United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MICHAEL D. SMOKOWICZ, Plaintiff,
GRAPHIC PACKAGING INTERNATIONAL, INC., et al., Defendants.
case involves two claims. Plaintiff Michael D. Smokowicz
brings the first claim against his former employer, Graphic
Packaging International, Inc., for breach of a Collective
Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) in violation of
§ 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act
(“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 185. Plaintiff brings
the second claim against his union, United Steel, Paper,
Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial
and Service Workers International Union (USW) AFL-CIO, CLC
Local Union #807 (“Union”), for failing to
fulfill its duty of providing fair representation for a
member. This action is inferred from the Union's
exclusive authority under the National Labor Relations Act
(“NLRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 159(a).
Count I, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Graphic Packaging
breached the CBA by terminating his employment and by not
allowing him to grieve his termination. In Count II,
Plaintiff contends that Defendant Union breached its duty of
fair representation by refusing to grieve or arbitrate his
termination. Together, these two claims are referred to
as a “hybrid § 301/fair representation
claim” because a plaintiff must establish both claims
before he is entitled to relief. See DelCostello v.
Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 164-65
deny the allegations and have moved for summary judgment.
(Doc. Nos. 51, 52.) Plaintiff has filed Responses in
Opposition (Doc. Nos. 59, 60), and Defendants have filed
Replies (Doc. Nos. 61, 62). For reasons that follow, the
Court will grant the Motions for Summary
1993 to May 11, 2016, Graphic Packaging employed Plaintiff
Michael D. Smokowicz at its Valley Forge, Pennsylvania plant.
(Doc. No. 52-1 ¶ 1.) Throughout his employment,
Plaintiff was a member of the Union. (Doc. No. 51-7 ¶
4.) As a member of the Union, Plaintiff was subject to a CBA.
(Doc. No. 52-1 ¶ 3.) The CBA provides in relevant part:
Section 1 [Graphic Packaging] reserves the
full right to discharge, transfer, suspend, promote, demote
or relieve employees from duties because of lack of work or
other justifiable reasons. Progressive discipline is intended
to be corrective in nature and not punitive. However, it is
understood and agreed that the above are subject to the
grievance procedure herein.
Section 2 If an employee is discharged, the
employee or the Union shall, upon request, receive in
writing, full and complete reasons therefore, and the steward
shall be notified. If the employee involved desires to file a
grievance, it must be submitted within five (5) days from the
time of discharge. . . .
(Doc. No. 52-3 at 18-19, art. XVII.)
March 5, 2013, Graphic Packaging fired Plaintiff after he
pushed a coating dolly at a co-worker in violation of its
Anti-Harassment and Violence in the Workplace policies. (Doc.
No. 52-1 ¶ 4.) Plaintiff testified that he pushed the
dolly because his co-worker provoked him. (Doc. No. 52-3 at
120:9-18.) Following his termination, the Union negotiated a
Last Chance Agreement (“LCA”) on Plaintiff's
behalf that restored him to his former position without back
pay and required him to attend a counseling program. (Doc.
No. 52-1 ¶ 7; Doc. No. 51-3 at 2.)
provides that Plaintiff “will be terminated for his
first failure to meet the any of terms [sic] or conditions
outlined below” and that “[t]his agreement and
any subsequent termination resulting from it will be
non-grievable.” (Doc. No. 51-3 at 2.) It further
Upon reinstatement, and for the remainder of his
employment at the Valley Forge Plant, [Plaintiff] must
perform all aspects of his job satisfactorily and meet all
established standards of conduct. Unsatisfactory job
performance includes but is not limited to non-compliance
with company plant rules, policies or procedures, lack of
productivity, unsafe acts, insubordination, negligent
reckless behavior, misconduct, etc.
. . . This Last Chance Agreement is non-precedent setting,
will not be referenced in future discussions between the
Parties, and is non-grievable.
(Id. (emphasis in original).) On March 22, 2013, the
LCA was signed by Plaintiff, the Union's President, the
Plant Manager, and the Human Resources Manager.
(Id.) Plaintiff and the Union were bound by the
LCA's terms. (Doc. No. 51-7 ¶ 13.)
April 2016, Graphic Packaging was notified that a pallet of
Hershey Reese's Peanut Butter King Size Cups had been
mislabeled with the incorrect batch tag as eight-ounce Kraft
Cream Cheese. (Doc. No. 51-6 at 2.) The incorrect batch tag
was generated by a computer that Plaintiff had signed on to.
(Doc. No. 51-2 at 138:20-24, 145:2-5.) In his deposition,
Plaintiff agreed that the mislabeling was a serious offense
that created a ...