Granite Rock v. Teamsters: U.S. Supreme Court Rules on Arbitrability

Last week, the U.S. Supreme issued its decision on Granite Rock v. Teamsters, No. 08-1214 , June 24, 2010. Justice Thomas wrote the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Alito. Justices Stevens and Sotomayor concurred in part and dissented in part.

In Granite, the responder is a local union (Local) supported by its parent international (IBT). The petitioner is Granite Rock (Granite), employer of some of Local’s members. The case is about Granite’s claims against Local and IBT for economic damages arising out of a strike. The parties had reached a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), however, they disagreed about the date the CBA was formed and who should decide that question. Granite contended that the agreement was ratified on July 2 (containing non-strike and arbitration clauses) while Local argued that it was on August 22.

The Court held that a district court, not an arbitrator, should decide the CBA ratification date. The court noted that “[t]he CBA requires arbitration of disputes that ‘arise under’ the agreement. The parties’ ratification-date dispute does not clearly fit that description.”

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