Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, John M. Cannella, Judge, confirming a labor arbitration award. The court of appeals held that the arbitrator could properly look to the collective bargaining agreement as well as the company work rules in determining the submitted issue of whether an employee had been discharged for just cause. The court further held that an arbitration award based on an illegal contract provision would not be confirmed; and that a superseniority clause absolutely protecting stewards against discharge is presumptively illegal, with the burden on the union to show a legitimate and substantial business justification. Judgment reversed and cause remanded for findings on justification for the superseniority clause.
Before Mulligan and Oakes, Circuit Judges, and Metzner, District Judge.*fn*
Perma-Line Corporation of America seeks to overturn an arbitration award reinstating, without back pay, a union shop steward discharged for fighting on the job. The arbitrator, asked to determine whether the shop steward had been discharged for cause, held that he could not be discharged at all, under a provision in the collective bargaining agreement requiring union consent to layoff or discharge of stewards. This appeal is from a summary judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, John M. Cannella, Judge, confirming the arbitration award. We reverse and remand.
The collective bargaining agreement between Perma-Line and the union, Sign Pictorial and Display Union, Local 230, International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades, provides in Article II, Section 2:
All hiring, layoffs, and discharges of employees, except discharges for cause, shall be made in accordance with the provisions of this agreement. (Emphasis added.)
The agreement also provides, in Article V, Section 2:
Grievances and disputes involving any employee and/or a steward, shall be taken up for adjustment by the Union and a representative of the Employer. No steward shall be laid off or discharged without the consent of the Union.
Work Rule 11, promulgated by Perma-Line, provides for summary discharge of the "aggressor" in a fight.*fn1 It is the interrelationship among these three provisions that underlies this dispute.
On August 6, 1979, a Perma-Line employee, Generoso Barbieri, who had been working nights, complained to his shop steward after he was informed that his assignment to the night shift had been extended. Shop steward Sal Confusione explained that assignments were based on seniority. Barbieri argued that the seniority list was wrong, claiming that he had more company seniority than two men who were ahead of him on the list. Confusione replied that, though the two men may not have worked as long at the company, they had been given additional union seniority to compensate them for the fact that new employees had been improperly hired at Perma-Line while they were on layoff. Barbieri took his complaint to management. In the presence of two company men and a union business representative, Barbieri and Confusione got into a confrontation, the details of which were later disputed, but the upshot of which was that both were discharged for "fighting."
The collective bargaining agreement contains no provision for arbitration, but Perma-Line and the union made a specific submission to an arbitrator, which read as follows:
Were G. Barbieri and S. Confusione discharged for cause? If not, what shall be the remedy?
Before the arbitrator, Perma-Line argued that Barbieri had been the physical aggressor and Confusione the verbal aggressor, and that both had been properly discharged for cause. The union contended that no fight had occurred, that Work Rule 11 is vague and ...