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HEALTHCARE RESOURCES CORP. v. DISTRICT 1199C

March 6, 1995

HEALTHCARE RESOURCES CORP., Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT 1199C, NATIONAL UNION OF HOSPITAL AND HEALTH CARE EMPLOYEES, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. CURTIS JOYNER

 Joyner, J.

 March 6, 1995

 This matter is before the Court today on motion of the defendants, which seek an award of summary judgment as to the plaintiff's complaint. For the reasons that follow, the defendants' motion will be denied. *fn1"

 I. BACKGROUND

 There is no dispute as to the facts in this case. The plaintiff is Healthcare Resources Corporation ("HRC"), a Pennsylvania company that operates the Homestead Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. The defendants, labor organizations that represented HRC employees at various times relevant to the lawsuit, are District 1199C, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, AFSCME, AFL-CIO ("District 1199C") and National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, AFSCME, AFL-CIO (the "National Union"), collectively referenced as the "Union."

 In November of 1989, District 1199C was certified as the bargaining representative for certain HRC employees. Negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement between HRC and District 1199C commenced in January of 1990 and continued, with considerable acrimony, *fn2" until an agreement was finally reached on July 11, 1994. Pursuant to the National Union's constitution, the agreement could not be signed on behalf of the National Union until the agreement had been submitted to the employees for ratification. The agreement was signed by the District 1199C representative and HRC, but it was neither signed by the National Union nor submitted to the employees for ratification.

 Meanwhile, on July 21, 1994, an HRC employee named Michelle Sawyer filed a petition to decertify the Union with the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB"), pursuant to section 9(c) of the National Labor Relations Act (the "Act"), 29 U.S.C. ยง 159(c). *fn3" The Union asserted that the petition was barred by the collective bargaining agreement, which provided that the Union would be the sole and exclusive collective bargaining representative. HRC and the petitioner argued that the agreement did not bar the petition because it was invalid, in that it had not been signed by the National Union and had not been ratified by the employees.

 A representation hearing was held, and briefs were submitted by both HRC and District 1199C. Subsequently, on October 7, 1994, the Regional Director of Region 4 of the NLRB issued a Decision and Order finding that there was a binding contract between HRC and the Union. The Regional Director concluded that District 1199C's representative had actual and apparent authority to sign the contract on the National Union's behalf. Moreover, the Regional Director held the contract to be valid even though it had not been ratified by the employees because the contract itself made no reference to employee ratification. As a result, the petition for decertification was dismissed. The NLRB later denied HRC's Request for Review as well as its Request for Reconsideration.

 On October 21, 1994, Ms. Sawyer submitted a petition in which 105 of the 150 employees indicated that they no longer wanted to be represented by the Union. As a result, on October 24, HRC notified District 1199C that it was withdrawing recognition from the Union. District 1199C countered by filing with the NLRB various unfair labor practice charges, including the claim that the withdrawal of recognition of the Union constituted a violation of the National Labor Relations Act. A hearing before an Administrative Law Judge is to occur in the near future.

 On November 17, 1994, HRC filed the instant action, in which it seeks a declaration that the collective bargaining agreement between the parties is invalid. In its motion for summary judgment, the Union makes two arguments relating to the extent to which this Court may properly review the issues presented by the declaratory judgment action. The first argument is jurisdictional, in which the Union contends that the federal labor law preemption doctrine compels the Court to defer to the NLRB. Second, the Union argues that principles of issue preclusion prevent the Court from examining the issue of the validity of the collective bargaining agreement. For its part, HRC asserts that the Decision and Order issued by the NLRB's regional director does not carry a preclusive effect, and that this Court does not lack jurisdiction over the subject matter raised in HRC's complaint. With this background and the parties' positions in mind, we turn to the merit of the arguments.

 II DISCUSSION

 A. The Summary Judgment Standard

 This Court is authorized to award summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Thus, the Court's responsibility is not to resolve disputed issues of fact, but to determine whether there exist any factual issues to be tried. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-49, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). The non-moving party must raise "more than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor" in order to overcome a summary judgment motion. Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249). Further, the non-moving party cannot rely on unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions in attempting to survive a summary judgment motion. Id. (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986)). Boiled to its essence, the summary judgment standard requires the non-moving party to create a "sufficient disagreement to require submission [of the evidence] to a jury." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at ...


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