MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
The petitioning company brought this action for damages in the District Court under § 301 (a) of the Taft-Hartley Act, alleging that the respondent union had violated the no-strike clause of the collective bargaining contract between the union and the company. The sole question in the case is whether the District Court was correct in holding that the employer's claim was an arbitrable matter under the contract and in ordering a stay of the action pending completion of arbitration. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the judgment of the District Court by an equally divided vote.
As was true in Atkinson, supra, the issue of arbitrability is a question for the courts and is to be determined by the contract entered into by the parties. ". . . [A] party cannot be required to submit to arbitration any dispute which he has not agreed so to submit." United Steelworkers
This is broad language, indeed, and the procedure thereafter provided in Article V does not, as it did in Atkinson, exclude claims or complaints of the employer. It is provided that in the first instance the union will be represented by a committee and the shop chairman, and the employer by the shop manager. Failing adjustment at this stage, the issue is required to be submitted in writing by "the party claiming to be aggrieved to the other party,"
Article V does not stop with disputes "involving questions of interpretation or application of any clause or matter" covered by the contract. The adjustment and arbitration procedures are to apply to all complaints, all disputes and all grievances involving any act of either party, or any conduct of either party, or any relation between the parties, directly or indirectly. The company asserts that there was a strike by the union in violation of the no-strike clause. It therefore has a "complaint" against the union concerning the "acts" or "conduct" of the union. There is also involved a "dispute" between the union and the company, for the union denies that there was a strike at all, denies that it precipitated any strike, denies that the employees were obligated under the contract to work on that January 2, and itself claims that the employer breached the contract in scheduling work for the holidays.
The company earnestly contends that the parties cannot have intended to arbitrate so fundamental a matter as a union strike in breach of contract, and that only an
Of significance also are certain events which occurred in August 1959. At that time the company took issue with union conduct in connection with overtime work. Labeling this conduct an "overtime strike" and a "breach of contract," the company wrote a letter to the State Mediation Board of New York saying that the contract with the union provided for arbitration of disputes before an arbitrator appointed by the Board and requesting the appointment of an arbitrator to "determine the question of breach of contract and damages suffered by" the company as a result of the strike. An award of damages against the union was requested, as was injunctive relief against a continuance of the overtime strike.
The company further asserts that even if it agreed in the contract to arbitrate union violations of the no-strike clause, it is excused by the union's breach from pursuing the post-breach remedies called for in the contract. The
However, this Court has prescribed no such inflexible rule rigidly linking no-strike and arbitration clauses of every collective bargaining contract in every situation.
In passing § 301, Congress was interested in the enforcement of collective bargaining contracts since it would "promote a higher degree of responsibility upon the parties to such agreements, and will thereby promote industrial peace" (S. Rep. No. 105, 80th Cong., 1st Sess. 17). It was particularly interested in placing "sanctions behind agreements to arbitrate grievance disputes" (Textile Workers Union v. Lincoln Mills, 353 U.S. 448, 456). The preferred method for settling disputes was declared by Congress to be "[f]inal adjustment by a method agreed upon by the parties" (§ 203 (d) of the Act, 29 U. S. C. § 173 (d)). "That policy can be effectuated only if the means chosen by the parties for settlement of their differences under a collective bargaining agreement is given full play" (United Steelworkers v. American Mfg. Co., 363 U.S. 564, 566). Under our federal labor policy, therefore, we have every reason to preserve the stabilizing influence of the
Petitioner relies upon decisions by various Courts of Appeals denying stays of damage suits for breach of no-strike clauses for want of arbitrability of the dispute.
