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BECK v. CATERPILLAR INC.

May 31, 1994

JAMES BECK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CATERPILLAR INC., AND UNITED AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE AND AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McDADE, District Judge.

ORDER

This is an action brought by James Beck ("Beck") under Section 301 of the Labor-Management Relations Act, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 185. Section 301 grants the federal courts jurisdiction over suits alleging a violation of a collective bargaining agreement between an employer and a labor union. Beck is a former employee of the Defendant, Caterpillar Inc. ("Caterpillar"). While employed by Caterpillar, Beck was a member of the Defendant, United Automobile Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America ("UAW"). At all times relevant to this case, Caterpillar and the UAW were parties to a collective bargaining agreement which governed the terms and conditions of Beck's employment.

In the instant case, Beck alleges that Caterpillar violated the collective bargaining agreement when it separated him from employment on April 21, 1989. Beck further contends that the UAW breached its statutory duty to represent him fairly in the handling of the grievance he filed protesting his separation under the collective bargaining agreement because the UAW withdrew the grievance prior to arbitration on August 23, 1990. Caterpillar and the UAW now move for summary judgment on the ground that Beck has failed to file suit within the applicable limitations period and that his suit is, therefore, barred. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment are granted.*fn1

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there is no genuine issue of material fact.

As to materiality, the substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.

As to genuine issue, summary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is "genuine," that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986), Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). As stated in Anderson, "at the summary judgment stage the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." When a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. There is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, or is no more than a scintilla, a summary judgment may be granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed. Beck was hired by Caterpillar in 1966. He was a member of the UAW during the entire time Caterpillar employed him and was, at all times relevant to the instant case, subject to the 1988 collective bargaining agreement between Caterpillar and the UAW.

On April 21, 1989, Caterpillar terminated Beck, pursuant to Section 14.6 of the collective bargaining agreement.*fn2 On or about April 25, 1989, Beck filed a grievance under the applicable collective bargaining agreement protesting his separation from employment. On August 23, 1990, Caterpillar denied Beck's grievance and the UAW, for reasons not relevant here, withdrew Beck's grievance without first submitting it to arbitration.*fn3

Beck challenged the UAW's withdrawal of his grievance by pursuing intra-union appeal procedures established in the UAW Constitution. On March 20, 1992, the UAW formally denied Beck's intra-union appeals and, by letter to his attorney dated April 3, 1992, informed Beck that it would take no further action on his behalf to reinstate his grievance.

On September 18, 1992, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in case number 92-1409 in this Court. On January 14, 1993, counsel for Beck filed a Motion for Voluntary Dismissal, which was granted by Magistrate Judge Robert J. Kauffman without prejudice, and the case was terminated. On January 4, 1994, Beck, acting pro se, filed a new Complaint against Caterpillar and the UAW alleging the same claims found in the original suit, case number 92-1409.*fn4 The new Complaint is the basis for the instant action and is referred to the Court as case number 94-1007.

DISCUSSION

Beck brings this suit solely under Section 301 of the Labor-Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, against both Caterpillar and the UAW. In DelCostello v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 103 S.Ct. 2281, 76 L.Ed.2d 476 (1983), the Supreme Court expressly held that a "hybrid" Section 301 action (brought both against an employer and a labor organization alleging breach of a collective bargaining agreement against the employer and breach of the duty of fair representation against the union), such as the instant suit, is governed by the six-month statute of limitations set forth in Section 10(b) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. ยง 160(b). See also Pantoja v. ...


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