UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
June 12, 1985
JOSEPH MARCZINKO, FRED PIEL, THAMMER VANDERGRIFT, JOHN VAVREK, and STEPHEN ZERANSKY, Plaintiffs,
LOCAL 249, GENERAL TEAMSTERS CHAUFFEURS AND HELPERS; TEAMSTERS JOINT COUNCIL NO. 40; and THE INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, AND HELPERS OF AMERICA, Defendants; DAVID H. FURLONG, Plaintiff, v. LOCAL 249, GENERAL TEAMSTERS CHAUFFEURS AND HELPERS; TEAMSTERS JOINT COUNCIL NO. 40; and THE INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS AND HELPERS OF AMERICA, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: BLOCH
BLOCH, District J.
In this consolidated action, plaintiffs, all former employees of DeBolt Transfer, Inc. and members of Local 249, General Teamsters, Chauffeurs and Helpers (Local 249), have filed this action against the defendants alleging breach of their fiduciary duty of fair representation and violation of their due process rights guaranteed them under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 412 and 28 U.S.C. § 1337. Defendants Local 249 and Teamsters Joint Council No. 40 (Joint Council) have filed motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).
On a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), such as presented in this case, the Court must limit its consideration of the facts to those alleged in the complaint. Biesenbach v. Guenther, 588 F.2d 400, 402 (3d Cir. 1978). In reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court must construe all of the allegations of the complaint as true. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90, 94 S. Ct. 1683 (1974). According to the United States Supreme Court, "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957) (footnote omitted). This stringent standard guides the Court in its review of defendants' motions.
Plaintiffs' complaints allege that on March 10, 1982, they received a letter from the defendant Local 249 stating that the Executive Board had voted to disclaim all interests with respect to the bargaining unit consisting of DeBolt Transfer, Inc. employees. On May 27, 1982, Local 249 informed the plaintiffs that, due to certain "actions" of the plaintiffs, it could not represent their interests. On December 6, 1982, plaintiffs, in accordance with the Bylaws of Local 249 and Joint Council, requested a hearing before the Joint Council regarding their expulsion. On December 17, 1982, Joint Council informed the plaintiffs that the decision of Local 249 had been upheld. Thereafter, plaintiffs appealed the decision to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, who, on December 13, 1983, informed the plaintiffs that a meeting with Local 249 would lead to a satisfactory resolution of the matter. On December 27, 1983, a meeting was held between the plaintiffs and the President of Local 249, who offered the plaintiffs the opportunity to join Local Teamsters 800. On January 9, 1984, plaintiffs requested that the Executive Board of Local 249 reconsider their expulsion. On February 3, 1984, plaintiffs were informed that the Executive Board had decided to maintain its original decision. In accordance with defendant International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs and Helpers of America (International), Local 249 gave plaintiffs the opportunity to transfer to Local 800 or to request the General Executive Board to issue a ruling on their appeal. On February 10, 1984, plaintiffs informed Local 249 and the International of their desire to have a ruling on their appeal. International failed to respond. On April 24, 1984, plaintiffs wrote to International requesting information regarding the status of their appeal. No response was received and plaintiffs, on September 13, 1984, wrote International again, without success. Plaintiffs did not receive a reply to this request. Plaintiffs complaints, Civil Action No. 84-3103, para. 10-para. 28 (docket entry Nos. 1 and 10); Civil Action No. 85-531, para. 6-para. 24 (docket entry No. 1). On December 31, 1984, plaintiffs filed Civil Action No. 84-3103, and on March 7, 1985, plaintiff filed Civil Action No. 85-531.
I. Local 249's Motion
A. Due Process Claim
Local 249 moves to dismiss on the grounds that plaintiffs' cause of action is time-barred. Plaintiffs contend that since the LMRDA does not specify a statute of limitations, the Court must look to state law to determine the appropriate period of limitations for an action brought pursuant to § 102 of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 412 (1982). In the instant case, plaintiffs maintain that their claims are governed by Pennsylvania's four-year statute of limitations applicable in contract actions. 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5525.
