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Virginia Professional Staff Association v. Virginia Education Association

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

April 28, 2014

VIRGINIA PROFESSIONAL STAFF ASSOCIATION, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
VIRGINIA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES R. SPENCER, Senior District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss or Stay and Compel Arbitration ("Motion") (ECF No. 10) filed by Defendant Virginia Education Association ("VEA"). Plaintiffs include the Virginia Professional Staff Association ("VPSA")-a union-and fourteen former members of the VPSA (collectively, "Individual Plaintiffs") who were previously employed by VEA and who retired between 2006 and 2012. Plaintiffs filed a Complaint on February 3, 2014, alleging breach of two collective bargaining agreements ("CBAs"), in violation of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185, and in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq. For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT the Motion, STAY these proceedings, and COMPEL arbitration.

I. BACKGROUND

VPSA has represented employees of VEA for the purposes of collective bargaining for many years and has been the signatory on a number of CBAs with VEA. Specifically, VPSA represented the Individual Plaintiffs during negotiation of a CBA effective from 2006 until 2009 ("2006 CBA") and a CBA effective from 2009 until 2012 ("2009 CBA") (collectively, "Expired CBAs"). Each of the Individual Plaintiffs retired from employment with VEA between 2006 and 2012, during the effective periods of either the 2006 CBA or the 2009 CBA.

Both the Expired CBAs contain identical provisions imposing a binding arbitration requirement for grievances and establishing a retiree medical benefit. The requirement of arbitration is imposed as the third step in a grievance procedure established by the Expired CBAs. The arbitration provision and the retiree medical benefit provision, respectively, state:

If VPSA is not satisfied with the written decision [of VEA] and wishes to proceed further under this grievance procedure, VPSA shall, within fifteen (15) days after having received the written decision, submit the grievance to arbitration by filing a written Demand for Arbitration with the American Arbitration Association....

All disputes of grievability or arbitrability shall be resolved by the arbitrator. (2009 CBA, ECF No. 11, Attach. 1, at 14, 16; 2006 CBA, ECF No. 11, Attach. 2, at 19, 22.)

Upon retirement, VEA shall pay $50 per year of service to the VEA or any of its local affiliates (up to a maximum of 30 years) for retirees' coverage in the VEA hospitalization and major medical insurance program until age 65.
For retirees 65 years of age or older, VEA shall pay $30 per year of service to the VEA or any of its local affiliates (up to a maximum of 30 years) for retirees' coverage to their hospitalization insurance carrier until age 75.

(2009 CBA, at 32; 2006 CBA, at 47.) Within the meaning of the Expired CBAs, a grievance subject to arbitration "is a claim by the [VPSA], acting on behalf of itself, or for any member... of a violation, misinterpretation, misapplication, or inequitable application [of the Expired CBAs], which affect the wages, hours, terms and other conditions of employment...." (2009 CBA, at 13; 2006 CBA, at 19.) The Expired CBAs make the decision of the arbitrator "final and binding upon all parties." (2009 CBA, at 14; 2006 CBA, at 20.)

Pursuant to the retiree medical benefit provision, each of the Individual Plaintiffs began receiving an annual stipend from VEA upon retirement. The amount of the stipend varied based on each Individual Plaintiffs' years of employment with VEA. These payments continued until early 2013, when the Individual Plaintiffs were notified that VEA would cease or decrease stipend payments pursuant to the provisions of a newly negotiated CBA.

As it had with prior CBAs, VPSA negotiated a CBA effective from 2012 until 2015 ("2012 CBA") on behalf of VEA's employees. The 2012 CBA changed the retiree medical benefit, eliminating the stipend for retirees over the age of 65 and decreasing the stipend for retirees between the ages of 55 and 65. It states:

Upon retirement, VEA shall pay $40 per year of service to the VEA (up to a maximum of 30 years) for retirees' coverage in the VEA hospitalization and major medical insurance program until 65.

(2012 CBA, ECF No. 11, Attach. 3, at 36.) The binding arbitration requirement is effectively unchanged in the 2012 CBA. ( See 2012 ...


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