Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. IP 86-104-C-S. Hugh Dillin, Judge.
Wood, Jr., and Ripple, Circuit Judges, and Eschbach, Senior Circuit Judge.
ESCHBACH, Senior Circuit Judge.
In International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 481 v. Sign-Craft, Inc., 851 F.2d 910 (7th Cir. 1988), this court upheld the district court's determination that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction under § 301 of the Labor Management
Relations Act ("LMRA") to decide whether a valid collective bargaining agreement existed between the appellant and the appellee. Subsequently, the appellant filed a petition for rehearing. On reconsideration, we grant appellant's petition for rehearing, withdraw our original opinion, vacate our judgment in that opinion, substitute this opinion for our original opinion, and reverse and remand the district court's decision denying jurisdiction.
This case centers upon a claim by appellant, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 481 ("union"), that appellee, Sign-Craft, Inc., improperly repudiated the multi-employer collective bargaining agreement between the union and the Sign Industry Employers Association ("SIEA"). From June 1981 through May 31, 1983, Sign-Craft had been a party to the multi-employer agreement between the union and the Indianapolis Sign Association, which was the predecessor to the SIEA. The SIEA eventually entered into its own agreement with the union. This controversy arose as a result of Sign-Craft's decision to cease operations within the Indianapolis area and its purported withdrawal from the multi-employer association now represented by the SIEA.
The record reveals that as a result of Sign-Craft's alleged repudiation of the union-SIEA agreement, the union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") on November 19, 1983. This charge claimed that Sign-Craft had violated §§ 8(a)(1), 8(a)(3), and 8(a)(5) of the LMRA. In a letter and summary report dated December 29, 1983, the NLRB Regional Director refused to issue an unfair labor practice complaint and dismissed the unfair labor practice charge.
No grievance was filed by the union as a result of Sign-Craft's actions. On January 27, 1986, however, the union brought the present action against Sign-Craft in the district court under 29 U.S.C. § 185(a) (§ 301(a) of the LMRA). Sign-Craft moved for summary judgment, asserting in part that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The district court granted Sign-Craft's motion, treating it as a motion to dismiss, and dismissed the union's cause of action, without prejudice, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
In dismissing the appellant's cause of action, the district court noted:
While the Union would have the Court view the question of whether the agreement validly binds Sign-Craft as merely incidental to the ultimate question of contract violation, such a view is contrary to the posture of the complaint. The Union alleges in its complaint that Sign-Craft has consistently ignored the terms of the agreement, and for that reason, requests declaratory and injunctive relief. In this context, the request for damages should the Count find the agreement binding on Sign-Craft is incidental to the question of validity, rather than vice-versa.
Proceeding from this characterization of the complaint, the district court concluded that because "the ultimate question for disposition is one of contract validity" the holding in NDK Cop. v. Local 1550 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, 709 F.2d 491 (7th Cir. 1983), obliged it to dismiss the union's cause of action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The union appeals that dismissal.
The sole issue before us is whether the district court properly determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction under § 301(a) of the LMRA to hear the union's suit. Our review of that decision is de novo. See Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 72 v. John Payne Co., 850 F.2d 1535, 1537 (11th Cir. 1988); Huettig & Schromm, Inc. v. Landscape Contractors Council, 790 F.2d 1421, 1425 (9th Cir. 1986).
Section 301(a) of the LMRA ...