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International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. Alloway Electric Co., Inc.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

July 22, 2014

INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, LOCAL 291, and THE TRUSTEES OF THE EIGHTH DISTRICT ELECTRICAL PENSION AND BENEFIT FUNDS, Plaintiffs,
v.
ALLOWAY ELECTRIC CO., INC., an Idaho corporation, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

CANDY W. DALE, Magistrate Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment. (Dkt. 14, 16.) Plaintiffs International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 291 and The Trustees of the Eighth District Electrical Pension and Benefit Funds (collectively, the Union) seek judicial confirmation of an arbitration award dated December 12, 2012, involving a dispute between the Union and Defendant Alloway Electric Co., Inc. (Alloway) over an alleged violation of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The total award sought to be confirmed is $42, 819.91. Alloway contests the award, arguing the Court should set it aside.

The Court conducted a hearing on July 7, 2014, at which the parties appeared and presented oral argument. After careful consideration of the parties' briefs, their arguments, and the relevant legal authorities, the Court enters the following order granting in part and denying in part both Plaintiffs' and Defendant's motions for summary judgment.

FACTS

The Union and Alloway are parties to a CBA that sets forth procedures to settle grievances arising between the Union, employers, and Union members. The CBA, entitled the Inside Wireman Agreement, (Dkt. 14-6 at 1), bound Alloway by virtue of its Letter of Assent. (Dkt. 14-5 at 1.) The Letter of Assent designated the Idaho Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association-Western Division (NECA) as Alloway's collective bargaining representative for all matters pertaining to the CBA.

According to the grievances section in the CBA, disputes between labor and management would be resolved as follows:

Section 1.05. There shall be a Labor-Management Committee of three representing the Union and three representing the Employers. It shall meet regularly at such stated times as it may decide. However, it shall also meet within 48 hours when notice is given by either party. It shall select its own Chairman and Secretary. The Local Union shall select the Union representatives and the Chapter shall select the management representatives.
Section 1.06. All grievances or questions in dispute shall be adjusted by the duly authorized representative of each of the parties to this Agreement. In the event that these two are unable to adjust any matter within 48 hours, they shall refer the same to the Labor-Management Committee.
Section 1.07. All matters coming before the Labor-Management Committee shall be decided by a majority vote. Four members of the Committee, two from each of the parties hereto, shall be a quorum for the transaction of business, but each party shall have the right to cast the full vote of its membership and it shall be counted as though all were present and voting.
Section 1.08. Should the Labor-Management Committee fail to agree or to adjust any matter, such shall then be referred to the Council on Industrial Relations for the Electrical Contracting Industry for adjudication. The Council's decisions shall be final and binding.

The CBA required Alloway to maintain a prescribed ratio of higher compensated journeyman wiremen to lower compensated electrician apprentices. Specifically, the CBA required that "each job site shall be allowed a ratio of two (2) apprentices for every three (3) Journeyman Wireman.... A job site is considered to be the physical location where employees report for their work assignments. The employer's shop (service center) is considered to be a separate, single job site. All other physical locations where workers report for work are each considered to be a single, separate job site." CBA Section 5.12 (Dkt. 14-6 at 23).

On December 16, 2011, the CBA was amended. Addendum (Dkt. 14-7 at 1). The ratio requirement was amended to require "Three (3) Journeymen to Two (2) Apprentice, CW, CE.[1] Contractor using this amendment shall maintain an Apprentice (Indentured) ratio of Five (5) Journeymen to One (1) Apprentice (Indentured) ratio shop wide." But, the terms of the Addendum allowed the Business Manager discretion to consider a variance to the ratio requirement "to enhance the competitive position of the parties" to the Addendum.

Marc Bernsen is the Executive Director of NECA. In that capacity, Bernsen received a letter dated December 3, 2012, from Aaron White, the Union's business manager, requesting a meeting of the Labor Management Committee (LMC) regarding Alloway's alleged violation of the Addendum of the CBA. (Dkt. 14-11, 14-12). Attached to the letter was Alloway's current roster of Journeyman Wireman and Apprentices. Bernsen confirms receiving the letter. Bernsen Decl. ¶ 6 (Dkt. 14-4).

