Third Circuit Finds Publishing Company Waited Too Long to Challenge Arbitration Award Under Labor Management Relations Act

Carlton Fields

Carlton Fields

Under a collective bargaining agreement that ran from 2014 to 2017 between the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh and PG Publishing, the publisher of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, PG was required to cover a portion of increases to newsroom employees’ health care costs. PG stopped making the contributions after the agreement expired in 2017. After bringing their labor dispute before the NLRB, the parties pursued arbitration to decide whether the guild’s grievance was arbitrable, and if so, whether PG breached the agreement in declining to make the required contributions. In December 2019, the arbitrator found in favor of the guild and directed PG to cover the health care premium increases.

In February 2020, PG sought to vacate the award in federal court through a complaint under both the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) and the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania dismissed PG’s complaint as time-barred and entered an order to enforce the arbitration award. PG appealed.

Agreeing with the district court, the Third Circuit found that PG’s bid to vacate the arbitration award was untimely. The panel noted that even though PG filed its complaint within 90 days of the arbitrator’s award, which is the limitations period applicable to motions to vacate under the FAA, PG’s general references to the FAA in its complaint were not sufficient to invoke the FAA as a means of seeking vacatur distinct from the LMRA. The Third Circuit reasoned that under the LMRA, the limitations period was 30 days from the December 2019 award, and PG did not file its complaint more than 30 days after the issuance of the award. In addition, the Third Circuit rejected PG’s attempt to take advantage of the longer statute of limitations available under the FAA, as PG failed to challenge the award by motion practice, which is required under the FAA.

PG Publishing, Inc. v. Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO LOCAL 38061, No. 20-3475 (3d Cir. Nov. 30, 2021).

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