the CBA. Notwithstanding the MOU that had been signed by the contract negotiators, the Union filed grievances on behalf of the employees laid off, again claiming that the Hospital had violated Article X by applying seniority by job classification rather than by unit.
Pursuant to the CBA, the Union's grievances were subjected to arbitration before a neutral arbitrator, Bloch, who had been agreed upon by the parties. While the grievances extended beyond interpretation of Article X, § 3 and the effect, if any, of the MOU, Bloch quickly identified the contract interpretation dispute as a threshold issue. With the consent of the parties, he severed the contract interpretation issue, held an evidentiary hearing with respect to that issue, and, on January 14, 1997, issued an award in favor of the Hospital on that issue. Bloch Op. at 14-15.
During the evidentiary hearing, Bloch identified the "central question" as being "whether this MOU was effective." Id. at 7. After receiving evidence and hearing argument by the Union that the MOU did not reflect the agreement reached at the negotiating session and that the membership had not ratified the MOU, Bloch stated that:
the finding here is that the MOU was properly negotiated by the parties and that it represents the mutually-agreed ...