Judicial Review of an Arbitrator's Award Under Section 301(A) of the Labor Management Relations Act
34 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2010 Last revised: 12 Nov 2010
Date Written: 1972
A national policy of encouraging the use of voluntary arbitration to settle disputes arising from the terms of collective bargaining agreements was established by the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (LMRA). Section 301(a) of the Act authorized federal courts to hear disputes arising from collective bargaining agreements. The ramifications of section 301, however, carry far beyond a mere procedural grant of jurisdiction to federal courts. For example, the Supreme Court, in Textile Workers Union v. Lincoln Mills, made section 301 the basis for the judicial review of labor arbitration awards. By authorizing federal courts to fashion standards for the enforcement of collective bargaining agreements, the Court required the judiciary to apply federal substantive law to those subject to the provisions of the LMRA. In amplifying Lincoln Mills, the Court held in Dowd Box v. Courtney that section 301(a) did not divest state courts of jurisdiction in a suit for violation of a provision of a collective bargaining agreement. Thus, impliedly at least, a state court could exercise concurrent jurisdiction in such cases. The Court later held, however, that federal jurisdiction and state jurisdiction over agreement violations were not mutually independent under section 301(a). Incompatible doctrines of local law were held subordinate to federal labor law principles. As a result, the scope of judicial review over an arbitration decision became primarily a question of federal law.
Part II of this Article discusses the Steelworkers Trilogy, a series of three cases, handed down on June 20, 1960, where the Supreme Court outlined the scope of judicial treatment of arbitration provisions in collective bargaining agreements that fall under the ambit of section 301 of the LMRA. These cases are popularly referred to as The Steelworkers Trilogy, include: United Steelworkers v. American Manufacturing Co., United Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., and United Steelworkers v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp. In Part III, this Article examines a representative survey of the various approaches taken by the circuit courts in applying the Enterprise standard of judicial review to the validity of an arbitrator’s award. Part V focuses on specific problems such as the remedial powers of the reviewing court; ambiguous awards; procedural questions; and public policy issues, whether a court will enforce an arbitrator’s award that contravenes public policy, and finally it focuses on the significance of the applicability of the Federal Arbitration Act to collective bargaining agreements. This Article concludes that the arbitration award is not a mere step in a chain of appeals, but is, in most cases, the terminal point of the dispute. If a more liberal scope of review is vested in the judiciary, it will encourage the losing party to appeal to the courts, resulting in a prolongation of the dispute, additional expense to the parties, and loss of confidence in the arbitration process.
Keywords: Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (LMRA), Section 301(a), Collective Bargaining Agreements, Textile Workers Union v. Lincoln Mills, Steelworkers Trilogy, United Steelworkers v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp, Judicial Review, Standard, Federal Arbitration Act, Arbitration, Award
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