Monday, February 20, 2012

CNA’s Motion to Dismiss Kaiser’s action to compel arbitration denied

The US District Court for the Northern District of California has denied CNA’s  Motion to Dismiss Kaiser’s suit to compel arbitration. Kaiser is seeking to arbitrate its claim that the CNA breached the no strike clause in its collective bargaining agreement. The agreement’s no strike provision states:

There shall be no strikes, lockouts or other stoppages or interruptions of work during the life of this Agreement. All disputes arising under this Agreement shall be settled in accordance with the [grievance] procedure outlined above.

 CNA claimed that only the Union could file grievances or seek arbitration.

CNA based its argument in part on contract language that provided:

The [CNA], as the exclusive bargaining representative of the employees in the bargaining unit, has the sole and exclusive right to file, pursue, withdraw or resolve grievances at any step of the procedure. The parties agree that the grievance/arbitration procedure is the sole and exclusive remedy for any and all disputes or rights arising from or relating to the Agreement.

The Court observed that while the agreement is clear that only the union may file a grievance on behalf of employees, it was at least ambiguous about whether Kaiser may submit a grievance for arbitration. It further noted that if the contract were read to prohibit Kaiser from filing for arbitration it could leave Kaiser with no remedy for a Union breach.

Given the presumption of arbitrability, and the standards applicable to a Motion to Dismiss, the Court denied the Union’s Motion and allowed the case to proceed.

The Court’s decision can be found here.

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