United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southwestern Division
INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE AND AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA, and its LOCAL 1070, UAW, Plaintiffs,
DALLAS AIRMOTIVE, INC. d/b/a PREMIER TURBINES, Defendant.
DOUGLAS HARPOOL, District Judge.
Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Complaint to Compel Arbitration (Doc. 1) and Plaintiffs' Motion for Judgment on Stipulated Facts (Doc. 28). Plaintiffs request that the Court enter an order pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act that compels Defendant to attend arbitration as required under the parties' collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiffs further request an award of attorneys' fees. Upon the parties' joint request, the Court ordered that the above-captioned matter be decided solely upon stipulated facts and briefing. (Doc. 26). The parties submitted stipulated facts (Doc. 27) and filed primary and responsive briefs concerning the issues presented (Docs. 28-32). The matter is now ripe for review.
The stipulated facts are as follows. Plaintiffs are labor organizations that act as the exclusive bargaining representative for non-exempt hourly employees at Premier Turbines in Neosho, Missouri. At all times relevant to the present action, Defendant conducted business and employed employees under the name Premier Turbines in Neosho, Missouri. Plaintiffs and Defendant entered into a collective bargaining agreement effective May 15, 2010 through May 14, 2013 ("CBA").
Cheryl Bond was employed by Defendant in the position of "Inventory Control." During Ms. Bond's employment with Defendant, she was a member of the bargaining unit represented by Plaintiffs. The terms and conditions of her employment were governed by the various bargaining agreements executed between Plaintiffs and Defendant. On or about September 15, 2010, Ms. Bond began receiving Short Term Disability benefits under the CBA and Defendant's Short Term Disability Plan due to a qualifying disability caused by chronic back pain. Ms. Bond received Short Term Disability benefits until she exhausted those benefits. On or about March 2, 2011, Ms. Bond applied for and was approved Long Term Disability benefits. By letter dated October 19, 2012, Ms. Bond was notified that her Long Term Disability benefits would be discontinued effective March 14, 2013. Ms. Bond appealed the decision to terminate her Long Term Disability benefits through Cigna Group Insurance under Defendant's Long Term Disability Plan. Cigna ultimately upheld its decision to terminate Ms. Bond's Long Term Disability benefits.
On March 12, 2013, Plaintiff UAW Local 1070 filed a grievance against Defendant regarding the termination of Ms. Bond's Long Term Disability benefits. The grievance alleges that Defendant violated Article 17, Section 6 of the CBA and argues that "[t]he Company is not fulfilling the agreement by discontinuing Long Term Disability payments to disabled employees on disability leave." The grievance requests that Defendant "resume payments and all be made whole." Defendant denied the grievance and the parties were unable to settle the matter prior to Step 4 of the CBA's grievance procedure. Pursuant to Step 4, Plaintiffs demanded final and binding arbitration of the grievance.
On January 6, 2014, three days before the arbitration was scheduled to take place, Defendant cancelled the arbitration. Defendant cited its prior correspondence with Plaintiffs and noted "the Company's ongoing position" that Ms. Bond's grievance "is not appropriately brought to arbitration" because "the issue regarding whether she is disabled pursuant to the terms of the LTD Plan and otherwise entitled to LTD benefits is subject to the Plan and its appeal process." Defendant reported that the pending arbitration was inappropriate because "the issue being disputed is not procedurally arbitrable" and "the employer believes the threshold issue of arbitrability should be decided by a federal court before there might be any consideration of the substantive issues." Defendant continues to take the position that Ms. Bond's grievance is not properly arbitrable under the law.
Relevant CBA Provisions
ARTICLE 10: GRIEVANCE AND ARBITRATION PROCEDURE
Section 1. Grievance Defined
For purposes of this Agreement, a grievance is defined as any dispute, claim or complaint involving the interpretation or application of the provisions of this Agreement, and taken up in the grievance procedure outlined below. Said grievance also includes any claim under state substantive law or federal law, including but limited to... claims made pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and its amendments.... All such grievances or claims shall be settled and determined exclusively by the grievance procedure.
Section 2. Grievance ...