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Local Union No. 44, Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, Northeastern Pennsylania v. ACA Greenhouses

March 22, 2006

LOCAL UNION NO. 44, SHEET METAL WORKERS' INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION, NORTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA, PLAINTIFF
v.
ACA GREENHOUSES, INC., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Vanaskie

MEMORANDUM

This case is before this Court on a defense motion to vacate the second default judgment entered against it. While the equities weighed in favor of granting Defendant ACA Greenhouses, Inc. ("ACA") relief from the first default judgment, its pattern of dilatory behavior and flagrant disregard of a court order compel the denial of its motion to vacate the second default judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Local 44 Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, Northeastern Pennsylvania (hereinafter sometimes referred to as the "Union"), is a labor organization with an office in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The Union represents for purposes of collective bargaining employees engaged in an "industry affecting commerce," within the meaning of the Labor and Management Relations Act of 1947, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§185, et seq.

Defendant ACA is a New Jersey corporation with a facility in Brigantine, New Jersey. It is a glazing contractor, and George Riker is its president.

Effective May 1, 1996, Mr. Riker, on behalf of Staffco Greenhouses, Inc. ("Staffco"), executed a collective bargaining agreement (the "CBA") with the Union. Staffco, like ACA, maintains a facility in Brigantine, New Jersey. Riker is also Staffco's President.

The Union contends that ACA was also a party to the 1996 CBA. ACA denies this contention.

When Riker, on behalf of ACA, refused to execute a new collective bargaining agreement that went into effect on May 1, 1999, the Union invoked the grievance procedures of the 1996 CBA. Riker, as President of ACA, was notified that a hearing would be conducted by a Local Joint Adjustment Board on January 26, 2000. Maintaining that ACA was not a party to the 1996 CBA, Riker did not participate in the arbitration proceeding.

At the arbitration hearing, the Union presented evidence suggesting that ACA was a party to the 1996 CBA. The Local Joint Adjustment Board ruled in favor of the Union, and directed ACA to sign the May 1, 1999 collective bargaining agreement and pay a fine of $1,000 within thirty (30) days. The Local Joint Adjustment Board further ordered that, if ACA did not comply with its directives within thirty (30) days, an additional fine of $100 per day would be assessed for each day of ACA's non-compliance.

The Local Joint Adjustment Board decision was rendered on February 11, 2000. ACA failed to comply with the terms of decision. On June 14, 2000, the Union brought this action to enforce the arbitration award.

ACA was served with process on October 26, 2001. It failed to answer or reply to the Complaint in a timely manner. Instead, in a letter to the Court dated November 9, 2000, Mr. Riker wrote that ACA "denies all allegations in complaint by Local #44 Sheet Metal Workers' Union." (Dkt. Entry 5.) It does not appear that this letter was served on the Union.

On February 21, 2001, the Union moved pursuant to Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for the entry of default judgment for failure of ACA to answer the Complaint. Magistrate Judge Blewitt, to whom this case had been assigned for pretrial management purposes, issued a Report and Recommendation, proposing that default judgment be denied based upon his view that Mr. Riker's letter to the Court of November 9, 2000 could be considered an answer to the Complaint. The Union objected to the Report and Recommendation. (Dkt. Entry 13.)

Because Mr. Riker could not act on behalf of the corporate Defendant in this court proceeding, the Union's objection to the Report and Recommendation was sustained (Dkt. Entry 16.) Accordingly, on August 31, 2001, judgment was entered against ACA in the liquidated amount requested by the Union. (Dkt. Entry 18.)

ACA did not take any action with respect to the default judgment until August 30, 2002, one day short of a year after the judgment had been entered. Now represented by Attorney Carl Greco, ACA moved to vacate the default judgment. Although finding the lengthy delay in moving to vacate the judgment "troubling," this Court granted the relief requested. (Dkt. Entry 35.) ACA was directed ...


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