In Local Union 1397, United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CI0 v. United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO, 748 F.2d 180 (3d Cir. 1984), the Third Circuit held that the 6-month limitations period of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was applicable to actions brought under the LMRDA. In DelCostello v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 76 L. Ed. 2d 476, 103 S. Ct. 2281 (1983), the Supreme Court held that the appropriate limitations period for "hybrid" § 301 actions was the 6-month period found in § 10(b) of the NLRA, 29 U.S.C. § 160(b) (1982). The Supreme Court emphasized the practical similarity between an unfair labor practice charge brought by an individual employee under the NLRA and a breach of the duty of fair representation claim and a breach of contract claim brought by an individual employee against his union and employer under § 301. The Court also emphasized the close similarity and policy considerations relevant to the choice of limitations period for an unfair labor practice charge and for a "hybrid" § 301 action. In both situations, the federal labor policy in promoting stable bargaining relationships necessitates prompt resolution of disputes between an individual and his union or an individual and his employer, disputes that may effect the bargaining relationship between union and employer. Relying on DelCostello, the Third Circuit noted as follows:
In adopting a six-month limitations period for unfair labor practice charges, Congress balanced the federal interests in stable collective bargaining relationships and rapid resolution of labor disputes against an employee's interests in the vindication of his rights under § 7 of the NLRA, 29 U.S.C. § 157 (1982). Those same concerns are present in suits brought under § 102 of the LMRDA. Clearly, a union member has an interest in vindicating his rights under §§ 101 and 609 of the LMRDA, and a limitations period should not unduly impose on this interest. By the same token, however, rapid resolution of internal union disputes is necessary to maintain the federal goal of stable bargaining relationships, for dissension within the union naturally effects that union's activities and effectiveness in the collective bargaining arena.
. . .
As a final point, we also note that a six-month limitation period is not inherently unfair to LMRDA plaintiffs. As in this case, the allegedly unlawful activity in a § 102 action is rarely latent; generally, discipline is imposed, or rights are denied openly. Thus, six months is an adequate time period in which to decide whether to bring a § 102 action. Further, if the Supreme Court in Del Costello thought it fair to accord individual union members only six months in which to file their § 301 action, we believe it is similarly fair to accord those same individual union members only six months in which to file their § 102 action.
748 F.2d at 183-184 (citations omitted).
The Third Circuit went on to say that its decision to apply the six-month limitations period of the NLRA to actions brought under the LMRDA could be applied retroactively. Id. at 184-185.
In the instant cases, plaintiffs exhausted all internal remedies available to them on December 27, 1983. The proceeding in Civil Action No. 84-3103 was not commenced until December 31, 1984, and the proceeding in Civil Action No. 85-531 was not commenced until March 7, 1985; both suits were filed well beyond the six-month statute of limitations.
Accordingly, Local 249's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' due process claim is granted.
B. Duty of Fair Representation
Local 249 contends that the preemption doctrine deprives this Court of jurisdiction over plaintiff Furlong's claim
under the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169, since they are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board. In San Diego v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 79 S. Ct. 773, 3 L. Ed. 2d 775 (1959), the Supreme Court held that where a cause of action arguably falls under § 157 or § 158, the states, as well as the federal courts, must defer to the exclusive competence of the National Labor Relations Board. The preemption doctrine enunciated in Garmon is predicated upon effectuating the congressional purpose for enacting a comprehensive national labor policy to be administered by an expert central agency rather than by a federalized judicial system; the necessity for carrying out a labor policy without specific congressional direction or judicial resolution on a case-by-case basis; and the avoidance of different treatment by the judiciary with conduct that the NLRA prohibits. Motor Coach Employees v. Lockridge, 403 U.S. 274, 285-297, 91 S. Ct. 1909, 29 L. Ed. 2d 473 (1971). Plaintiff does not appear to dispute that any claims that they may have under §§ 157-158 would be preempted by the Garmon doctrine, but maintain that in Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 17 L. Ed. 2d 842, 87 S. Ct. 903 (1967), the Supreme Court held that federal courts have jurisdiction to hear a claim against the union for breach of the union's duty of fair representation under § 301 of the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. § 185, even if the conduct complained of was arguably protected or prohibited by the NLRA. Although Vaca v. Sipes was a § 301 case, the issue addressed by the Court was that of preemption in general and not as limited to the § 301 context. The Supreme Court noted as much in Motor Coach Employees v. Lockridge, supra :
In Vaca v. Sipes. . . we held that an action seeking damages for injury inflicted by a breach of the union's duty of fair representation was judicially cognizable in any event, that is, even if the conduct complained of was arguably protected or prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act and whether or not the law suit was bottomed on a collective agreement.
