International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, AFL-CIO v. Flair Builders, Inc.

PETITIONER: International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, AFL-CIO
RESPONDENT: Flair Builders, Inc.
LOCATION: Former Moose Lodge No. 107

DOCKET NO.: 71-41
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 406 US 487 (1972)
ARGUED: Apr 10, 1972
DECIDED: May 30, 1972

ADVOCATES:
Bernard M. Baum - for petitioner
J. Robert Murphy -

Facts of the case

Question

Media for International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, AFL-CIO v. Flair Builders, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 10, 1972 in International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, AFL-CIO v. Flair Builders, Inc.

Warren E. Burger:

This morning in number 71-41, International Union of Operating Engineers against Flair Builders.

Mr. Baum you may proceed.

Bernard M. Baum:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case involves an action brought under Section 301, the Labor Management Relations Act requesting the enforcement of the demand for arbitration.

The complaint as amended was dismissed by the District Court, which found that although the company in this case was bound to the collective bargaining agreement to arbitrate labor disputes within the scope of that agreement that it was unenforceable, since the Union was guilty of laches.

On appeal, the decision of the District Court was affirmed, Judge Stevens dissenting.

Thereafter, the Fourth Circuit rendered a decision in which it held that laches should be a question for the arbitrator and not for the Court and specifically disagree with the case at bar.

Accordingly, an issue which we have presented to this Court is whether once a Court has determined that a labor dispute is arbitrable under the terms of a contract should the issue of laches or the question of delay, be determined by the arbitrator or the Court.

In this regard, what occurred in this case before the District Court is most pertinent to a determination of this issue.

On May 22, 1964 the Union and the employer entered into a memorandum of agreement which bound the company and the Union to a master agreement which had been negotiated between the Union and employer association.

The memorandum of agreement provided that the company would be bound to the initial master agreement and also subsequent master agreements, unless they terminated at the time that the first agreement was expiring or any subsequent agreement.

Now, the initial agreement, the memorandum as I said was signed in May 22, 1964.

The initial master agreement expired in May 31, 1966 and thereafter, on June 1 a new agreement came into effect which it was to expire on May 31 of 1970.

Now, in this regard again, I should note to the Court that there is no issue in this case.

That the District Court found that there was binding agreement between the parties.

And there was no issue on appeal regarding the binding nature of the agreement.

The issue came as the decision of the question of laches.

Now, during the course of the second agreement or approximately of November 7, 1968, we filed a complaint on the District Court requesting pursuant to Section 301 stating that the employer had disregarded the agreement that refuse to pay the wages and conditions under the agreement and further had refuse to comply with the hiring arrangements which are under the contract.

We ask in that case for specific performance of the agreement.

This involved one employee, isn't it?

Bernard M. Baum:

Well, at that point there had only been one employee.

One position?

Bernard M. Baum:

At that point, involved an operating engineer.

One position.

Bernard M. Baum:

Right!

Of course our contention Your Honor is that there were several other employees that would have been in the bargaining agreement during the course of this agreement had the employer complied.

And I think that's one of the very fundamental issues in the arbitration.

Now, what happened here was that the District Court said, I think that the threshold issue should be determined by the arbitrator under the terms of this contract and I shouldn't decide it.

So, we went ahead, and this was in April of 1968 where the master agreement still had 13 months to run, and pursuant to the Court directive made a demand on the company for arbitration of the contract issue and in addition made a demand for the other issues -- the arbitration of the other issues which has been set forth in the complaint.

The Court, the counsel for the company then filed a motion to dismiss, alleging laches is a defense.