Briggs and Union

Full title: BRIGGS STRATTON CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, v. LOCAL 232

Court: United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

Date published: Oct 3, 1994

Facts

Before considering the legal principles applicable to this case, it is important to recall the Union’s situation. The majority implies that the Union is somehow derelict in establishing its entitlement to a stay, either because it did not make a formal demand for arbitration before moving the district court for a stay of proceedings, or because it coupled its motion for a stay with a motion to dismiss, or because it is willing to arbitrate but, according to the majority, it is not eager—for it is not eager enough. I disagree.

The union has no current complaints against the company. Its previous complaint—that the company had improperly instituted changes in the structure of the Large Engine Division—was the subject of both the work-to-rule campaign and of a grievance brought by the Union and settled by an arbitrator. The company currently has a complaint against the union since it is attempting to recover over three million dollars in damages on account of alleged economic losses suffered during the work-to-rule campaign. Under Drake Bakeries, Inc. v. Local 50, American Bakery Confectionery Workers International, 370 U.S. 254, 82 S.Ct. 1346, 8 L.Ed.2d 474 (1962), if the company had the right to arbitrate this grievance, it had the obligation to do so before filing suit. See, e.g., Mautz Oren, Inc. v. Teamsters Local No. 279, 882 F.2d 1117, 1126, 1126 n. 15 (7th Cir. 1989) (because under the parties’ agreement in that case the employer “may initiate grievance proceedings,” it was required to exhaust all its arbitral remedies before suing the union).

Issue

Decision

The panel majority in Mautz Oren v. Teamsters Local No. 279, 882 F.2d 1117 (7th Cir. 1989), praised the court’s decision but did not follow its holding. Mautz Oren provides objective criteria for ascertaining whether a party has invoked an arbitration clause. The panel majority’s methodology, which relies on concessions from the defendant on appeal, is a departure from the established division of responsibility between trial and appellate courts. RIPPLE, Circuit Judge, dissents from the denial of rehearing en banc, stating that respect for stare decisis and precedent requires adhering to the panel majority’s decision.

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