“Under K&I’s interpretation, the exemptions in Article XVIII in effect would only clarify that there is no need to arbitrate the collection of an arbitral award.
If K&I’s reading of the contract is correct, the parties drafted the exemption language only to clarify that if, after an arbitrator determined the fringe benefit contribution amount owed to the Funds, K&I refused to pay, or refused to pay in the manner the arbitrator decreed, the parties would not need to arbitrate K&I’s refusal to honor the award. The notion that this was the parties’ concern borders on the absurd, especially in light of the perfectly sensible alternative conclusion that results from the Union’s interpretation of Article XVIII and the phrase ‘collection of amounts due under this Article.’
“In the final analysis, we have no trouble concluding that the language of the CBA unambiguously establishes that the arbitration provisions in Article XVIII were not intended to cover disputes between K&I and the Funds. This means that we need not concern ourselves with any presumption favoring arbitration, and we leave further development of that topic to another day. The only reasonable interpretation of this agreement is the one the district court adopted, under which the phrase ‘[t]he collection of amounts due under this Article shall not be subject to the Settlement of Disputes procedure established in Article XVIII’ has the effect of exempting from arbitration disputes like the one that gave rise to the Union’s strike.”
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Nordberg, J., Wood, J.