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SERVICE EMPLOYEES INT'L UNION v. INDEPENDENCE MGMT. CO.

December 16, 2005.

SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION, LOCAL 3, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
INDEPENDENCE MANAGEMENT COMPANY, INC., INDEPENDENCE ENTERPRISES, INC. and CENTRE CITY PARTNERS, L.P., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GARY LANCASTER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This is an action alleging violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1140, and the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185. Plaintiffs, Service Employees International Union ("SEIU"), and nine individuals who are members of Local 3 (collectively "plaintiffs"), allege that defendants, Independence Management Company, Inc., Independence Enterprises, Inc. and Center City Partners, L.P. (collectively "defendants") intentionally interfered with plaintiffs' healthcare benefits and collective bargaining agreement.

In Count I, plaintiffs allege that defendants violated section 510 of ERISA, by intentionally interfering with their health care benefits when defendants chose not to renew their contract with plaintiffs' employer, St. Moritz Building Service, Inc. ("BSI"). In Count III,*fn1 plaintiffs allege that defendants violated section 301 of the LMRA, by tortiously interfering with a collective bargaining agreement between plaintiffs and BSI. Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages and injunctive relief.

  Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), arguing that plaintiffs cannot demonstrate an ERISA or LMRA violation. Defendants argue that plaintiffs' ERISA claim must fail because they cannot establish that defendants engaged in "prohibited employer conduct." Defendants further argue that plaintiffs cannot show that defendants' specifically intended to violate ERISA. As to plaintiffs' claim for tortious interference in violation of the LMRA, defendants argue that plaintiffs cannot demonstrate that defendants purposely intended to harm the existing contractual relationship between plaintiffs and BSI. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion will be granted.

  I. BACKGROUND

  Except where indicated, the following material facts are undisputed.

  At all relevant times, plaintiffs were employees of BSI. The Local 3 SEIU is the union that represents the BSI employees. Beginning in 1990, BSI contracted with defendants to provide cleaning services at Centre City Towers. Under a series of contracts between BSI and defendants, BSI employed the cleaners working at Centre City Towers.

  On December 31, 2003, the cleaning services contract between BSI and defendants expired. Defendants chose not to renew their contract with BSI, and instead, hired a non-union company to provide cleaning services at Centre City Towers. Defendants notified BSI of their decision not to renew their contract on December 23, 2003, and on December 29, 2003, BSI instructed its employees to vacate the building. The nine individual plaintiffs were laid off following defendants' non-renewal of their contract with BSI.

  Plaintiffs claim that defendants' termination of their services was an intentional interference with the plaintiffs' rights to healthcare benefits they had become entitled to under the collective bargaining agreement between SEUI and the Managers Owners and Contractors Association ("MOCA").

  II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

  Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) provides that summary judgment may be granted if, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions 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 a judgment as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted).

  The mere existence of some factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment. Id. at 247-48. A dispute over those facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law, i.e., the material facts, however, will preclude the entry of summary judgment. Id. at 248. Similarly, summary judgment is improper so long as the dispute over the material facts is genuine. In determining whether the dispute is genuine, the court's function is not to weigh the evidence or to determine the truth of the matter, but only to determine whether the evidence of record is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

  III. DISCUSSION

  It is on the standard discussed above that the court has reviewed defendants' motion and plaintiffs' response thereto. Based on the pleadings and evidence of record, the arguments of counsel, and the briefs filed in support and opposition thereto, the court concludes, as a matter of law, that there are no genuine disputes ...


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