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Ramsey Excavating Co. v. Construction and General Laborers

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 30, 2015

Ramsey Excavating Company, Plaintiff,
v.
Construction and General Laborers, Local 563, Defendant.

ORDER

JOAN N. ERICKSEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Ramsey Excavating Company and Defendant Construction and General Laborers, Local 563 ("the Union") arbitrated a dispute over the terms of their collective bargaining agreement. Ramsey subsequently brought this action under the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. ยง 185, to vacate the Arbitrator's Award. The Union filed a counterclaim to enforce it.

The case is now before the Court on the parties' dispositive cross-motions. For the reasons discussed below, Ramsey's motion is denied, the Union's motion is granted, and the Arbitrator's Award is enforced.

Background

Ramsey and the Union are parties to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") that "establish[es] rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, fringe benefits, and vacations, where applicable, and other terms and provisions concerning employment relations and collective bargaining relations and collective bargaining... on construction work in the State of Minnesota." Among other provisions, the CBA commits Ramsey to "call the Union for not less than the first 50% of [the] Journey Laborers and Enrolled Apprentices" that it hires for a project, requires it to bargain with the Union over the workers' "conditions of employment, " and prohibits it from discriminating against the workers on the basis of their "affiliation or nonaffiliation with the Union, race, color, age, sex, creed, political or religious beliefs." The CBA also reserves for Ramsey "the right to manage its jobs in [its] best interest" and contains a number of agreements aimed at achieving "[a]ccident and injury free operations."

At Article 11, the CBA provides for the parties to arbitrate "[a]ny controversy over the interpretation of, or adherence to" these or other terms of the CBA. One such dispute arose in the spring of 2013. According to its Complaint, Ramsey at that time "was experiencing a high rate of work-related injuries, with seven employees suffering injuries while performing the physically demanding tasks required by Ramsey's laborers." Following that rash of injuries, Ramsey's workers' compensation carriers warned Ramsey that it "needed to reduce its work place injuries or else it would become uninsurable or the cost of workers' compensation insurance would become prohibitive."

At the recommendation of its insurers, Ramsey "decided to implement the CRT/MOH test" - an "isokinetic test" conducted by two private companies, Cost Reduction Technologies and Minnesota Occupational Health - "for laborer and operator positions." Ramsey did not consult with the Union on that decision.

Soon thereafter, in March of 2013, "Ramsey contacted the Union and specifically requested a female laborer in order to meet female and minority hiring goals on a project." The Union referred Rita Berger, who became the first subject of Ramsey's newly-implemented CRT/MOH testing procedure. Berger failed the test, and so Ramsey rejected her for the project. Ramsey then requested that the Union refer another female laborer. The Union did so, and that laborer passed the CRT/MOH test and was accepted for the project.

The Union subsequently filed a grievance, alleging that Ramsey's implementation of the CRT/MOH test violated the CBA in two ways: first, because Ramsey had not given the Union notice and an opportunity to bargain over it; and second, because the test discriminates on the basis of a worker's disability, age, and gender. Ramsey disagreed with the Union's position on both counts.

In accordance with Article 11 of the CBA, the parties submitted their dispute to an Arbitrator, who issued his decision in November of 2014. It concludes, under the heading of "Award, " as follows:

It is held that the employer's conduct violated Article 3 of the collective bargaining agreement because the employer imposed the CRT/MOH Test without giving the union notice or an opportunity to bargain, even though the union operates an exclusive hiring hall. The test violates existing collective bargaining agreement terms. It is further held that the arbitrator could not make a decision based on the evidence whether the CRT/MOH Test discriminates against bargaining unit applicants as to disability status, age or sex.
The employer is directed to cease violating the collective bargaining agreement and provide an opportunity for the union to bargain over a term and condition of employment i.e. the application and implementation of the CRT/MOH Test. Until such bargaining occurs, the employer is ordered to cease using the CRT/MOH Test. The arbitrator shall retain jurisdiction over the implementation of the remedy for 180 days.

Shortly after the decision issued, Ramsey petitioned the Arbitrator to "modify" his decision to either "sustain or deny" the Union's charge that the CRT/MOH test is discriminatory. The Arbitrator offered some supplemental explanation of his treatment of that issue, but otherwise declined to alter the Award.

In February of 2015, Ramsey filed this action, through which it seeks an order vacating the Arbitrator's Award. With its counterclaim, the Union requests an order enforcing the Award. The parties' dispositive cross-motions are now before the Court.

Discussion

Ramsey brings its motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, while the Union brings its competing motion under Rule 12(c). Under both of these rules, judgment in favor of the movant is appropriate where the movant establishes that there are no genuine disputes of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. ...


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