403 U.S. at 299 (emphasis added). Thus, the Court finds that plaintiff's claim of fair representation is not barred by the preemption doctrine.
Local 249 further contends that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action since § 301 was not alleged as the jurisdictional basis for plaintiff's claim. However, the Court finds that it has subject matter jurisdiction over this action based upon 28 U.S.C. § 1337, which confers federal jurisdiction over suits arising under any act of congress regulating commerce.
In Nedd v. United Mine Workers, 400 F.2d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 1968), the Third Circuit held that "arising under" jurisdiction encompasses actions involving the duty of fair representation not founded upon breach of a contract. See Raus v. Brotherhood Railway Carmen of U.S. and Canada, 663 F.2d 791, 796 (8th Cir. 1981); Mumford v. Glover, 503 F.2d 878, 882-883 (5th Cir. 1974). Therefore, the Court finds that it has jurisdiction over plaintiff's duty of fair representation claims.
II. Joint Council's Motion
Joint Council moves to dismiss stating that since it is not the statutory bargaining agent of the employees, it has no duty of fair representation. The duty of fair representation arises out of the union-employee relationship and the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 158-159, which creates and defines that relationship. See Hines v. Anchor Motor Freight, Inc., 424 U.S. 554, 563-564, 47 L. Ed. 2d 231, 96 S. Ct. 1048 (1976); Vaca v. Sipes, supra, 386 U.S. at 177. In support, Joint Council refers the Court to Teamsters Local Union No. 30 v. Helms Express, Inc., 591 F.2d 211 (3d Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 837, 62 L. Ed. 2d 48, 100 S. Ct. 74 (1979), where the Third Circuit discussed whether the district court had erred in dismissing the local union's claim against the Eastern Conference for breach of the duty of fair representation. The Court noted as follows:
Section 301 creates federal jurisdiction only over parties to the contract, and federal jurisdiction under § 301 is limited to "suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization. . . ."
. . . .
The Eastern Conference is not a party to any collective bargaining agreement and represents no employees directly; it has never been a party to any contract with Helms. The NMSA and supplement specifically state that only the Teamsters National Freight Industry Negotiating Committee and specific local unions are parties to the agreement, Appendix at 38. Similarly, the preamble to the Supplement lists the parties by name, indicating only that they are affiliated with the Conference and the International Union. Neither the Conference nor the International are signatories. Thus, because the Eastern Conference is not a party to the contract, the district court lacked jurisdiction under § 301 over the Conference.
Id. at 216-217.
Joint Council states that since its membership is composed of local unions and not individual members of local unions, it could not have breached any duty owed to the plaintiffs. While the Court does not dispute Joint Council's arguments, unlike the Court in Teamsters Local Union No. 30 v. Helms Express, Inc., supra, this Court does not have the benefit of Joint Council's bylaws where its membership would be stated. Therefore, since the Court cannot conclusively determine at this time that Joint Council owed the plaintiffs no duty of fair representation, Joint Council's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' duty of fair representation claims is denied.
Joint Council further maintains that plaintiffs were fully notified of all charges against them in accordance with the union's bylaws. However, since plaintiffs allege that such proper notice was not given as required by its constitution, bylaws and the LMRDA, the Court must accept plaintiffs' allegations as true and denies Joint Council's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' due process claims under 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(5).
An appropriate Order will be issued.
BLOCH, District J.
AND NOW, this 12th day of June, 1985, upon consideration of Defendant Teamsters Joint Council No. 40's Motion to Dismiss filed in the above captioned matters on January 17, 1985 and April 11, 1985, respectively, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that said Motions are DENIED.
AND, further, upon consideration of Defendant Local 249, General Teamsters, Chauffeurs and Helpers filed in the above captioned matter on January 23, 1985 and March 22, 1985, respectively, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that said Motions are GRANTED in part and DENIED in part; to wit:
1. Defendant's motions to dismiss plaintiffs' claims under the Labor management Reporting and Disclosure Act are GRANTED; and
2. Defendant's motions to dismiss plaintiffs' claims alleging breach of the duty of fair representation are DENIED.