This Law Court case is not an appeal of an MLRB decision.
It has been placed on the Board's website because it is a 
noteworthy case involving Maine's public sector collective 
bargaining laws.

Decision:  7078
Docket:    CUM-93-781 
Argued:    September 21, 1994 
Decided:   December 19, 1994

                  TEAMSTERS UNION LOCAL #340 and RALPH DOBSON 
                            PORTLAND WATER DISTRICT


     WATHEN, C.J.

     Plaintiffs, Teamsters Union Local #340 and Ralph Dobson, appeal from 
a judgment entered in the Superior Court (Cumberland County, Saufley, J.) 
denying their application to compel arbitration of an employment grievance 
involving Dobson's employer, the Portland Water District ("District").  
Because we conclude as an initial matter that the District has no 
obligation to arbitrate this grievance after the expiration of the 
collective bargaining agreement, we affirm without reaching the ground 
relied on by the Superior Court.[fn]1

     The facts may be summarized as follows:  In April and May of 1993, a 
number of Portland Water District employees, including Dobson, conducted 
informational picketing on Douglass Street in front of the District's 
headquarters to protest stalled collective bargaining negotiations. The 
prior collective bargaining agreement had expired in December of 1992.  
When the employees went to work, they put picket signs on their cars and 
parked them on Douglass Street in violation of the District's written 
parking policy that prohibited parking on Douglass Street during

1.  The Superior Court determined that the decision by the Maine Labor
  Relations Board dismissing plaintiffs' prohibited practices complaint 
  represents a final adjudication in an administrative proceeding and has 
  res judicata effect in arbitration on the issue of whether Dobson was 
  terminated for just cause.

the workday.  The District disciplined Dobson pursuant to a progressive 
discipline policy that provides for a documented verbal warning, a written 
warning, a one day suspension, a five day suspension, a last chance final 
written warning, and then discharge.  On returning to work after his five 
day suspension and last chance final written warning, Dobson again parked 
his car on Douglass Street and was subsequently discharged.

     In addition to grieving the discipline, plaintiffs Dobson and the 
Union filed a prohibited practice complaint with the Maine Labor Relations 
Board claiming that the parking policy was selectively enforced to limit 
the rights of union members in violation of 26 M.R.S.A.  964.[fn]2  The 
Board denied the District's request to defer to arbitration.  After a 
hearing, the Board issued an oral ruling dismissing the charges of 
prohibited practices, followed by a written decision on September 7, 1993.  
No appeal was taken from the Board's decision.

     Plaintiffs then attempted to proceed to arbitration on the issue of 
whether Dobson had been dismissed for just cause.  The District refused 
to arbitrate and, pursuant to 14 M.R.S.A.  5928,[fn]3 plaintiffs filed 
an application to compel arbitration in the Superior Court.  After 
reviewing the Board's decision, and hearing oral argument by the parties, 
the court denied plaintiffs' application, finding that "there remains 
nothing that an arbitrator could determine without either collaterally 
attacking the decision of the Board or simply affirming the Board's 
decision."  Plaintiffs appeal, contending that the District is obligated 
to arbitrate and that the Board's decision does not have res judicata 
effect on the issue of Dobson's termination for just cause.[fn]4

     Plaintiffs argue that the expiration of the collective bargaining 
agreement does not extinguish the District's duty to arbitrate disputes 
arising under the agreement.  They further assert that a dispute arises 
under a collective bargaining agreement when it concerns an obligation 
created by the expired agreement so that resolution of the dispute hinges 
on the interpretation of the contract clause that engendered the claim.  
Plaintiffs argue that Dobson's claim hinges on an interpretation of the 
phrase "just cause" and thus the District's obligation to arbitrate the 
grievance was not extinguished by the expiration of the collective 
bargaining agreement.  We disagree.

