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Olympia Police Guild v. City of Olympia

February 15, 1991

OLYMPIA POLICE GUILD, ET AL, APPELLANTS,
v.
THE CITY OF OLYMPIA, RESPONDENT



Worswick, C.j. Petrich and Alexander, JJ., concur.

Author: Worswick

The City of Olympia suspended one of its police officers for 1 day without pay, purportedly for cause. The Olympia Police Guild asserted a grievance under its collective bargaining agreement with the City, challenging whether the City had cause for the discipline. When the City failed to respond, the Guild invoked arbitration proceedings under the grievance procedure and, when the City still did not respond, sued for specific performance to compel arbitration. It now appeals summary judgment dismissing its action.

The Guild contended in superior court, as it does here, that whether the City had cause for the suspension specifically was an arbitrable issue under the collective bargaining agreement. The City contended that the agreement is ambiguous, and it presented extrinsic evidence purporting to show that the parties meant to exclude disciplinary actions from arbitration. The trial court agreed with the City. We do not. We reverse, holding that the agreement is not ambiguous, and that well-settled law requires that the

agreement be construed as requiring arbitration of the cause issue.

Article VII of the collective bargaining agreement provides

B. For the purpose of this Agreement, a grievance is defined as only those disputes involving the interpretation, application, or alleged violation of any provision of this Agreement,. . . .

(Italics ours.) Article IV, titled "Management rights", provides that the City has "[t]he right to discipline, discharge, or suspend employees for cause ; . . .".

[1] Article IV of the agreement only gives the City a limited disciplinary prerogative; it requires cause for discipline. It follows that, if the City had no cause for the suspension in dispute, its action was a violation of the collective bargaining agreement. The subject of cause, therefore, was an arbitrable issue. The agreement is unambiguous and extrinsic evidence is not required to interpret it. See St. Yves v. Mid State Bank, 111 Wash. 2d 374, 378, 757 P.2d 1384 (1988).

The City seems to concede that the agreement excerpts set forth above are unambiguous, but it argues that an ambiguity appears upon reading the entirety of Article IV.*fn1 The City asserts that subjecting any issue classified as a management prerogative under Article IV to the grievance and arbitration procedure opens to arbitration anything the City does under the authority of that provision. This could

not have been intended, it says, because management prerogatives were considered sacrosanct by the contracting parties.

The language of Article IV simply does not support the City's argument. There is no suggestion in that language that, other than cause for discipline, any management prerogative is subject to arbitration. Allowing arbitration for ...


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