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October 5, 2001


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joan B. Gottschall, United States District Judge.


Plaintiff, Local Union 15, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO (the "Union"), has filed a complaint for preliminary injunction against defendant Exelon Corporation including its subsidiaries ("Exelon"). The Union alleges that Exelon has implemented a layoff procedure in contravention of the parties' Collective Bargaining Agreement and Supplement ("Agreement"). The Union seeks an injunction compelling Exelon to stop the disputed layoff procedure, provide full benefits to employees forced on layoff, and return employees who were transferred or demoted to their original positions, until an arbitration can be completed pursuant to the Agreement. Exelon moves to dismiss the complaint for a preliminary injunction. For the reasons set forth below, Exelon's motion is granted and plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction is denied as moot.


The Union and Exelon have negotiated fringe benefits for the employees and their dependents. All benefits cease as of the end of the pay period in which bargaining unit employees are laid off. Bargaining unit employees on layoff status have the right under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act ("COBRA") to elect continuation of some health benefits for up to 18 months provided that the employees pay the total cost of coverage plus a 2% administration fee.

On June 13, 2001, Exelon informed the Union that it was contemplating a layoff of 292 bargaining unit employees. On June 14, 2001, before conducting any meetings with the Union, Exelon scheduled meetings with between 275 and 300 employees; the Union claims that Exelon gave the employees false information at these meetings regarding their rights under the Agreement. The Union and Exelon held four meetings between June 13, 2001 and July 13, 2001. The Union claims that Exelon did not propose any programs for spreading the work as required by the Agreement. The Union also claims that there are between 500 and 800 contractor employees performing work which could be performed by regular employees, in contravention of the Agreement.

The Union alleges that Exelon has forced employees into layoff status by offering a severance package containing monetary benefits and continuation of fringe benefits (meaning that the employees would not have to pay 102% of COBRA premiums), provided that the employees sign a release severing their employment status and all rights with Exelon ("severance agreement"). The Union further claims that employees being forced on layoff are not given an opportunity to transfer or bump as provided in the Agreement, nor are they offered any travel or moving expenses for transfers, as provided in the Agreement. Specifically, the Union alleges that Exelon assigns employees to a "pool" or other job position at a location so far from the employee's current work location that the employees will not accept the new position and be forced on layoff. In addition, the Union alleges that Exelon has not terminated any contractors or contractor employees who continue to perform work that could be done by regular employees, in violation of the Agreement. The Union has filed a grievance concerning Exelon's layoff process. The dispute is subject to arbitration, pursuant to the Agreement.

On September 10, 2001, the Union filed its complaint for preliminary injunction, seeking an order from this court compelling Exelon to cease its layoff process, provide full fringe benefits to those employees forced on layoff or forced to sign the severance agreement, and return employees forced into different job positions back to their original positions, until arbitration is completed. Exelon has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the Union has failed to allege any facts that establish that the employees would suffer irreparable harm without a preliminary injunction. The Union vehemently opposes this argument.


A. Legal Standard

Jurisdiction in this case is governed by the Norris-LaGuardia Act (the "Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 101. The Act provides:

No court of the United States . . . shall have jurisdiction to issue any restraining order or temporary or permanent injunction in a case involving or growing out of a labor dispute, except in strict conformity with the provisions of this chapter; nor shall any such restraining order or temporary or permanent injunction be issued contrary to the public policy declared in this chapter.

29 U.S.C. § 101. The Act has been recognized to "broadly prohibit[] federal courts from issuing injunctions in labor disputes." Local Lodge No. 12266 Int'l. Ass'n of Machinists and Aerospace Workers v. Panoramic Corp., 668 F.2d 276, 279 (7th Cir. 1981).

Courts have recognized, however, that the Act does not necessarily preclude injunctions against employer breaches of collective bargaining agreements. See id. at 283. In Boys Markets, Inc. v. Retail Clerks Union, 398 U.S. 235 (1970), the Supreme Court recognized an exception to the Act, which was later narrowed by Buffalo Forge Co. v. United Steelworkers of Am., 428 U.S. 397 (1976). "Such relief is available, in aid of arbitration, where the underlying dispute is subject to mandatory arbitration under the labor contract and where an injunction is necessary to prevent arbitration from being rendered a meaningless ritual." Panoramic, 668 F.2d at 279. Courts have recognized four requirements in cases such as this. First, the case must be subject to arbitration. Second, the position that the Union will espouse in arbitration must be "sufficiently sound to prevent the arbitration from being a futile endeavor." ...

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