This Court held in Mastro Plastics Corp. v. Labor Board, 350 U.S. 270, that the employer did not have the right to replace employees who had struck over employer unfair labor practices, in the face of an absolute no-strike clause. It was said that, despite the broad prohibition of strikes in the contract, the parties could not have intended to waive the employees' right to strike over a flagrant unfair labor practice, absent an express statement in the contract to that effect. The company urges that Mastro precludes the result we have reached in this case. Mastro, however, involved a flagrant unfair labor practice by the company threatening the very existence of the union itself. A strike in violation of contract is not per se an unfair labor practice
If the union did strike in violation of the contract, the company is entitled to its damages; by staying this action, pending arbitration, we have no intention of depriving it of those damages. We simply remit the company to the forum it agreed to use for processing its strike damage claims. That forum, it is true, may be very different from a courtroom,
A final matter is the company's suggestion that the union is not entitled to a stay because it has not proceeded with dispatch in seeking arbitration. The District Court held that the union was not in default, and we agree. If the company had a claim for damages, the contract provided for the company's attempting to adjust its claim by consulting with the union. Failing this, either party could take the matter to arbitration. The company's claim arose out of events which occurred on
For the foregoing reasons, the judgment affirming the opinion of the District Court was correct, and, on the merits, the panel decision properly withdrawn.
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, dissenting.
The question presented in this case is whether the parties to this collective bargaining agreement intended that a court, rather than an arbitrator, should decide the employer's claim that the union had violated the no-strike clause of the agreement. Whether a strike in breach of contract has occurred and, if so, what damages have been suffered, are matters with respect to which a court of law can hardly be deemed less competent, as an adjudicator, than an arbitrator. There is no special reason to suppose that the parties preferred to submit this kind of a dispute to an arbitrator whose expertise is more likely to be in the area of employees' grievance claims, as in United Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 580-582; United Steelworkers v. Enterprise Wheel &
It would require more persuasive evidence than either this collective agreement or record affords to persuade me that it was contemplated that the employer would forego his statutory remedy under § 301 respecting alleged violations of the no-strike clause of the collective agreement. I would reverse the judgment below substantially for the reasons given in the panel opinion of the Court of Appeals, 287 F.2d 155.
"(a) The parties agree that they will promptly attempt to adjust all complaints, disputes or grievances arising between them involving questions of interpretation or application of any clause or matter covered by this contract or any act or conduct or relation between the parties hereto, directly or indirectly.
"In the adjustment of such matters the Union shall be represented in the first instance by the duly designated committee and the Shop Chairman and the Employer shall be represented by the Shop Management. It is agreed that in the handling of grievances there shall be no interference with the conduct of the business.
"(b) If the Committee and the Shop Management are unable to effect an adjustment, then the issue involved shall be submitted in writing by the party claiming to be aggrieved to the other party. The matter shall then be taken up for adjustment between the Union and the Plant Manager or other representative designated by management for the purpose. If no mutually satisfactory adjustment is reached by this means, or in any event within seven (7) days after the submission of the issue in writing as provided above, then either party shall have the right to refer the matter to arbitration as herein provided."
"We have informed you that we did not agree with, or accept your proposal to amend or alter past practice concerning holiday weekends. Your proposed schedule and your threats of disciplinary penalties violates contract and practice . . . . If you do not retract position we shall demand arbitration."
"(a) There shall be no strike, boycott, interruption of work, stoppage, temporary walk-out or lock-out for any reason during the terms of this contract except that if either party shall fail to abide by the decision of the Arbitrator, after receipt of such decision, under Article 6 of this contract, then the other party shall not be bound by this provision.
"(b) The parties agree as part of the consideration of this agreement that neither the International Union, the Local Union, or any of its officers, agents or members, shall be liable for damages for unauthorized stoppage, strikes, intentional slowdowns or suspensions of work if:
"It is recognized that the Company has the right to take disciplinary action, including discharge, against any employee who engages in any unauthorized strike or work stoppage, subject to the Union's right to submit to arbitration in accordance with the agreement the question of whether or not the employee did engage in any unauthorized strike or work stoppage."
"The effect of a repudiation upon the repudiator's right to arbitration should depend on the character of his so-called `repudiation' and the reasons given for it. One who flatly repudiates the provision for arbitration itself should have no right to the stay of a court action brought by the other party. But mere nonperformance, even though unjustified, is not per se a `repudiation.' One who asserts in good faith that the facts justify him in refusing performance of other provisions in the contract should not thereby lose his right to arbitration that he would otherwise have had. There is no inconsistency in his demanding arbitration at the same time that he asserts his legal privilege not to proceed with performance."