JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
The issue presented in this case is whether a court asked to order arbitration of a grievance filed under a collective-bargaining agreement must first determine that the parties intended to arbitrate the dispute, or whether that determination is properly left to the arbitrator.
AT&T Technologies, Inc. (AT&T or the Company), and the Communications Workers of America (the Union) are parties to a collective-bargaining agreement which covers telephone equipment installation workers. Article 8 of this agreement
On September 17, 1981, the Union filed a grievance challenging AT&T's decision to lay off 79 installers from its Chicago base location. The Union claimed that, because there was no lack of work at the Chicago location, the
The Union then sought to compel arbitration by filing suit in federal court pursuant to § 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U. S. C. § 185(a).
Finding that "the union's interpretation of Article 20 was at least `arguable,' " the court held that it was "for the arbitrator, not the court to decide whether the union's interpretation has merit," and accordingly, ordered the Company to arbitrate. Id., at 11A.
The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed. Communications Workers of America v. Western Electric Co., 751 F.2d 203 (1984). The Court of Appeals understood the District Court to have ordered arbitration of the threshold issue of arbitrability. Id., at 205, n. 4. The court acknowledged the "general rule" that the issue of arbitrability is for the courts to decide unless the parties stipulate otherwise, but noted that this Court's decisions in Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574 (1960), and Steelworkers v. American Mfg. Co., 363 U.S. 564 (1960), caution courts to avoid becoming entangled in the merits of a labor dispute under the guise of deciding arbitrability. From this observation, the court announced an "exception" to the general rule, under which "a court should compel arbitration of the arbitrability issue where the collective bargaining agreement contains a standard arbitration clause, the parties have not clearly excluded the arbitrability issue from arbitration, and deciding the issue would entangle the court in interpretation of substantive provisions of the collective bargaining agreement and thereby involve consideration of the merits of the dispute." 751 F. 2d, at 206.
All of these factors were present in this case. Article 8 was a "standard arbitration clause," and there was "no clear, unambiguous exclusion from arbitration of terminations predicated by a lack of work determination." Id., at 206-207. Moreover, although there were "colorable arguments" on both sides of the exclusion issue, if the court were to decide this question it would have to interpret not only Article 8, but Articles 9 and 20 as well, both of which are "substantive
The court admitted that its exception was "difficult to reconcile with the Supreme Court's discussion of a court's duty to decide arbitrability in [John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v. Livingston, 376 U.S. 543 (1964)]." The court asserted, however, that the discussion was "dicta," and that this Court had reopened the issue in Nolde Brothers, Inc. v. Bakery Workers, 430 U.S. 243, 255, n. 8 (1977). 751 F. 2d, at 206.
We granted certiorari, 474 U.S. 814 (1985), and now vacate the Seventh Circuit's decision and remand for a determination of whether the Company is required to arbitrate the Union's grievance.
The principles necessary to decide this case are not new. They were set out by this Court over 25 years ago in a series of cases known as the Steelworkers Trilogy: Steelworkers v. American Mfg. Co., supra; Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., supra; and Steelworkers v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593 (1960). These precepts have served the industrial relations community well, and have led to continued reliance on arbitration, rather than strikes or lockouts, as the preferred method of resolving disputes arising during the term of a collective-bargaining agreement. We see no reason either to question their continuing validity, or to eviscerate their meaning by creating an exception to their general applicability.
The first principle gleaned from the Trilogy is that "arbitration is a matter of contract and a party cannot be required to submit to arbitration any dispute which he has not agreed so to submit." Warrior & Gulf, supra, at 582; American Mfg. Co., supra, at 570-571 (BRENNAN, J., concurring). This axiom recognizes the fact that arbitrators derive their authority to resolve disputes only because the parties have agreed in advance to submit such grievances to
The second rule, which follows inexorably from the first, is that the question of arbitrability — whether a collective-bargaining agreement creates a duty for the parties to arbitrate the particular grievance — is undeniably an issue for judicial determination. Unless the parties clearly and unmistakably provide otherwise, the question of whether the parties agreed to arbitrate is to be decided by the court, not the arbitrator. Warrior & Gulf, supra, at 582-583. See Operating Engineers v. Flair Builders, Inc., 406 U.S. 487, 491 (1972); Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining Co., 370 U.S. 238, 241 (1962), overruled in part on other grounds, Boys Markets, Inc. v. Retail Clerks, 398 U.S. 235 (1970). Accord, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 626 (1985).