     As a matter of law, no obligation exists to arbitrate a grievance 
that arises after the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement 
unless that grievance involves rights that vested or accrued, or facts or 
occurrences that arose while the collective bargaining agreement was in 
effect.  Lane v. Bd. of Directors of Maine Sch. Admin. Dist. No. 8, 
447 A.2d 806 (Me. 1982).[fn]5  Here we are  

2.  26 M.R.S.A.  964 provides in part: "Public employers, their
  representatives and their agents are prohibited from:

    A.  Interfering with, restraining or coercing employees in the 
  exercise of their rights guaranteed in section 963;"

     963 enumerates the rights of public employees to join labor 

3.  14 M.R.S.A.  5928 provides in part:  "1. On application of a party
  showing an agreement described in section 5927 and the opposing party's 
  refusal to arbitrate, the court shall order the parties to proceed to 
  arbitration, but if the opposing party denies the existence of the 
  agreement to arbitrate, the court shall proceed summarily to the 
  determination of the issue so raised and shall order arbitration if 
  found for the moving party, otherwise, the application shall be denied."

    14 M.R.S.A.  5927 provides in part:  "A written agreement to submit 
  any existing controversy to arbitration or a provision in a written 
  contract to submit to arbitration any controversy thereafter arising 
  between the parties is valid, enforceable and irrevocable, save upon such 
  grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract."

4.  Plaintiffs also argue that the District's request to defer the dispute 
  to arbitration operates as an acknowledgment that it has an obligation to 
  arbitrate the grievance.  This argument completely ignores the well 
  established principle that parties may always agree to arbitrate. The 
  District's willingness to arbitrate at a specific point in time cannot 
  reasonably be said to represent an acknowledgment that it has an 
  obligation to arbitrate.

5.  We have traditionally looked to the National Labor Relations Board 
  and the federal courts' interpretations of the federal labor laws for 
  guidance in interpreting and enforcing our Municipal Public Employees 
  Labor Relations Act.  See M.S.A.D. No. 43 Teachers Ass'n v. M.S.A.D. 
  No. 43 Bd. of Directors, 432 A.2d 395, 398, n.6 (Me.1981).  A recent 
  decision of the United State Supreme Court confirms our ruling in Lane.  
  In Litton Fin. Printing Div. v. N.L.R.B., the Court addressed the question 
  of whether a dispute over post-expiration layoffs arose "under the 
  agreement despite its expiration" and was thus subject to arbitration 
  under the expired agreement.  501 U.S. 190, 115 L. Ed. 2d 177, 
  111 S. Ct. 2215 (1991).  In deciding that there was no obligation to 
  arbitrate the layoff decisions, the Court held that the right to 
  arbitration exists "only where a dispute has its real source in the 
  contract.  The object of an arbitration clause is to implement a contract, 
  not to transcend it." . . . "A post expiration grievance can be said to 
  arise under the contract only where it involves facts and occurrences 
  that arose before expiration, where an action taken after expiration 
  infringes a right that accrued or vested under the agreement, or where, 
  under normal principles of contract interpretation, the disputed 
  contractual right survives expiration of the remainder of the agreement."  
  Id. at 205-06.  The Court further stated that "arbitration is a matter of 
  consent and that it will not be imposed upon parties beyond the scope of 
  their agreement."  Id. at 201.  Additionally, the Court noted that, "in 
  the absence of a binding method for resolution of post expiration 
  disputes, a party may be relegated to filing an unfair labor practices 
  charge with the [N.L.R.B.]."  Id.

dealing with neither vested rights nor an occurrence during the term of 
the collective bargaining agreement.  While an agreement is in effect, the 
terms and conditions therein are enforceable as a matter of contract and 
may be subject to arbitration.  Once the agreement expires, however, the 
parties lose their contractual rights and are left with only the statutory 
duty to bargain in good faith.  Lane, 447 A.2d 810.  This duty requires 
the parties to maintain the status quo until either a new contract is 
ratified, or the negotiations reach a bona fide impasse.  The remedy for 
a breach of the duty is a prohibited practice complaint before the Board, 
rather than grievance arbitration under the expired contract.  Id. at 

     Dobson's grievance did not arise until approximately five months 
after the agreement had expired and his claim of termination without 
"just cause" does not involve rights that either vested or accrued under 
the agreement while it was still in effect.  Consequently, the District 
is under no obligation to arbitrate the grievance and we need go no 

     The entry is:

     Judgment affirmed.

     All concurring.