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International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1393 v. Clark County Rural Electric Membership Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

April 24, 2018

INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, LOCAL 1393, Petitioner,
v.
CLARK COUNTY RURAL ELECTRIC MEMBERSHIP CORPORATION, Respondent.

          ENTRY ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          RICHARDX. YOUNG, JUDGE

         Respondent, Clark County Rural Electric Membership Corporation (“Clark REMC”) and Petitioner, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1393 (“Union”) are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. On October 18, 2017, Clark REMC unilaterally implemented a residency rule which required all Union employees to live within 17 miles of its service territory. The Union promptly filed a grievance and eventually a demand for arbitration. After Clark REMC rejected the Union's demand, the Union filed a Petition to Compel Arbitration in this court. The parties' now cross-move for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS the Union's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment and DENIES Clark REMC's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. Background

         The Union is a labor organization headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Filing No. 22-1, Affidavit of John Cochran (“Cochran Aff.”) ¶ 2). It represents the employees-mostly Linemen-at Clark REMC, an electric company located in Clark County, Indiana. (Id. ¶ 4).

         In August 2016, Clark REMC notified the Union Steward that it would be implementing a new rule titled “Company Rules for Service Vehicles.” (Id. ¶ 6; Filing 22-5, Proposed “Company Rules for Service Vehicles” rule[1]). This rule provided that all vehicles used by employees on service watch had to remain within a ten-minute driving distance of the REMC's service territory, and employees were required to take a company vehicle home when they were on service watch. (Id.). According to the Union, the rule implicitly imposed a residency requirement because employees are required to take their trucks home when they stand watch. (Cochran Aff. ¶ 6).

         Upon being notified of the planned rule, the Union notified Clark REMC it considered the rule “unreasonable and in violation of the collective bargaining agreement” because (1) the CBA does not contain residency limitations and only provides that employees must remain “at home where they can be quickly and conveniently reached” when they are on watch, and (2) it would prevent employee Curtis Bussabarger from purchasing a home he had been planning to purchase. (Filing No. 22-6, August 23, 2016 Letter re Clark REMC's Proposed Living Requirement Policy). The Union informed Clark REMC that if it implemented the rule, the Union would “commence the grievance procedure under Article IV of the collective bargaining agreement.” (Id.). In addition, since the CBA did not address residency requirements, the Union demanded that the REMC bargain with it before any residency requirement was implemented, in the hope that a mutually acceptable rule could be agreed to. (Id.; Cochran Aff. ¶ 7).

         On November 14, 2016, the Union and Clark REMC met to discuss the proposed residency requirement. (Cochran Aff. ¶ 8). No. agreement was reached, and no rule was implemented thereafter. (Id.).

         On August 29, 2017, Clark REMC notified the Union that it wished to continue discussing the residency requirements. (Id. ¶ 9; Filing No. 17-2, Affidavit of David A. Vince (“Vince Aff.”) ¶ 10). The parties met on September 25, 2017 for close to two hours. (Id. ¶¶ 10- 11). Clark REMC submitted three proposals, and the Union submitted two proposals. (Vince Aff. ¶ 12). Clark REMC's proposal required all employees to live within the Clark REMC service territory or “within a 17-mile radius (as the crow flies) from the center of service territory AND within Indiana AND within a county served by Clark [] REMC.” (Id., Ex. 5). Employees were given 60 days to relocate. (Id.). The Union's proposal required all employees to live in Indiana, in a county served by Clark REMC, and within a 25-mile radius from the center of the territory. (Id.).

         On October 4, 2017, Clark REMC extended what it called its “Last, Best, and Final Offer” to the Union over the vehicle use and residency requirements by written letter. (Id. ¶ 13, Ex. 5, October 4, 2017, “Last, Best and Final Offer” letter). This offer was identical to the previous offer submitted by the Company, except it gave employees 90 days instead of 60 days to relocate. (Cochran Aff. ¶ 13).

         The Union responded that a “last, best, and final” offer was “premature” because the parties were not at impasse. (Filing No. 22-8, October 9, 2017, Email). The Union notified Clark REMC that if it was willing to continue negotiations, the Union would make a counter-offer. (Id.). The Union also notified Clark REMC that it considered the residency rule contained in the “Last, Best, and Final Offer” to be unreasonable, and that if Clark implements the rule over the Union's objection, it reserved its right to file a contractual grievance over it. (Id.).

         On October 18, 2017, Clark REMC notified the Union it would be implementing the residency requirement (hereinafter the “Residency Rule”) contained in its Last, Best, and Final Offer effective that day. (Filing No. 22-9, October 18, 2017, Letter). The Union filed a Grievance over the Residency Rule, protesting the “Company's unfair and discriminatory implementation” of the Rule. (Filing No. 22-4, Grievance). The Union also alleged that the Rule violated Articles I and III of the parties' CBA “and all others that apply.” (Id.). Clark REMC refused to acknowledge the Union's grievance as an appropriate subject of the grievance and arbitration provisions of the CBA. (Vince Aff. ¶ 18). The Union thereafter submitted a written demand for arbitration. (Id. ¶ 20 and attached Ex. 10). Clark REMC rejected the demand. (Id. ¶ 21 and attached Ex. 11).

         The Union's Petition to Compel Arbitration followed.

         II. Discussion

         The Union argues its Grievance is arbitrable under the grievance procedure contained in Article IV of the CBA. Clark REMC argues it is not. In resolving this issue, the court begins with the language ...


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