The Court expressly reaffirmed this principle in John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v. Livingston, 376 U.S. 543 (1964). The "threshold question" there was whether the court or an arbitrator should decide if arbitration provisions in a collective-bargaining contract survived a corporate merger so as to bind the surviving corporation. Id., at 546. The Court answered that there was "no doubt" that this question was for the courts. "Under our decisions, whether or not the company was bound to arbitrate, as well as what issues it must arbitrate, is a matter to be determined by the Court on the basis of the contract entered into by the parties.' . . . The duty to arbitrate being of contractual origin, a compulsory submission to arbitration cannot precede judicial determination that the collective bargaining agreement does in fact create such a duty." Id., at 546-547 (citations omitted).
The third principle derived from our prior cases is that, in deciding whether the parties have agreed to submit a particular grievance to arbitration, a court is not to rule on the potential merits of the underlying claims. Whether "arguable" or not, indeed even if it appears to the court to be
Finally, it has been established that where the contract contains an arbitration clause, there is a presumption of arbitrability in the sense that "[a]n order to arbitrate the particular grievance should not be denied unless it may be said with positive assurance that the arbitration clause is not susceptible of an interpretation that covers the asserted dispute. Doubts should be resolved in favor of coverage." Warrior & Gulf, 363 U. S., at 582-583. See also Gateway Coal Co. v. Mine Workers, supra, at 377-378. Such a presumption is particularly applicable where the clause is as broad as the one employed in this case, which provides for arbitration of "any differences arising with respect to the interpretation of this contract or the performance of any obligation hereunder . . . ." In such cases, "[i]n the absence of any express provision excluding a particular grievance from arbitration, we think only the most forceful evidence of a purpose to exclude the claim from arbitration can prevail." Warrior & Gulf, supra, at 584-585.
This presumption of arbitrability for labor disputes recognizes the greater institutional competence of arbitrators in interpreting collective-bargaining agreements, "furthers the national labor policy of peaceful resolution of labor disputes and thus best accords with the parties' presumed objectives in pursuing collective bargaining." Schneider Moving & Storage Co. v. Robbins, 466 U.S. 364, 371-372 (1984) (citation
With these principles in mind, it is evident that the Seventh Circuit erred in ordering the parties to arbitrate the arbitrability question. It is the court's duty to interpret the agreement and to determine whether the parties intended to arbitrate grievances concerning layoffs predicated on a "lack of work" determination by the Company. If the court determines that the agreement so provides, then it is for the arbitrator to determine the relative merits of the parties' substantive interpretations of the agreement. It was for the court, not the arbitrator, to decide in the first instance whether the dispute was to be resolved through arbitration.
The Union does not contest the application of these principles to the present case. Instead, it urges the Court to examine the specific provisions of the agreement for itself and to affirm the Court of Appeals on the ground that the parties had agreed to arbitrate the dispute over the layoffs at issue here. But it is usually not our function in the first instance to construe collective-bargaining contracts and arbitration clauses, or to consider any other evidence that might unmistakably demonstrate that a particular grievance was not to
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is vacated, and the case is remanded for proceedings in conformity with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE BRENNAN, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE MARSHALL join, concurring.
I join the Court's opinion and write separately only to supplement what has been said in order to avoid any misunderstanding on remand and in future cases.
