International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division et al v. CSX Transportation, Inc.
Opinion and Order. Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment (Related doc # 16 ) is granted and the Court upholds the Board's decisions against Petitioners. Petitioners' Motion for Summary Judgment (Related doc # 14 ) is denied. Judge Christopher A. Boyko on 3/12/2018. (H,CM)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF
SHEET METAL, AIR, RAIL AND
TRANSPORTATION WORKERSTRANSPORTATION DIVISION, ET
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC.,
JUDGE CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO
OPINION AND ORDER
CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO, J:
This matter is before the Court on Petitioners’ Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF #
14) and Respondent’s Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF # 16). For the following
reasons, the Court denies Petitioner’s Motion and grants Respondent’s Motion.
Petitioners’ Petition for Review challenges the arbitration decisions of the National
Railroad Adjustment Board, First Division, finding Petitioners violated the attendance policy
of Respondent CSX. Petitioners seek reversal of the decision to include a clear record,
compensation for lost earnings and two days of overhead.
Petitioners Amaziah P. Barnette, Bracken R. Burd, Justin M. Dean, Michael T. Foster,
Brian G. Gronau, Jeffery A. Habel, Nicholas L. Ingrodi, Shawn P. Konnerth, David D. Lyon
and Brant L. Walker are employees of Respondent CSX Transportation, Inc. (“CSXT”) and
members of Petitioner International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation
Workers-Transportation Division (“SMART-TD”). Under the 1996 United Transportation
Union (“UTU”) Collective Bargaining Agreement ( “CBA”), modifying the CBA between
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, (“B & O”) to which CSXT is the successor to B & O, and
SMART-TD is the successor to UTU, senior SMART-TD members may bump or “displace”
lower seniority members from their positions. The B & O CBA allowed displaced workers
to exercise their displacement rights or obtain a leave of absence with thirty days of
displacement or they would be marked as Voluntary Unexplained Absence. (B & O Rule
8(d)(2)). Article XII of the 1996 UTU modified B & O Rule 8(d)(2), reducing the time for a
displaced member to exercise his or her displacement rights from the previous thirty days to
forty-eight hours. From April 21, 2012 to January 8, 2013, each individually named
Petitioner was displaced from his previous work assignment by a more senior member. Each
individual Petitioner timely exercised his displacement rights under Article XII of the 1996
UTU National Agreement. However, CSXT classified each Petitioner as unavailable and in
violation of CSXT’s attendance policy because the individual Petitioners did not make
themselves available to work during the forty-eight hour displacement period. CSXT
subsequently disciplined each Petitioner. SMART-TD brought claims under the relevant
CBAs on behalf of the disciplined Petitioners and the issue was referred to arbitration
pursuant to the Railway Labor Act 45 U.S.C. §153. After a hearing on December 9, 2015, the
Board issued its decisions in Award Nos. 28224-28233, denying each claim of the individual
Petitioners, finding the language of Article XII of the 1996 UTU National Agreement did not
prohibit the imposition of discipline for the Petitioners’ violations of CSXT’s attendance
policy. Petitioners then brought this action on October 19, 2016, seeking a ruling from the
Court that the Board exceeded its jurisdiction and failed to conform to the Act and that the
Court enter judgment that the Board awards are null and void and without effect.
Furthermore, Petitioners ask the Court to enter judgment for Petitioners.
The 1996 UTU National Agreement
The parties agree that the Court’s determination of this dispute concerns the Board’s
interpretation of Article XII of the 1996 UTU Agreement entitled “Displacement.”
XII reads in pertinent part:
(a) Where agreements that provide for the exercise of displacement rights
within a shorter time period are not in effect, existing rules, excluding crew
consist agreements, are amended to provide that an employee who has a
displacement right on any position (including extra boards) within a terminal
or within 30 miles of such employee’s current reporting point, whichever is
greater, must, from the time of proper notification under the applicable
agreement or practice, exercise that displacement right within forty-eight (48)
(b) Failure of an employee to exercise displacement rights, as provided in (a)
above, will result in said employee being assigned to the applicable extra
board, seniority permitting. (The applicable extra board is the extra board
protecting the assignment from which displaced.)
This Article shall become effective June 1, 1996 and is not intended to restrict
any of the existing rights of a carrier.
(ECF # 13-2 SAR0133-34).
Article XII also contains a Question and Answer section regarding the application of
displacement provision. Of particular relevance to the dispute in this matter is Question 7 and
its Answer, which read as follows:
Is it the intent of Article XII to impose discipline on employees who
fail to exercise seniority within 48 hours?
No. Section 1(b) provides that in these circumstances the employee
will be assigned to the applicable extra board, seniority permitting.
