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Grant v. Burlington Industries

decided: September 24, 1987.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, No. 85-C-6391, Susan Getzendanner, Judge.

Bauer, Chief Judge, Cudahy and Easterbrook, Circuit Judges.

Author: Cudahy

CUDAHY, Circuit Judge.

The plaintiff, Robert Grant, brought this action against his former employers, Burlington Industries ("Burlington") and Employer's Resources, Inc. ("ERI"), alleging that they discharged him in violation of his rights under a collection bargaining agreement. Grant also sued his collective bargaining agent, Local 710 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("Local 710"), charging that Local 710 breached its duty to fairly represent him in processing his grievance protesting his discharge. The district court awarded summary judgment in favor of Local 710 and also entered judgment in favor of the employer defendants. Grant brought this appeal. We affirm.


Summary judgment is appropriate when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In reviewing the facts, we must resolve any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial against the moving party. Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59, 90 S. Ct. 1598, 26 L. Ed. 2d 142 (1970).

Grant worked as a truck driver for Burlington beginning in 1973. The truck drivers at Burlington were initially represented by the Chicago Independent Truck Drivers Union. Thereafter, ERI formally employed the truck drivers at Burlington. Beginning in July, 1984, the truck drivers, including Grant, were represented by Local 710. Grant has long been an openly active leader of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, an organization of union dissidents. He publicly opposed Local 710's replacement of the Chicago Independent Truck Drivers Union as the representative of the Burlington truck drivers.

On January 9, 1985, Grant was discharged by ERI allegedly for failing to undertake a trip as dispatched the previous day. Grant contends that he refused to make the trip because when asked to do so he had already completed his work day, and because the dispatcher should have first asked one of the two other drivers with less seniority than he who were present. Grant also claims that the dispatcher only requested that he make the overtime trip and accepted Grant's refusal.

Article 4 of the collective bargaining agreement between Local 710 and ERI requires ERI to give an employee a written warning notice (with a copy of the notice to Local 710) prior to discharging him or her:

The Employer shall not discharge nor suspend any employee without just cause. With respect to discharge or suspension, which includes repeated tardiness or absence from duty, the Employer shall give at least one warning notice of the complaint against such employee to the employee in writing and a copy of same to the Local Union . . . except that no warning notice need be given to an employee before he is discharged if the cause of such discharge is dishonesty or drunkenness, when such charges are proven . . . Discharge without warning if the employee is under the influence of any drug which use of is prohibited by state or federal law . . . Failure of the employer to comply with the requirement of a warning letter prior to discharge or suspension for any offense other than dishonesty or drunkenness when such charges are proven will automatically waive the Employer's rights under Article 6 of this Agreement and the Union will be permitted to take any economic action it deems necessary to enforce full compliance. . . .

Grant's Complaint, Exhibit A (emphasis added). Grant was not given a warning notice of the complaint against him prior to his discharge.

Grant filed a grievance against ERI and discussed his grievance with Local 710 business agent Alex Kern. At that time, Grant told Kern everything he then wanted to say concerning his grievance. He asked Kern to obtain certain documents for him from ERI, including the January 8, 1985 manifests (delivery instructions and receipts) and timecards of himself and two other drivers. Grant told Kern that these documents would prove that he was discharged without cause. Grant spoke with Kern a second time to inform Kern that he had received ERI's formal discharge letter.

Grant was then notified by Local 710 that a hearing on his grievance would be held on January 30, 1985, before a joint union-employer grievance committee known as the Joint State Committee (the "JSC"). The JSC consists of an equal number of union and employer representatives. Article 6 of the collective bargaining agreement provides in part:

The Operators and Union shall together create a permanent Committee. The Joint Committee shall consist of an equal number representing Employers and Union but ...

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