City of Bridgeport and NAGE, Local RI-200
If a union files more than one grievance in which the "nature of the complaint" and the "resolution desired" are identical, and one of the matters is arbitrated to a final decision, a later grievance on the same subject may not be arbitrable. Previously, the union filed a grievance, alleging that the City of Bridgeport wrongly discharged bargaining unit members who were away on workers' compensation leave. In the earlier arbitration, the arbitrators ruled in favor of the city. The union filed a second "class action" complaint. The city objected that the central issue in the "class action" complaint already was arbitrated in the earlier case and that the previous arbitration was final and covered the present parties, one of whom was the union's principal witness in the earlier arbitration. The city observed that the "nature of the complaint" and the "resolution desired" were identical in the earlier and the present grievance complaints. Several individuals were identified as grievants in both arbitration matters. Arbitrators voted, 2-1, that the matter was not arbitrable. The only differences between the earlier grievance and the current matter were the names of the parties, some of whom were the same. "As defining members of a class in an arbitration that has been settled," wrote the majority, "they cannot be used again as class members for a second claimed class action grievance on the same issue." A ruling in favor of arbitrability, added the majority, "could conceivably force the City to arbitrate dozens of cases which all present the same group of grievants and the same issue." Philip White represented the municipality, and Elizabeth Ditman represented the union.