The employee will then be subject to existing rules and practices
governing service on such extra board.
(Id at SAR0136).
According to Petitioners, the Board’s decisions must be vacated and awards must be
made in favor of Petitioners because the Board failed to confine itself to the scope of its
jurisdiction and failed to comply with the RLA. Petitioners contend the Board ignored the
plain language of Article XII which expressly prohibits employee discipline based on the
employees failure to exercise seniority rights within the allotted forty-eight hour period. In
spite of the plain language, the Board concluded that “the Carrier’s minimum availability
guidelines is not barred by Article XII or any other agreement.” According to Petitioners, this
holding expressly ignores the plain language of Article XII, placing the Board’s decision
outside its jurisdiction. Furthermore, according to Petitioners, the Board acknowledged that
CSXT’s policies cannot conflict with the CBA but then promptly ignored Article XII in its
Petitioners further contend the Board failed to comply with the RLA when it
effectively rewrote the CBA by holding Article XII applies only to what happens after fortyeight hours when an employee fails to exercise seniority rights. In so concluding, the Board
rewrote a provision of the CBA that can only be rewritten upon agreement by the parties to
the CBA. By effectively rewriting the CBA, Petitioners argue the Board violated the RLA
and its decision must be vacated.
CSXT in opposition to Petitioners’ Motion and in support of its own Motion for
Summary Judgment, argues that the Board was inarguably interpreting the displacement
provisions of the CBA in order to reach its decisions, therefore, the awards were within the
jurisdiction of the Board and the Court’s review must end. Furthermore, the Board fully
complied with the requirements of the RLA by issuing final decisions on the merits of the
disputes before it by interpreting the CBAs. Petitioners have failed to present any argument
that the Board did not fully comply with its duties under the RLA and therefore, the awards
must be upheld.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the Court shall grant
summary judgment if the moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro.
56(a). In asserting that a material fact can or cannot be genuinely disputed, a party must
support that assertion by either citing to materials contained in the record or show that the
materials cited to do or do not create a genuine issue or material fact. Fed. R. Civ. Pro.
56(c)(1). In its consideration of a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only
consider those materials cited in the motion. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(c)(3). The trial court is not
required to search the entire record to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists.
Tucker v. Tennessee, 539 F.3d 526, 531 (6th.Cir. 2008) (citing Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co.,
886 F.2d 1472, 1479-80 (6th. Cir. 1989). Further, “if a party fails to properly support an
assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party’s assertion of fact as required by
Rule 56(c),” the court may determine that that fact is undisputed. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(e)(2).
This case arises under the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. The Railway
Labor Act (“RLA”) governs labor disputes between rail and air carriers and their employees.
Disputes between the parties are submitted to arbitration which is final and binding on all
parties. Id at 153. The RLA provides that parties dissatisfied with the arbitration decision
may petition a United States district court to vacate the decision. Id. §§ 153, First (q).
However, the district court’s review is limited to three specific grounds: “(1) failure of the
Adjustment Board to comply with the requirements of the Railway Labor Act; (2) failure of
the Adjustment Board to conform, or confine, itself to matters within the scope of its
jurisdiction; and (3) fraud or corruption.” Union Pac. R. Co. v. Sheehan, 439 U.S. 89, 93, 99
S.Ct. 399, 58 L.Ed.2d 354 (1978), quoting 45 U.S.C. 153 First (q). “Otherwise, the court
must uphold the arbitration award, even if the court believes the decision was factually
erroneous.” Greene v. IPA/UPS Sys. Bd. of Adjustment, 221 F. Supp. 3d 866, 876 (W.D. Ky.
In discussing the standard of review in arbitration award cases, the Sixth Circuit has
held: “our review of an arbitration award is one of the narrowest standards of judicial review
in all of American jurisprudence.” Tenn. Valley Auth. v. Tenn. Valley Trades and Labor
Council, 184 F.3d 510, 514-15 (6th Cir. 1999) (quotations omitted).
The standard of review on a motion to vacate an arbitration award was set forth by the
Sixth Circuit in Michigan Family Res., Inc., v. Serv. Employees Int’l Union Local 517M, 475
F.3d 746, 753 (6th Cir. 2007). There, it held a reviewing court must consider the following
three questions: [d]id the arbitrator act “outside his authority” by resolving a dispute not
committed to arbitration?  [d]id the arbitrator commit fraud, have a conflict of interest or
otherwise act dishonestly in issuing the award? And[,]  in resolving any legal or factual
disputes in the case, was the arbitrator “arguably construing or applying the contract”? Id.
