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Bakery v. Kellogg Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

September 13, 2017

BAKERY, CONFECTIONERY, TOBACCO WORKERS and GRAIN MILLERS, INTERNATIONAL UNION and LOCAL UNION NO. 3-G. BAKERY, CONFECTIONERY, TOBACCO WORKERS AND GRAIN MILLERS, Plaintiffs,
v.
KELLOGG COMPANY, Defendant.

          OPINION REGARDING UNIONS' MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION

          GORDON J. QUIST UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs, Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers, International Union AFL-CIO, CLC (International Union) and Local Union No. 3-G, Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (Local Union), filed an amended complaint against Defendant, Kellogg Company, pursuant to § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, alleging that Kellogg failed to pay a contract ratification bonus to casual employees (now referred to as transitional employees).[1] Count I of the amended complaint alleges that Kellogg failed to arbitrate Grievance 40-15, concerning Kellogg's refusal to pay the ratification bonus to casual employees, and Count II alleges nonperformace by Kellogg and requests a jury trial in the event the Court declines to compel arbitration.

         The Unions move to compel Kellogg to arbitrate. The Court heard oral argument on the motion on September 11, 2017. For the following reasons, the Court will deny the Unions' motion.

         I. Background

         A.The Parties' Agreements

         Kellogg is a manufacturer of breakfast foods, including ready-to-eat cereal. The International Union, through local affiliates, represents production and maintenance employees at Kellogg's four ready-to-eat cereal plants, two of which are located in Battle Creek, Michigan, and Memphis, Tennessee. (ECF No. 12-3.) See Kellogg Co. v. NLRB, 840 F.3d 322, 325 (6th Cir. 2016). The Local Union is the bargaining unit for production and maintenance employees at the Battle Creek Plant.

         The parties' collective bargaining relationship is governed by two separate agreements. The first-the so-called Master Agreement-applies to employees at all four plants. The second agreement-known as the Supplemental Agreement-is the product of bargaining at the local level and is specific to Battle Creek employees. The Master Agreement covers “only those matters specifically included” in that agreement, and provides that the Supplemental Agreement (and the separate supplemental agreements entered into at Kellogg's other facilities) shall govern “except as specifically amended or modified by [the Master] Agreement.” (ECF No. 12-3 at PageID.1074.)

         In addition to its regular employees, Kellogg has a “casual employee” program at its Battle Creek Plant. Casual employees “provide regular employees with relief from extended work schedules.” (ECF No. 12-2 at PageID.1054.) Such employees may generally not be used when regular employees are on layoff or want to work overtime. (Id.) With the exception of one limited reference in the Master Agreement, the terms of employment for casual employees are governed exclusively by a Memorandum of Agreement appended to the Supplemental Agreement, captioned, “Guidelines for Utilization of Casual Employees.” (Id.) The Memorandum of Agreement states, in part:

The terms and conditions of the Supplemental and Master Agreements will not apply to Casual employees. Only the following fringe benefits will be granted to Casual employees, and they will not accumulate seniority:
• Uniforms
• Lunch and Breaks
• Shift Differential
• Wage Appendix of the Master ...

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