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International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 98 v. James Copeland Electrical Contractor

December 22, 2011

INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS LOCAL UNION NO. 98 HEALTH & WELFARE FUND, ET AL.
v.
JAMES COPELAND ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiffs International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 98 Health & Welfare Fund, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 98 Pension Plan, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 98 Profit Sharing Plan, Electrical Workers Joint Apprenticeship and Training Trust Fund, Local Union No. 98 Vacation Plan, Local Labor Management Cooperation Committee, National Electric Industry Fund and Local Union 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have sued defendants James G. Copeland and his business, James Copeland Electrical Contractor, seeking unpaid contributions. I now have before me plaintiffs' and defendants' motions for summary judgment and the parties' responses thereto. For the reasons that follow, I will grant in part and deny in part plaintiffs' motion and deny defendants' motion.

BACKGROUND

James Copeland owns his business, Copeland Electrical. Dkt. No. 23-5 at 9-10.*fn1

According to Copeland, 85-90% of his work over the last fifteen years was "basic maintenance and repair work," as opposed to work in the building and construction industry. Dkt. No. 22-3 at 3.

Before the summer of 2006, Copeland Electrical was not a party to any agreement with Local Union 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW 98) or any other union. Id.; Dkt. No. 23-5 at 20. That summer, however, Copeland signed two letters of assent that ostensibly bound Copeland Electrical to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the Philadelphia Division of the Penn-Del-Jersey Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (N.E.C.A.) and IBEW 98. Dkt. No. 26-2 at 25; Dkt. No. 21-2 at 2. Copeland signed one of the letters on August 15, 2006. Dkt. No. 26-2 at 25. The other letter does not indicate when Copeland signed it. Dkt. No. 21-2 at 2.

Although the undated letter includes clerical instructions that the dated version does not, the substantive language of both letters is identical. They provide in pertinent part that

[i]n signing this letter of assent, the undersigned firm does hereby authorize the Philadelphia Division, Penn-Del-Jersey Chapter, N.E.C.A. as its collective bargaining representative for all matters contained in or pertaining to the current and any subsequent approved Inside Commercial labor agreement between the Philadelphia Division, Penn-Del-Jersey Chapter, N.E.C.A. and Local Union 98, I.B.E.W. In doing so, the undersigned firm agrees to comply with, and be bound by, all the terms and conditions contained in said current and subsequent approved labor agreements.

Dkt. No. 26-2 at 25; Dkt. No. 21-2 at 2.

Plaintiffs maintain that Copeland Electrical violated the CBA by failing to make required contributions. The CBA requires employers to make payments to the following entities:

* National Electrical Benefit Fund

* National Electrical Industry Fund

* Local Labor Management Cooperation Committee

* Local Union 98 Health & Welfare Plan

* Local Union 98 Pension Plan

* Local Union 98 Deferred Income Plan

* Apprentice Training Fund

* Local Union 98 ...


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