The Seventh Circuit's erroneous conclusion that the arbitrator should decide whether this dispute is arbitrable resulted from that court's confusion respecting the "arbitrability" determination that we have held must be judicially made. Despite recognizing that Article 8 of the collective-bargaining agreement "is a standard arbitration clause, providing for arbitration of `any differences arising with respect to the interpretation of this contract or the performance of any obligation hereunder,' " and that "there is no clear, unambiguous exclusion [of this dispute] from arbitration," the Court of Appeals thought that "there [were] colorable arguments both for and against exclusion." Communications Workers of America v. Western Electric Co., 751 F.2d 203, 206-207 (1984). The "colorable arguments" referred to by the Court of Appeals were the parties' claims concerning the meaning of Articles 9 and 20 of the collective-bargaining agreement: the Court of Appeals thought that if the Union's interpretation of Article 20 was correct and management
The Court of Appeals was mistaken insofar as it thought that determining arbitrability required resolution of the parties' dispute with respect to the meaning of Articles 9 and 20 of the collective-bargaining agreement. This is clear from our opinion in Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574 (1960). In Warrior & Gulf, the Union challenged management's contracting out of labor that had previously been performed by Company employees. The parties failed to resolve the dispute through grievance procedures, and the Union requested arbitration; the Company refused, and the Union sued to compel arbitration under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U. S. C. § 185. The collective-bargaining agreement contained a standard arbitration clause similar to Article 8 of the AT&T/CWA contract, i. e., providing for arbitration of all differences with respect to the meaning or application of the contract. We held that, in light of the congressional policy making arbitration the favored method of dispute resolution, such a provision requires arbitration "unless it may be said with positive assurance that the arbitration clause is not susceptible of an interpretation that covers the asserted dispute. Doubts should be resolved in favor of coverage." Warrior & Gulf, supra, at 582-583 (footnote omitted).
The Company in Warrior & Gulf relied for its argument that the dispute was not arbitrable on a "Management Functions" clause which, like Article 9 of the AT&T/CWA agreement,
The Seventh Circuit misunderstood these rules of contract construction and did precisely what we disapproved of in Warrior & Gulf — it read Article 9, a general Management Functions clause, to make arbitrability depend upon the merits of the parties' dispute. As Warrior & Gulf makes clear, the judicial inquiry required to determine arbitrability is much simpler. The parties' dispute concerns whether Article 20 of the collective-bargaining agreement limits management's authority to order layoffs for reasons other than lack of work. The question for the court is "strictly confined," id., at 582, to whether the parties agreed to submit disputes over the meaning of Article 20 to arbitration. Because the collective-bargaining agreement contains a standard arbitration
The Court remands this case so that the court below may apply the proper standard to determine arbitrability. The Court states that "it is usually not our function in the first instance to construe collective-bargaining contracts and arbitration clauses, or to consider any other evidence that might unmistakably demonstrate that a particular grievance was not to be subject to arbitration." Ante, at 651-652. Of course, we have on numerous occasions construed collective-bargaining agreements "in the first instance"; we did so, for example, in the three cases comprising the Steelworkers Trilogy. See also John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v. Livingston, 376 U.S. 543, 552-555 (1964); Packinghouse Workers v. Needham Packing Co., 376 U.S. 247, 249-253 (1964). Nonetheless, I agree with the Court that we should interpret a collective-bargaining agreement only where there is some special reason to do so. Thus, it is appropriate for this Court to construe a collective-bargaining agreement where — as in the Steelworkers Trilogy — our decision announces a new principle of law, since applying this principle may help to clarify our meaning. There is no such need, however, where — as here — we simply reaffirm established principles. Moreover, since the determination left for the Court of Appeals on remand is straightforward and will require little time or effort, concerns for efficient judicial administration do not require us to interpret the agreement. Finally, because the parties have submitted to us only fragmentary pieces of the bargaining history, we are not in a position properly to evaluate whether there is "the most forceful evidence" that the parties
David E. Feller filed a brief for the National Academy of Arbitrators as amicus curiae urging affirmance.
"If the National and the Company fail to settle by negotiation any differences arising with respect to the interpretation of this contract or the performance of any obligation hereunder, such differences shall (provided that such dispute is not excluded from arbitration by other provisions of this contract, and provided that the grievance procedures as to such dispute have been exhausted) be referred upon written demand of either party to an impartial arbitrator mutually agreeable to both parties." App. 21.
"The Union recognizes the right of the Company (subject to the limitations contained in the provisions of this contract, but otherwise not subject to the provisions of the arbitration clause) to exercise the functions of managing the business which involve, among other things, the hiring and placement of Employees, the termination of employment, the assignment of work, the determination of methods and equipment to be used, and the control of the conduct of work." Id., at 22.
"Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect of the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties."