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International Association of Federal Firefighters, Local F-263 v. Secretary of Navy

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

February 29, 2016

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FEDERAL FIREFIGHTERS, LOCAL F-263, Plaintiff,
v.
SECRETARY OF THE NAVY, COMMANDER NAVY REGION HAWAII, FEDERAL FIRE DEPARTMENT, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING RESPONDENTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS AND DISMISSING PETITIONER’S MOTION TO CONFIRM ARBITRATION AWARD

LESLIE E. KOBAYASHI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Before the Court are: Petitioner International Association of Federal Firefighters, Local F-263’s (“Petitioner” or “the Union”) Motion to Confirm Arbitration Award (“Motion to Confirm”), filed on December 18, 2015; and Respondents Secretary of the Navy, and Commander Navy Region Hawaii, Federal Fire Department’s (“Respondents”) Motion to Dismiss, filed on January 19, 2016. [Dkt. nos. 1, 7.] Respondents did not file a memorandum in opposition to the Motion to Confirm. Petitioner filed its memorandum in opposition to the Motion to Dismiss on January 27, 2016, and Respondents filed their reply on February 3, 2016. [Dkt. nos. 11, 12.] These matters came on for hearing on February 8, 2016. After careful consideration of the motions, supporting and opposing memoranda, and the arguments of counsel, Respondents’ Motion to Dismiss is HEREBY GRANTED, and Petitioner’s Motion to Confirm is HEREBY DISMISSED for lack of jurisdiction, as set forth below.

BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are not in dispute. See Mem. in Supp. of Motion to Dismiss at 1 (“The declaration of Petitioner’s Counsel establishes the basic timeline of relevant events.”). Petitioner represents “all non-professional general schedule employees of the Oahu Federal Fire Department, Naval Station, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii” (“NAVSTA Pearl” or “the Employer”), which is a division of the United States Department of the Navy (“the Navy”). [Motion to Confirm, Decl. of Peter L. Trask (“Trask Decl.”) at ¶¶ 2-3.] NAVSTA Pearl and Petitioner entered into a collective bargaining agreement, which took effect on June 9, 1993 (“CBA” or “Agreement”). [Id., Exh. 1 (CBA).] The CBA states:

Arbitration may be invoked only by the Union or the Employer and shall extend only to matters which may be processed under Article XX, Grievance Procedure. The arbitrator’s award shall be binding on the Parties except that the Union or the Employer may file exceptions to the arbitrator’s award in the manner prescribed by law.

[CBA at 36, art. XXI, § 1.]

On January 21, 2011, the Union initiated a Class Grievance against NAVSTA Pearl, pursuant to Article XX of the CBA. The Class Grievance alleged that NAVSTA Pearl failed to pay eleven Series 640 Health Technicians overtime compensation that they were entitled to, in violation of: the CBA, Article VII -Overtime; and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. On March 30, 2011, the Union moved the Class Grievance to the second step, and later to arbitration. [Trask Decl. at ¶¶ 6, 8.]

Walter Benavitz, Jr. (“the Arbitrator”) accepted the appointment to serve as the arbitrator for the Class Grievance. [Id. at ¶ 5, Exh. 2 (letter dated 4/24/14, from Benavitz accepting appointment).] The Arbitrator presided over an arbitration hearing on October 7, 8, and 9, 2014. At the hearing, the Arbitrator heard testimony from seven witnesses and received fifty-nine exhibits into the record. The Arbitrator received post-hearing briefs, and issued his decision thereafter. [Trask Decl. at ¶¶ 7, 9.] His December 19, 2015 Arbitration Decision and Award (“Arbitration Award”) is Exhibit 3 to the Trask Declaration.

The Arbitration Award states that the parties stipulated to present the following issues to the Arbitrator: “1. Whether the Employer is or has been properly compensating the class grievants. If not, what is the appropriate remedy? 2. Whether the Employer has willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If so, what is the appropriate remedy?” [Arbitration Award at 2.] The “Award” section states:

For the reasons and grounds hereinabove stated, the grievance is denied in part and sustained in part. The Employer is ordered adjust [sic] the Grievant [Jarett] Martin’s pay to reflect “true overtime” from the date in December 2010 when he reported to the Federal Fire Department after recruit training until December 31, 2013. The Employer is ordered to apply the remedy to all the other Grievants in the class. In part the Grievance is denied in that effective January 1, 2014 the Employer may compensate the Grievants with annual premium pay for standby duty in addition to overtime pay in accordance with DOD Financial Management Regulations regarding Overtime Computation for FLSA Nonexempt EMTs and paramedics and 5 CFR § 551.512.
The Employer is ordered to make all Grievants in the class whole for all rights and benefits related to the pay adjustments.
The undersigned will retain jurisdiction in this matter for a period of forty-five (45) days from the receipt of this Award to resolve any matters relative to the application or interpretation of the remedy.

[Id. at 25.]

Petitioner’s counsel states that neither Petitioner nor NAVSTA Pearl filed an appeal from the Arbitration Award, nor did anyone file an action to vacate, modify, or correct the award. Petitioner also points out that NAVSTA Pearl did not file any exception to the Arbitration Award. [Trask Decl. At ¶¶ 10-11.] However, according to Petitioner, the Navy failed to implement the Arbitration Award, as required by 5 U.S.C. § 7122(b). Petitioner therefore filed an unfair labor practice (“ULP”) charge, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 7116(a), with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (“FLRA” or “the Authority”) on April 15, 2015 (“4/15/15 ULP Charge”). [Id. at ¶ 11.]

In the Motion to Confirm, Petitioner argues that the award is final and binding, and it asks this Court to confirm the Arbitration Award pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. § 1, et seq. Under the FAA, a party to an arbitration to apply for an order confirming the award within one year after the award was made. 9 U.S.C. § 9. Petitioner also prays for an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred to obtain confirmation of the Arbitration Award, as well as any other appropriate relief.

In the Motion to Dismiss, Respondents urge this Court to dismiss this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Petitioner’s only available remedy is through the FLRA; district courts do not have jurisdiction to enforce arbitration awards involving federal sector labor unions. Respondents point out that, in addition to the 4/15/15 ULP Charge, Petitioner filed a similar ULP charge with ...


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