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Supreme Court of the United States
January 22, 1986, Argued ; April 7, 1986, Decided
[*644] [***653] [**1416] 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 [*645] establishes that "differences arising with respect to the interpretation of this contract or the performance of any obligation hereunder" must be referred to a mutually agreeable arbitrator upon the written demand of either party. This Article expressly does not cover disputes "excluded from arbitration by other provisions of this contract." 2 Article 9 provides that, "subject to the limitations contained in the provisions [****5] of this contract, but otherwise not subject to the provisions of the arbitration clause," AT&T is free to exercise certain management functions, including the hiring and placement of employees and the termination of employment. 3 [****6] "When lack of work necessitates Layoff," Article 20 prescribes the order in which employees are to be laid off. 4
[**1417] On September 17, 1981, the Union filed a grievance challenging AT&T's [***654] 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 [*646] planned layoffs would violate Article 20 of the agreement. Eight days later, however, AT&T laid off all 79 workers, and soon thereafter, the Company transferred approximately the same number of installers from base locations in Indiana and Wisconsin to the Chicago base. AT&T refused to submit the grievance to arbitration on the ground that under Article 9 the Company's decision to lay off workers when it determines that a lack [****7] of work exists in a facility is not arbitrable.
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). 5 Communications Workers of America v. Western Electric Co., No. 82 C 772 (ND Ill., Nov. 18, 1983). Ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment, the District Court reviewed the provisions of Articles 8, 9, and 20, and set forth the parties' arguments as follows:
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475 U.S. 643 *; 106 S. Ct. 1415 **; 89 L. Ed. 2d 648 ***; 1986 U.S. LEXIS 92 ****; 54 U.S.L.W. 4339; 104 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P11,758; 121 L.R.R.M. 3329
AT&T TECHNOLOGIES, INC. v. COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS OF AMERICA ET AL.
Prior History: [****1] CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT.
Disposition: 751 F.2d 203, vacated and remanded.
arbitration, collective-bargaining, parties, grievance, arbitration clause, layoffs, lack of work, disputes, merits, provisions, bargaining, Functions, cases
Labor & Employment Law, Collective Bargaining & Labor Relations, Enforcement of Bargaining Agreements, Business & Corporate Compliance, Pretrial Matters, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Validity of ADR Methods, Civil Procedure, Arbitration, General Overview, Labor Arbitration, Enforcement, Arbitrators, Authority, Arbitrability, Mandatory ADR, Contracts Law, Contract Conditions & Provisions, Arbitration Clauses