The Sixth Circuit went on to say, “[s]o long as the arbitrator does not offend any of these
requirements, the request for judicial intervention should be resisted even though the
arbitrator made ‘serious,’ ‘improvident’ or ‘silly’ errors in resolving the merits of the
dispute.” Id. “[A]n arbitrator does not exceed his authority every time he makes an
interpretive error; he exceeds that authority only when the collective bargaining agreement
does not commit the dispute to arbitration.” Id. at 756. In concluding its survey of the
applicable standard of review on a motion to vacate an arbitration award, the Sixth Circuit
This view of the “arguably construing” inquiry . . . is a view that respects the
parties’ decision to hire their own judge to resolve their disputes, a view that
respects the finality clause in most arbitration agreements. . . ([e.g.,] stating
that “the arbitrator shall have full authority to render a decision which shall be
final and binding upon both parties”), and a view whose imperfections can be
remedied by selecting better arbitrators.
Id. at 753-54 (emphasis added).
In Bhd. of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen v. United Transp. Union, 700 F.3d 891,
900 (6th Cir. 2012) another case involving the UTU, the Sixth Circuit discussed the role of
the district court in reviewing challenges to arbitration awards.
The Supreme Court recognized that the federal policy “to promote industrial
stabilization through the [CBA],” id. at 578, 80 S.Ct. 1347, “would be
undermined if courts had the final say on the merits of [arbitration] awards,”
United Steelworkers of Am. v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593,
596, 80 S.Ct. 1358, 4 L.Ed.2d 1424 (1960). The “proper approach,” therefore,
is for courts to refuse to review the merits of an arbitration award. Id. “The
courts ... have no business weighing the merits of the grievance, considering
whether there is equity in a particular claim, or determining whether there is
particular language in the written instrument which will support the claim.”
United Steelworkers of Am. v. Am. Mfg. Co., 363 U.S. 564, 568, 80 S.Ct. 1363,
4 L.Ed.2d 1432 (1960) (footnote omitted). Their role is only “to ascertain[ ]
whether the party seeking arbitration is making a claim which on its face is
governed by the contract.” Id.
As a practical matter, such limited review respects the intent of the parties
who specifically bargained for “[the arbitrator's] judgment and all that it
connotes.” Id. Still, an arbitrator's authority has limits. He is “confined to
interpretation and application of the [CBA],” and he exceeds the scope of his
authority when he “dispense[s] his own brand of industrial justice.” Enterprise
Wheel, 363 U.S. at 597, 80 S.Ct. 1358. In the final analysis, his judgment must
not be disturbed “so long as it draws its essence from the [CBA].” Id.
It is against this backdrop of jurisprudence that the Court turns to the arguments at
Lack of Jurisdiction
Having reviewed the Complaint, Motions, briefs, supporting materials and the
arbitration record, the Court, in applying the narrow standard of review, holds the Board was
acting within its jurisdiction in rendering its decisions and complied with the RLA in doing
so. Petitioners’ primary argument is that the Board lacked jurisdiction to render its decision as
it ignored the plain language of the CBA and effectively rewrote the Agreement. This Court,
however, finds that the Board was unquestionably interpreting the relevant CBAs. The
Board’s decision is replete with references to and interpretations of Article XII Sections 1 &
The parties agree that the dispute over Article XII’s interpretation was subject to
arbitration under the RLA and neither side argues there was fraud or corruption by the Board
in rendering its decision, nor has anyone alleged a conflict of interest.
In its decisions1 the Board held, “The Carrier has established that there was substantial
evidence to support its determination of the Claimant’s culpability under its Availability
Policy, that this application of the Availability Policy does not violate the Parties’ Agreement,
and that the quantum of discipline assessed is appropriate under all the circumstances.”
Award No 22824 pg 14. The Board first determined that the Carrier’s Availability Rules
could not conflict with the law or with the CBA. Id. It then considered applicable prior award
decisions concerning displacement time relative to attendance policies. The Board then
expressly considered the language of Article XII. Engaging in clear consideration and
interpretation of Article XII, the Board held,
We see Section 1(a) of Article XII does not merely create or modify a right; it
imposes an obligation on ‘an employee who has displacement right...’That
employee “must, from the time of proper notification under the applicable
agreement or practice, exercise that displacement right within forty-eight (48)
hours.” Section 1(b) then provides that if the employee fails to exercise that
displacement right within 48 hours, the employee will be assigned to the
applicable extra board, seniority permitting. Thus, Section 1 of Article XII
addresses only what happens after 48 hours if the employee has failed to
exercise seniority to his next assignment during that time. Section 1 says
nothing about the implications of delaying his selection, and thereby making
himself unavailable, while work is otherwise available to him. (Emphasis
The Board then cited Section 2 of Article XII, finding the plain language of that
Section demonstrated the intent of the parties that nothing in Article XII would restrict the
Carrier’s rights under its Attendance policies.
