CITY OF PROVIDENCE v. RHODE ISLAND LABORERS' DISTRICT COUNCIL, LOCAL UNION 1033
CITY OF PROVIDENCE,
RHODE ISLAND LABORERS' DISTRICT COUNCIL, LOCAL UNION 1033.
C.A. No. PM 2012-4252.
Superior Court of Rhode Island, PROVIDENCE, SC.
Filed: November 15, 2012.
Before this Court is Plaintiff the City of Providence's ("City") Motion to Vacate an Arbitration Award. The arbitration award in question (the "2012 Award") denied a grievance by Respondent Rhode Island Laborers' District Council, Local 1033 ("Union") on the grounds that an alleged violation of the collective bargaining agreement then in effect was de minimis, such that relief was not warranted under the circumstances. Despite its arbitral success on the merits, the City now seeks vacation of the 2012 Award on the grounds that the grievance was not substantively arbitrable. The Union objects to Plaintiff's Motion and moves to confirm the 2012 Award. This Court has reviewed the memoranda submitted by the parties and has considered oral arguments offered to the Court on September 19, 2012. Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 28-9-18.FACTS AND TRAVEL
The City and the Rhode Island Laborers' District Council, Local 1033 have been parties to successive collective bargaining agreements ("CBAs") over a long period of time and remain bound by such an agreement to this day. Although the arbitration award at issue deals with an alleged violation of the CBA in effect on September 6, 2011, the cornerstone of the present dispute concerns a stipulated agreement between the City and the Union, dated November 9, 1993 and signed by an arbitrator, which the parties refer to as a "stipulated award."
On November 9, 1993, the City and the Union were parties to a CBA effective July 1, 1993 to June 30, 1994 (the "1993-1994 CBA"). The 1993-1994 CBA contained a clause requiring grievances to be arbitrated between the parties in certain circumstances. In relevant part, Article XXI, Section 1 of that agreement states: "It is mutually understood and agreed that all grievances of employees or the Union arising out of the provisions of this contract shall be filed and processed as follows." Additionally, Article XXI, Section 3 states that "[t]he Arbitrator's decision shall be final and binding upon the parties" and that "the arbitrator shall have no power to disregard, alter, amend, add to or deduct from the provisions of this Agreement." Section 3(b) further provides that "[t]he Employer and the Union agree to apply the decision of the arbitrator to all substantially similar situations." In addition, the 1993-1994 CBA contained a provision for "Changes or Amendments" in Article XXVII, stating: "This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement and complete understanding between the [City] and the Union arrived at as a result of collective bargaining, except such amendments hereto or modifications hereof as shall be reduced to writing and executed by the parties following the execution of this Agreement." It is undisputed that the language in these provisions from the 1993-1994 CBA remained intact in all of the successive iterations of CBAs between the Union and the City up to and including the CBA in effect on September 6, 2011.
The so-called "stipulated award" itself arose out of a dispute under the 1993-1994 CBA that the Union brought to arbitration during that time period. While the grounds for that dispute remain unclear from the record, the parties apparently reached an agreement concerning staffing levels at the Department of Communications Police Control Center during the pendency of the arbitration proceeding. This stipulated agreement, referred to by the parties as a "stipulated award," required the City to staff and assign a specific number of Union employees to work in specified positions at the Police Control Center at different times during the week. Also of relevance, the final provision of the stipulated agreement states the following: "The parties hereby agree and acknowledge that this agreement does not establish a precedent or practice and shall not be utilized in any future proceedings or forum, of any nature, except to enforce the provisions herein." Additionally, the agreement did not contain its own independent arbitration clause.