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Elliot-Lewis Corporation v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

June 17, 2011

ELLIOT-LEWIS CORPORATION
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, LOCAL 98, ETAL



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jacob P. Hart United States Magistrate Judge

OPINION & ORDER

DATE: June , 2011

BACKGROUND

On June 17, 2004, Elliot-Lewis Corporation (hereinafter "EL") filed a Complaint in the above matter against the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 98 (hereinafter "IBEW 98"), alleging violations of Sections 301 and 303 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 185, 187. *fn1 A few months later, on September 8, 2004, IBEW 98 filed a complaint against EL, alleging violations of Section 301. (Civil Action 04-4250). For settlement purposes, both suits were consolidated and referred to the undersigned.

On September 14, 2004, both cases were settled. The terms of the settlement were set forth in a Settlement Agreement, signed by counsel for EL, counsel for IBEW 98, a representative of the Philadelphia Convention Center Authority, and the undersigned. Thereafter, a formal Settlement Agreement and Release was signed by the parties themselves.

When the District Court in both cases issued the Rule 41.1(b) Notices of Dismissal pursuant to settlement, the Court specifically retained jurisdiction to enforce the Settlement Agreement. In the Settlement Agreement itself, the undersigned was designated as the person responsible for resolving "any dispute arising under" the agreement:

"In the event of any dispute arising under this Agreement, the parties agree that the matter shall be submitted for binding arbitration to Jacob P. Hart, United States Magistrate Judge. Judge Hart's decision shall be final and not appealable." (Settlement Agreement, paragraph 8)

For almost seven years, all was quiet. But then, on April 29, 2011, EL filed the present motion before me, seeking to enforce the settlement agreement.

THE PRESENT DISPUTE

On April 22, 2011, IBEW 98 filed a grievance against EL, claiming that EL was violating 2010-2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the parties by failing to pay the proper contributions to the various IBEW 98 pension and benefit funds. On April 25, 2011, the Penn-Del-Jersey Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (hereinafter "NECA"), notified EL that a grievance hearing on this matter would be held before the NECA Labor Management Committee on May 5, 2011. In order to stop this hearing from taking place, the present Motion was filed. In its Motion, EL alleges: (1) that the underlying dispute "arises under" the 2004 Settlement Agreement; (2) that it must be resolved by me, not the NECA Labor Management Committee; and (3) that EL is not a party to the 2010-2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement between NECA and IBEW 98.

In response to EL's Motion, IBEW 98 argues that I have no jurisdiction to resolve the underlying contribution dispute since it does not arise under the Settlement Agreement. In the alternative, even if the dispute does arise under the Settlement Agreement, I must resolve it in favor of the Union, because EL, by its conduct, has assumed the 2010-2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement between NECA and IBEW 98.

On May 2, 2011, I ordered the parties not to proceed with the NECA Labor Management Committee grievance hearing until the present Motion was decided. We held a hearing on May 26, 2011, at which time both sides made arguments and put on live witnesses. Post hearing briefs have now been filed.

DOES THIS DISPUTE ARISE UNDER THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT?

To understand this issue, we must first understand the basic collective bargaining relationship between the parties. EL is the exclusive labor supplier at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Because there are numerous trades necessary to provide all of the services needed by the Center, EL has collective bargaining relationships with several unions, including IBEW 98. *fn2

In 2003, all of EL's unions working at the Convention Center, together with EL and the Center itself entered into a Customer Satisfaction Agreement (the CSA). The main purpose of the CSA was to set forth a procedure for the allocation of work among the various union signatories, and to do so without work stoppages. Each signatory union, as well as EL, agreed that the individual collective bargaining agreements between the parties would be amended by the CSA. When EL first signed the CSA on July 16, 2003, it had not yet recognized IBEW 98 as the union for its electricians. However, on November 13, 2003, ...


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