Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stay of Labor Arbitation Denied

I bring Matter of City of Utica v. Teamsters, ___Misc. 3d___(Oneida Co. Oct. 6, 2008), to your attention because it reviews basic arbitration law. Specifically, the court, applying New York law, denies the application for a stay and rejected the claim that there was no valid agreement to arbitrate. The court described the applicable standard of review as follows:

In 1977 the Court of Appeals decided Matter of Acting Superintendent of Schools of Liverpool Cent. School Dist. (United Liverpool Faculty Association) (42 NY2d 509 [1977]) which established a methodology for determining whether a public sector grievance is subject to arbitration. This analysis requires the Court to engage in a two step inquiry. First, the Court must determine whether the arbitration claims concerning this particular subject matter are authorized by the Taylor Law, New York Civil Service Law Article 14. The next step concerns "whether such authority was in fact exercised and whether the parties did agree by the terms of their particular arbitration clause to refer their differences in this specific area to arbitration." See Matter of Board of Educ. (Watertown Educ. Assn.) and Matter of Indian Riv. Cent. School Dist. (Passino), 93 NY2d 132, 137-138 [1999].

The parties to this grievance do not argue that public policy restricts the arbitration of this matter; therefore, the Court considers the first prong of the "Liverpool Two-Step Format" to be resolved. Next, the Court must determine whether the present complaint falls within the contract definition of grievance and whether the parties agreed to arbitrate this particular grievance. Article XVI of the CBA addresses the grievance procedure. Section 1 defines grievance as "a claimed violation of a specific term of this Collective Bargaining Agreement in its application or interpretation by the employer." The remainder of the article goes on to set forth the procedures to be utilized to bring a matter to arbitration. Using the "Liverpool" analysis, the Court must determine whether the agreement to arbitrate contained within the CBA is broad or narrow. The parties to this agreement have executed an unambiguous agreement to arbitrate. It is broad in its scope by its very terms in that it applies to the employer's application or interpretation of the agreement. See generally Matter of Board of Educ. (Watertown Educ. Assn.), 93 NY2d 132 [1999]; Board of Educ. v Barni, 49 NY2d 311 [1980]. The employee's claim in this matter falls squarely within the class of claims to be arbitrated because it implies a violation of the agreement. Further, if the matter in dispute bears a "reasonable relationship" to some general subject matter of the CBA, it is for the arbitrator not the courts to decide whether the specific disputed matter falls within the CBA. See Matter of Uniform Firefighters v City of Cohoes, 94 NY2d 686, 694 [2000].

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

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Arbitration Law, Public Sector Labor Law | Permalink

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