Labor Unions’ Jurisdictional Disputes Are Outside the Reach of Arbitration Agreement

Chenango Sports, Inc. v. Laborers’ Int’l Union of N.A. #17, 2010 WL 5391541 (N.D.N.Y. Dec. 22, 2010)

In this case, the plaintiff contractor was hired to install field turf outside a public school.  The two defendant labor unions argued that the parties had signed an agreement to use labor from their unions, but that the plaintiff then instead used labor from a carpenter’s union, claiming that the work could only be performed by a carpenter’s union (as a labor jurisdictional matter).  The dispute centered around whether the labor agreement included the two unions in question – it did not include their signatures – and whether the plaintiff had actually begun using their labor before hiring the carpenter’s union workers.  The defendant unions filed a motion to compel arbitration, and the plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss the underlying arbitration proceedings.  The District Court for the Northern District of New York granted the plaintiff’s motion, dismissing the arbitration claims on the grounds that the dispute was jurisdictional in nature and therefore outside the reach of the arbitration agreement.  After resolving this question, the only question of federal law implicated in the dispute, the court remanded to the New York Supreme Court for resolution of the factual disputes.

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