Bernsen later informed Mr. Miles Elletson, Vice President of Alloway, of the grievance and the upcoming LMC meeting by telephone. Bernsen does not know the exact date or time of the call, but believes it occurred sometime between December 3, 2012, and December 10, 2012. Elletson informed Bernsen that Alloway would not be sending its own representative to the LMC meeting, but would permit its NECA representatives to advocate for Alloway. Elletson Aff. ¶ 21 (Dkt. 15-2). Elletson asserts that Bernsen did not inform him of the ratio violation grievance, but only spoke to him about a grievance filed by an employee who had been terminated from employment. Elletson Aff. ¶ 18 (Dkt. 15-2). Elletson did not receive any written confirmation of the grievances to be presented to the LMC, although written notice had occurred on prior occasions. Id. at ¶ 18. Elletson was not asked to provide information to NECA or the Union prior to the LMC meeting. Id. at ¶ 20.

The LMC met on December 10, 2012. Decl. of Bernsen ¶ 8 (Dkt. 14-4); but see Minutes (Dkt. 14-8).[2] Two grievances were addressed. Present at the meeting were four members representing Management, including Bernsen, and four members representing Labor, including Aaron White. The first grievance involved a wrongful termination claim brought by one of Alloway's employees. The second grievance concerned Alloway's violation of the ratio requirement under Article 5, Section 5.12 of the CBA. During the time the LMC meeting was held, Bernsen called Elletson to discuss issues relating to the wrongful termination grievance, and permitted Elletson to communicate Alloway's position on the matter. Elletson Aff. ¶ 22. Elletson was not asked to provide any information about the grievance regarding the ratios. Id.

After discussion, the LMC issued a determination that Alloway "adhere to the terms and conditions of the current Inside Wireman's Agreement and come into ratio as stated in Article 5 section 5.12. In the event Alloway does not come into ratio by December 13, 2012, all Construction Electricians (CE) must be paid the full wage and benefit package equal to an Inside Wireman, [3] commencing on December 13, 2012." Bernsen was directed to prepare a letter notifying Alloway of the LMC's action.

Bernsen informed Elletson, by telephone, of the LMC's decision on December 11, 2012. Bernsen Decl. ¶ 9 (Dkt. 14-4 at 3); Elletson Aff. ¶ 23 (Dkt. 15-2). Bernsen again informed Elletson by letter dated December 14, 2012. Bernsen Decl. ¶ 9; Elletson Aff. ¶ 24. The December 14, 2012, letter addressed to Elletson informed Alloway that the LMC found Alloway in violation of Article 5, Section 5.12, and suggested various solutions to the issue, such as hiring additional Journeymen; laying off Construction Electricians; or paying the currently employed Construction Electricians the current wage and benefits of an Inside Wireman commencing December 13, 2012. The letter did not contain information about any penalty that would be assessed against Alloway, nor did it attach a copy of the minutes from the December 10, 2012, LMC meeting. (Dkt. 14-8 at 3.)

Aaron White states that Alloway did not return to ratio or pay the appropriate salary and benefits required by the LMC decision. White Decl. ¶ 13 (Dkt. 14-10). As a result, in "early January, 2013, " White sent a letter to Elletson informing him that the LMC decision was final, but that Alloway could seek review at the Council on Industrial Relations.[4] This letter indicates that a copy of the minutes from the December 10, 2012, LMC meeting was attached. (Dkt. 14-14.) However, the copy of the letter Elletson received on January 16, 2013, did not include a copy of the December 10 LMC meeting minutes. (Dkt. 15-4.) Elletson received a second undated letter on January 16, 2013, from Aaron White requesting copies of payroll records for the period December 13, 2012 through January 11, 2013, for all employees covered by the CBA and the Addendum. (Dkt. 15-4.) Elletson attempted to contact White to discuss the issue. Id. However, White did not return Elletson's phone calls. Elletson Aff. ¶ 36 (Dkt. 15-2 at 12.) Alloway did not seek review by the Council on Industrial Relation, and according to White, Alloway did not compensate the CE's/CW's as required by the LMC award. White Decl. ¶ 15 (Dkt. 14-10).

Article X, Section 4 of the Pension Fund Trust Agreement governs collection of delinquencies by the Pension Fund from participating employers. (Dkt. 14-16 at 3). The Trust Agreement states that, when a participating employer is delinquent, the Trustees "shall have the authority to take all reasonable steps necessary as appropriate to redress the delinquency...." If the Trust's administrative manager receives information indicating that a participating employer has failed to report employees, or hours, or any other reporting irregularity, the Administrative Manager may send a ...


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