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Mercury Oil Refining Co. v. Oil Workers International Union

March 17, 1951

MERCURY OIL REFINING CO.
v.
OIL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, CIO, ET AL. OIL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, CIO, ET AL. V. MERCURY OIL REFINING CO.



Pickett

Before BRATTON, HUXMAN and PICKETT, Circuit Judges.

PICKETT, Circuit Judge.

The Oil Workers International Union, CIO, a labor organization representing employees of the Mercury Oil Refining Company, and Roy Goodall brought this action against the company to enforce a purported award made by an arbitration board constituted under an arbitration clause in a collective bargaining agreement.*fn1 The company contended that this award was ineffective and asked that a prior award of the same board be enforced. The trial court held that both awards were without effect and directed further arbitration proceedings. D.C., 89 F.Supp. 702. Both parties have appealed.

The dispute submitted to the arbitration board grew out of the discharge of Goodall from the employ of the company. On February 21 and 22, 1949, the board investigated the dispute and heard evidence of the parties. On February 26, a decision was agreed upon by the company representative and the neutral member who had been selected in accordance with the terms of the contract. It was signed by these two members and delivered to the parties. This decision was to the effect that Goodall should not have been discharged but demoted without pay. It also directed that Goodall be reclassified and given employment by the company without designating what that employment should be.*fn2 The union, Goodall, and the union representative, complained about the decision and without further hearing or the taking of additional evidence the union representative and the neutral member undertook to rewrite and modify the former award. On March 21, 1949, they executed and delivered another award which in part reversed the former. This decision provided that the discharge of Goodall should be modified to demotion and named the position to which he should be employed. It further directed that he be paid his wages from the date of discharge less income received from other sources after the discharge. It is this award that the union and Goodall seek to enforce.

The different actions of the arbitration board present two questions: 1. Was the first award sufficiently definite to be enforced? 2. After the publication of the first award did the board have authority to enter the second award?

Arbitration is designed to settle controversies and disputes between parties by a method other than through the regularly established tribunals of justice. Its purpose is to eliminate future disputes and litigation. To accomplish this, decisions arrived at by arbitrators must be final and complete and leave no doubt as to the manner in which they are to be made effective. The award need not be in technical or exact language but certainty is an essential and indispensable element to its validity. It must be sufficiently definite that only ministerial acts of the parties are needed to carry it into effect. 3 Am.Jur., Arbitration and Award, Sec. 125; 6 C.J.S., Arbitration and Award, § 84, p. 231; Baldwin v. Moses, 319 Mass. 401, 66 N.E.2d 24; McInnish v. Lanier, 215 Ala. 87, 107 So. 377; In re E. A. Laboratories, Sup., 50 N.Y.S.2d 222; Albert v. Goor, 70 Ariz. 214, 218 P.2d 736. It is clear that this first award does not meet the requirements necessary to make it effective. It did no more than say that Goodall should be reinstated to such employment which he was competent and capable of doing. The classification and the nature of the employment was left entirely to the judgment of the company. It did anything but eliminate future disputes and litigation. The employment offered by the company was promptly rejected by the union and Goodall who were willing to accept the demotion fixed by the subsequent action of the arbitration board.

The first award purported on its face to be complete and final. It did not indicate in any manner that the arbitrators had not settled the questions submitted to them or that there was any intention to reserve to themselves any matters for further or future consideration and determination. The neutral member testified that he prepared the original award, signed it and understood that it would be final and a binding award if another member of the board signed it.*fn3 Oklahoma has no statute providing for proceedings when arbitration is agreed upon. Labor contracts are specifically excluded from the federal arbitration act. 9 U.S.C.A.§ 1. International Union etc., v. Colonial Hardwood Flooring Co., 4 Cir., 168 F.2d 33; Watkins v. Hudson Coal Co., 3 Cir., 151 F.2d 311, certiorari denied 327 U.S. 777, 66 S. Ct. 522, 90 L. Ed. 1005; Gatliff Coal Co. v. Cox, 6 Cir., 142 F.2d 876. It is a general rule in common law arbitration that when arbitrators have executed their award and declared their decision they are functus officio and have no power or authority to proceed further. City of St. Charles v. Stookey, 8 Cir., 154 F. 772; Citizens Bldg. of West Palm Beach v. Western Union Tel. Co., 5 Cir., 120 F.2d 982; Cases Collected in Pierce Steel Pipe Corp. v. Flannery, 319 Pa. 332, 179 A. 558, 104 A.L.R. 710. It follows that the attempt of the two members of the arbitration board to rewrite the decision formerly agreed upon and published was without effect.

There remains for consideration that portion of the judgment which directs further arbitration in accordance with the terms of the contract. It is a general rule that in the absence of statute or contract provision, courts ordinarily may not require specific performance of an arbitration clause in a private contract. Restatement, Contracts, Vol. 2, Sec. 500; Williston on Contracts, Vol. 5, Sec. 1421; Tejas Development Co. v. McGough Bros., 5 Cir., 165 F.2d 276, 279; Utility Workers Union v. Ohio Power Co., Ohio Com.Pl., 77 N.E.2d 629; Sydnor Pump & Well Co. v. County School Board, 182 Va. 156, 28 S.E.2d 33, 39. We find it unnecessary to decide that point now. Here there was no demand in the pleadings for further arbitration. Both parties challenge that provision of the judgment. There is no indication that either party has refused or will refuse in the future to arbitrate under the provisions of the contract which are still effective.

The jurisdiction of the federal court has its source in 29 U.S.C.A. § 185(a) where it is said, "Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, * * * may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties." This statute is for the purpose only of giving jurisdiction to the federal courts in cases involving labor contracts. It does not give the federal courts any different or additional power than a state court would have if the action had been brought there. Under the Rules of Civil Procedure, federal courts in their discretion may grant relief of a kind not requested in the pleading of either party,*fn4 but there is nothing in this case to indicate that further arbitration should be forced on the parties against their wishes. They may desire to dispose of the dispute other than by the institution of further arbitration proceedings.

Judgment of the District Court holding the two awards of the arbitrators invalid is affirmed. That portion of the judgment directing ...


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