Monday, December 17, 2012

Confirmation of award denied; no noncompliance shown

The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters prevailed in an arbitration against Onsite Woodwork Corporation concerning the proper compensation for employees who had been recalled from layoff. The arbitrator's award provided "Any grievant recalled from layoff after six months and removed from the bargaining unit must be reinstated and dues and initiation fees, if any, restored to them."

The Union filed suit seeking to confirm the award, and claimed that the employer's requiring grievants to undergo a new orientation period violated the award. The court determined that requiring a new orientation period was not inconsistent with the award, and in fact was recognized by the arbitrator as appropriate. Finding no other evidence that the employer was not complying with the award, the court rejected the Union's efforts at enforcement.

The Court observed:

Since Onsite has complied with the award, it would be improper for the Court to confirm the arbitration award at this time. Article III of the United States Constitution restricts the judicial power of the federal courts to "cases" and "controversies." U.S. Const. Art III, § 2. In addition, the ripeness doctrine dictates that courts should decide only existing substantial controversies, not hypothetical questions and possibilities. See Wisconsin Right to Life State Political Action Committee v. Barland, 664 F.3d 139, 148 (7th Cir. 2011).
In applying these principles to requests to confirm arbitration awards between labor and management, the majority of courts hold that the award should not be confirmed where there is no live and actual dispute between the parties

Agreeing with that majority of courts, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the Union's action, but noted that should a bona fide dispute subsequently arise, the Union could seek to confirm the award at that time. The Court further noted the five year statute of limitations for enforcement of arbitration awards in the Seventh Circuit, finding any prejudice to the union unlikely.

The court's decision  can be found here.

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