The opinion of the court was delivered by: Elaine E. Bucklo, United States District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Altounian Builders Inc. ("Altounian") is a general contractor
specializing in custom homes and light buildings. Defendants
("Bricklayers") are unions representing bricklayers and allied workers.
Altounian has collective bargaining agreements with Bricklayers, as well
as with a local affiliate of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and
Joiners of America ("Carpenters").
In February 2002, a dispute arose between Altounian and Bricklayers
over the installation of prefabricated aerated autoclave concrete
("PAAC"). Altounian assigned to Carpenters PAAC work which Bricklayers
believed it was entitled to perform. Bricklayers informed Altounian by
letter that it intended to settle the matter in a grievance hearing
before a joint arbitration board ("JAB"), as outlined in the collective
bargaining agreement between the parties. Representatives of Bricklayers
allegedly also threatened to picket Altounian unless it assigned the work
to Bricklayers. In response to this alleged threat, Altounian filed a
charge with the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB"), asserting that
Bricklayers' threat was a violation of § 8(b)(4) of the National
Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"). The NLRB conducted an initial investigation
and then held a hearing pursuant to § 10(k) of the NLRA,
29 U.S.C. § 160 (k), to determine if Bricklayers' actions were
improper, and if so, to determine whether Carpenters or Bricklayers
should be assigned the PAAC work. The NLRB hearing took place on March
21, 2002, and a decision is currently pending.
Meanwhile, Bricklayers proceeded with its grievance action before the
JAB. Amid disputed circumstances, Altounian was not able to attend this
arbitration, which took place on March 4, 2002. The JAB issued a written
decision on or about March 21, 2002, found that Altounian had violated
its contract with Bricklayers by assigning the PAAC work to Carpenters,
and awarded damages to Bricklayers for the work it had lost.
On June 14, 2002, Altounian filed the present action to vacate
the arbitration awards. Altounian now moves for a 120-day stay of
these proceedings pending the issuance of a decision by the NLRB.
I grant the motion.
The parties agree that a decision by the NLRB as to which union is
entitled to perform PAAC work will be binding on all parties and will
take precedence over competing arbitration awards. Miron Constr. Co. v.
Int. Union of Operating Eng'rs, 44 F.3d 558, 564 (7th Cir. 1995).
Altounian suggests that this court should exercise its inherent power to
grant a stay pending the NLRB's decision. See Creative Foods of Ind.,
Inc., v. My Favorite Muffin, Too, Inc., 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2816, *12
(S.D. md. 2002). It states that if this court denies a stay, and the NLRB
subsequently decides that the PAAC work was properly assigned to
Carpenters, both parties and the court will have wasted a good deal of
time and money litigating the enforceability of moot arbitration awards.
In opposition, Bricklayers argues, first, that the national policy
favoring speedy resolution of labor disputes mitigate against granting
the proposed stay. This is an excellent policy where strikes, lockouts,
etc. are concerned, or where a dispute prevents the prompt payment of
laborers for work performed. But the instant case does not implicate any
such urgent situation. Bricklayers seeks payment not for work it
performed, but for damages to which it may be entitled. It has not
presented any arguments that its interests will be prejudiced by the
stay. If, following a decision by the NLRB in the Bricklayers' favor, I
hold that the arbitration award must be enforced, Bricklayers will be
paid in full.
Second, Bricklayers argues that portions of the arbitration award will
be unaffected by the NLRB's decision, no matter what it may be. I simply
do not have enough evidence before me at this point to determine the
accuracy of this statement. But even if Bricklayers is right, there is
little reason to proceed with discovery on those issues which the NLRB
decision will not affect while delaying discovery on intricately related
issues which were decided at the same arbitration hearings, but which may
be resolved by the NLRB's decision. It is far more efficient to
investigate all related issues at the same time.
Finally, Bricklayers correctly points to cases holding that a pending
NLRB action on a dispositive issue does not prevent a federal court from
moving forward simultaneously. See Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics, and
Allied Workers v. A-CMI Michigan Casting Ctr., 191 F.3d 764 (6th Cir.
1999); Ryan-Walsh Stevedoring v. General Longshore Workers,
509 F. Supp. 463 (E.D. La. 1981). However, nothing in the cited cases
suggests that a court may not issue a stay where, as here, delay will
prejudice neither party's interests and may streamline litigation in the
Bricklayers is correct that a stay is not required in these
circumstances. However, in order to avoid needless backtracking ...