On behalf of two local IAM unions, Patterson Harkavy has prevailed in federal district court in a case challenging a labor arbitration decision. This case arises from Plaintiff UGL UNICCO’s termination of union member Ronald Corbett. UGL UNICCO provides facilities maintenance services at a tire plant in Wilson, North Carolina, owned by Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire. Corbett was employed by UGL UNICCO and worked at the Bridgestone Plant. Defendants Local 2541 and District 110 are constituent entities of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (“IAM”). The IAM was represented in this case by Mike Okun and Narendra Ghosh.
The union challenged Corbett’s termination and the case was initially decided by an experienced labor arbitrator. Corbett, a 34-year employee, did nothing wrong in getting fired, but was terminated without just cause because of Bridgestone’s unilateral decision. This is commonly known as a persona non grata situation. The arbitrator found that this firing violated the union’s contract with UNICCO, and award Corbett 68 weeks of pay as damages because she could not order Bridgestone to return him to work. UNICCO challenged the arbitrator’s decision in federal court.
In his July 16, 2010 opinion, Judge Boyle affirmed the arbitrator’s award and granted the union’s motion to enforce it. Judge Boyle reasoned:
The CBA does not specifically provide for the persona non grata situation in the instant case. Rather, the CBA provides that employees may be terminated for just cause or laid off subject to seniority. Plaintiff admits that Corbett was not fired for cause, and the arbitrator determined that Corbett was not laid off because Corbett’s work was available and reinstatement based on seniority was not an option. Therefore, the arbitrator properly concluded that Corbett was terminated in violation of the CBA. The arbitrator’s recognition that Plaintiff acted in good faith and made every effort to find work for Corbett does not cure this breach. … Here, the arbitrator’s award is more properly viewed as damages for breach of contract rather than severance pay. And the CBA does not limit the remedy that the arbitrator may award for a breach of contract. As such, the arbitrator properly determined an award that drew its essence from the CBA. Therefore, Defendants’ Motion to Enforce is GRANTED, and Plaintiff’s Motion to Vacate is DENIED.