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Sheet Metal Workers' International Association Local Union No. 19 v. Keating Building Corp.

May 13, 2009

SHEET METAL WORKERS' INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION LOCAL UNION NO. 19
v.
KEATING BUILDING CORPORATION, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bartle, C.J.

MEMORANDUM

This is a labor dispute brought under § 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185. Plaintiff Sheet Metal Workers' International Association Local Union No. 19 ("Local 19") seeks damages against the defendants, the School District of Philadelphia (the "School District") and several contractors*fn1 for breach of contract in connection with the construction of nine Philadelphia schools. In counts one through eight of the amended complaint Local 19 brings a separate claim for relief against each of the eight contractors. In count nine it seeks relief against the School District.

The School District moves to dismiss count nine for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendants Daniel J. Keating Company ("Keating") and Towne and Country Roofing and Siding, Inc. ("Towne & Country") also jointly move to dismiss the amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1). If the court has subject matter jurisdiction, Keating and Towne & Country maintain that the amended complaint fails to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) and that any claims based on the Audenreid School Project, specifically, fail to state a claim. They also move for a more definite statement of the amended complaint under Rule 12(e).

I.

The following is a summary of the facts as alleged in the amended complaint. On or about April 13, 2006, the School District entered into a contract with a number of unions, including Local 19, known as the "Partnership Agreement Between the School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Building Trades" (the "Partnership Agreement"). One of the purposes of the Partnership Agreement was to provide for the timely and efficient completion of School District construction projects and to ensure that any labor disputes arising out of such construction projects would be resolved promptly without resort to strikes.

Under the Partnership Agreement the School District promised to require any contractor it hired who performed work within the scope of the agreement to "accept and to be bound by the terms and conditions of this [Partnership] Agreement."

Partnership Agreement at 4. Central to this lawsuit is a craft jurisdiction clause, which states: "This Agreement shall generally recognize the traditional craft jurisdiction of the signatory unions except as modified by agreement as necessary for the cost-effective completion of project[s] covered by this Agreement and shall require signatory contractors to abide by said traditional craft jurisdiction." Id. Also at issue is a provision for the creation of a Partnership Committee, appointed in part by the School District, to adjudicate disputes arising out of the agreement. Id. at 11-12.

Local 19 alleges that each of the contractor defendants agreed to be bound by the terms of the Partnership Agreement. It further claims that the School District and each of the contractor defendants breached the Partnership Agreement by failing to recognize the traditional craft jurisdiction of the plaintiff sheet metal workers in assigning work on certain school construction projects. While Local 19 asserts that it filed a grievance in each instance, it pleads that no Partnership Committee hearing was held and that the School District has refused to appoint members to the Committee.

The first eight claims in the amended complaint, as noted above, are brought against individual contractors, including claim one against Keating and claim eight against Towne & Country. Local 19 alleges in claim one that as a result of Keating's breaches, Local 19 members were deprived of wages and benefits totaling $160,800 for the Audenried School project and $80,400 for the Commodore Barry School project. With respect to Towne & Country, Local 19 alleges in claim eight that as a result of its breaches, Local 19 members were deprived of wages and benefits totaling $33,500 for the Lincoln High School project, $160,800 for the Audenried School project, and $13,400 for the Vaux Middle School project. Local 19 asserts in each of its eight claims for relief against the contractors that the School District is jointly and severally liable for the lost wages and benefits flowing from the named projects. The ninth claim is brought against the School District alone. It incorporates by reference all previous paragraphs of the amended complaint and requests $576,200 in damages and an order compelling the School District to convene the Partnership Committee.

II.

The School District moves to dismiss claim nine for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. It brings a facial attack under Rule 12(b)(1). See Int'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers v. Nw. Airlines, Inc., 673 F.2d 700, 711 (3d Cir. 1982). In a facial challenge to subject matter jurisdiction we consider the allegations in the complaint to be true. Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n., 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977). "A district court can grant a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on the legal insufficiency of a claim. But dismissal is proper only when the claim 'clearly appears to be immaterial and made solely for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction or ... is wholly insubstantial and frivolous.'" Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1408-09 (3d Cir. 1991) (quoting Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682 (1946)).

According to the amended complaint, Local 19 brings its claims under § 301(a) of the LMRA, which provides:

Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties.

29 U.S.C. § 185. Local 19 now concedes that the School District is not an "employer" within the meaning of § 301(a) and that there is no federal question jurisdiction under the LMRA against the School District.*fn2 However, Local 19 also maintains in its pleading that there is supplemental jurisdiction against the School District ...


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