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Montgomery v. Laborers District Council of Philadelphia and Vicinity

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 27, 2015

JAMERE MONTGOMERY, Plaintiff,
v.
LABORERS DISTRICT COUNCIL OF PHILADELPHIA AND VICINITY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

GERALD J. PAPPERT, District Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Jamere Montgomery ("Montgomery") sued Defendants Laborers' District Council of Philadelphia and Vicinity ("the Council"), Laborers Local 332 ("the Local"), Ryan N. Boyer ("Boyer"), Samuel Staten, Jr. ("Staten"), and Cory Robinson ("Robinson") (collectively "Defendants") for alleged violations of "federal labor laws." Defendants move to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part for the reasons that follow.

I.

Montgomery, a construction worker, has been a member of the Local since 2008. (Am. Compl. 1-2, ECF No. 6.)[1] The Local is, in turn, a member of the Council and the Laborers' International Union of North America ("LIUNA").[2] ( Id . at 1.) This lawsuit concerns ongoing conflicts Montgomery has had with Local and Council leadership (namely, Boyer, Staten and Robinson) in the operation of its hiring hall[3] since 2013. ( Id .) Boyer is Business Manager of the Council, Robinson is President of the Local, and Staten is Secretary/Treasurer of the Council and Business Manager of the Local. (Mot. Dismiss 13 n.6, ECF No. 7.)

Montgomery's amended complaint recounts several alleged unfair labor practices dating back to 2013. In June 2013, Montgomery claims that he started a petition whereby he "gathered the names and signatures of approximately 20 members to protest the unfair hiring hall policies and deliberate violation[s] of union members['] rights to fair and equal job opportunities." (Am. Compl. 1.) Staten and Robinson allegedly told Montgomery that "it was not his job to speak for anybody or about anything in the hall." ( Id .)

A month later, in July 2013, Montgomery filed a grievance contending that he was deliberately passed over for employment at the Philadelphia Housing Authority ("PHA") and treated with hostility for requesting copies of the Local's bylaws and collective bargaining agreements ("CBAs").[4] (Am. Compl. 1.) Defendants held a hearing "and made findings to there being no cause for the grievance and dismissing it as unverifiable." ( Id .)

Presumably in connection with the petition he started in June 2013, Montgomery attempted to organize a "Committee of Concerned Laborers of Local 332" to review the Local's "unfair hiring practices and illegal retaliation against member[s] who exercise their statutory rights to participate and assemble in lawful union activities." (Am. Compl. 2.) In June 2014, Montgomery attempted to introduce a resolution for the formation of such committee at a general membership meeting. ( Id .) Robinson as chairman, however, "refused to accept it or acknowledge [Montgomery's] right to participate in the meeting." ( Id .) Additionally, Staten told Montgomery he would "shut it down." ( Id .) Defendants further threatened to bring Montgomery up on charges for being disruptive at meetings. ( Id .)

There are a few places in the amended complaint where Montgomery becomes more specific in his allegations of "unfair hiring practices and illegal retaliation." Montgomery pleads that the Defendants engage in a strategy of "blackballing" or "blacklisting" to control the Local and its members and "deny employment and other benefits to members who actively engage in union activities." (Am. Compl. 2.) Montgomery claims that in retaliation for filing grievances, he has been passed over for referrals to more favorable jobs, including jobs with the PHA. ( Id .) Montgomery also alleges that Defendants maintain two "out-of-work books" (one for PHA jobs and one for all other jobs), which "is a direct violation of hiring hall guidelines and the bylaws of the organization." ( Id .) Montgomery states that he complained about this dual out-of-work book system in his July 2013 grievance, but was simply told "he was on the list" and his "grievance was dismissed as lacking merit." ( Id .)

Montgomery details two final instances of Defendants' alleged wrongful behavior in May 2015. First, Montgomery claims that "just days" after he initiated this litigation, Defendants referred him to a job with the PHA. (Am. Compl. 2.) Montgomery went to PHA for the interview and provided a urine sample for a drug analysis test. ( Id .) The PHA told Montgomery that his urine sample was not the right temperature. ( Id .) Montgomery "left the facility" and did not get the job. ( Id .) Second, Montgomery contends that in May 2015 he was "thrown off of a job... for an alleged safety violation" despite having over 40 hours of safety training. ( Id .) The employer, who "happens to be one of the biggest employer[s] of union laborers in the area, " told Montgomery that he will not be rehired. ( Id .) A supervisor allegedly told Montgomery that "the union was out to get him." ( Id. )

Montgomery filed this lawsuit against the Defendants on April 17, 2015 in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. (Not. of Removal 1, ECF No. 1.) Defendants removed the case to this Court, and Montgomery was granted leave to file an amended complaint on May 29, 2015. (ECF No. 5.) Defendants thereafter filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint in its entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing in part that the amended complaint fails to make any specific claims that have a legal remedy.[5] (Mot. Dismiss 5.) In response, Montgomery clarified that his claims arise under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act's ("LMRDA") "bill of rights." (Opp'n Mot. Dismiss 3, ECF No. 8.)

II.

To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must plead factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The "mere possibility of misconduct" is not enough; the complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, " i.e., sufficient facts to permit "the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009) (quotation and citation omitted).

The court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Gelman v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 583 F.3d 187, 190 (3d Cir. 2009)). However, while all allegations contained in the complaint must be accepted as true, the court need not give credence to mere "legal conclusions" couched as facts. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. To decide a motion to dismiss, courts consider only the allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and "an undisputedly authentic document that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the document." Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).

Finally, as Montgomery is proceeding pro se, the Court is mindful that the amended complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, " must be held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Fantone v. Latini, 780 F.3d 184, 193 (3d Cir. 2015) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972)). Nevertheless, the Court must review the amended complaint ...


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