The Board wrote in depth in the Award No. 28224, claim of Jeffrey A. Habel, and
applied its reasoning therein to the other similarly situated Petitioner award decisions.
Therefore, the Court looked to the reasoning in Habel’s award to address the Boards decisions
as applied to the other Petitioners.
Indeed, as the Carrier observes, Section 2 of Article XII states that the
Article “is not intended to restrict any of the existing rights of a carrier,” and
thus the new procedure of Section 1 did not reduce the Carrier’s
long-standing right to discipline employees who fail to maintain appropriate
attendance levels. (Highlight added).
The Board then considered Petitioners’ argument that the Q & A Section at number 7
clearly expresses the intent of the parties that employees who failed to exercise displacement
rights within the forty-eight hour time frame of Article XII would not be disciplined.
Petitioners, in reliance on the Answer to Question 7 that no discipline would follow the
exercise of their displacement rights outside the forty-eight hour time period, argues that it
necessarily follows that no employee would be disciplined for exercising their displacement
rights within the forty-eight hour period as Petitioners had done.
In rejecting this argument the Board determined Petitioners’ interpretation of Article
XII and Q& A 7 “goes too far.” The Board reasoned that from the history of Article XII and
the change in the time period for exercising displacement rights, the parties were concerned
with the effect of the greatly reduced time to exercise displacement rights between the thirty
day period of the prior CBA to the forty-eight hour period in the 1996 UTU. The Board held
that Petitioners failed to demonstrate that Article XII was intended to immunize employees
from discipline for attendance policy violations. This is especially true as the Board pointed
out by the plain language of Section 2 preserving the Carrier’s existing rights, which include
the right to enforce its attendance policies.
These excerpts from the Board’s award demonstrate that the Board’s decision was
based on its construing and interpreting the relevant CBA sections. The Board examined
Petitioners’ arguments and, in rejecting them, relied on the language of Article XII. The
Board specifically found that the language of Article XII at Section 1 was silent as to
discipline when a displaced worker makes himself unavailable when work is available. The
Board also relied on the plain language of Section 2 of Article XII wherein it reads that
Article XII is not intended to restrict any existing rights of the Carrier. The Board discussed
Rule 8 of the B & O CBA and the history behind the shortening of the time for displaced
workers to exercise their seniority rights. The Board also reviewed the Q & A statements,
finding they only addressed what happens when a displaced worker fails to exercise his rights
with the forty-eight hour period. The Board further considered other provisions of the
relevant CBAs, finding they either were inapplicable to the displacement rights issue, or did
not restrict the rights of the Carrier to enforce its attendance policies. In considering all these
provisions, the Board examined the language of the CBAs and reached its award decision
based on a logical interpretation of them. Even if the Court disagreed with that interpretation,
it is insufficient to vacate the Board’s decision. “Unless the arbitrator's logic was ‘wholly
baseless and without foundation and reason,’ this Court may not disturb the Award.” Greene
v. IPA/UPS Sys. Bd. of Adjustment, 221 F. Supp. 3d 866, 881 (W.D. Ky. 2016) quoting
Schneider v. S. Ry. Co., 822 F.2d 22, 24 (6th Cir. 1987).
This Court finds the Board’s decision was based on its arguably construing and
interpreting the CBAs and its conclusions were based on a logical interpretation therefrom.
Therefore, because the Board’s decisions “drew its essence from the CBA,” its decisions are
upheld under the Court’s narrow review.
Failure to apply the RLA
Petitioners argue that by ignoring the plain and unambiguous language of the relevant
CBAs the Board failed to comply with the RLA by effectively rewriting the CBA. Having
determined that the Board’s decision drew its essence from the CBAs, this argument also
must fail for the same reasons. Furthermore, as CSXT argues in reliance on Greene, “courts
rarely vacate RLA arbitrations” for failure to comply with the RLA. “When they do, it is
typically because the adjustment board in question failed to decide the merits of a case when
the RLA required it to do so.” Greene, 221 F. Supp. 3d at 879. Petitioners do not cite the
Court to any provision of the RLA that the Board failed to comply with other than Petitioners’
generalized arguments that the Boards failed to apply the plain language of the CBAs to the
dispute at hand. Here, the record is clear that the Board issued its awards based on the merits
of the claims. Therefore, the Court finds the Board complied with the requirements of the
Therefore, for the foregoing reasons, the Court grants CSXT’s Motion for Summary
Judgment and upholds the Board’s decisions against Petitioners. The Court denies
Petitioners’ Motion for Summary Judgment.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ Christopher A. Boyko
CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO
United States District Judge
Dated: March 12, 2018
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