United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
June 24, 2004.
J.F. EDWARDS CONSTRUCTION CO., Plaintiff,
INTERNATIONAL UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS, LOCAL UNION NO. 150, AFL-CIO, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES NORGLE, District Judge
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, J.F. Edwards Construction Co. ("J.F. Edwards"), has
filed suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against
Defendant, International Union of Operating Engineers, Local
Union No. 150, AFL-CIO ("Local 150"), and has based federal
subject matter jurisdiction upon § 301 of the Labor Management
Relations Act ("LMRA"), codified at 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). For the
following reasons, the Complaint is dismissed for lack of subject
On August 2, 1996, J.F. Edwards and Local 150 entered into a
collective bargaining agreement. The parties executed a
Memorandum of Agreement ("Agreement"), which incorporated by
reference the Master Collective Bargaining Agreement ("Master
Agreement") between Local 150 and the Mid-America Regional
Bargaining Association (collectively "collective bargaining
agreement"). According to J.F. Edwards, the collective bargaining
agreement was intended to be a pre-hire agreement, pursuant to
29 U.S.C. § 158(f) ("§ 8(f) agreement"). According to Local 150, the collective bargaining agreement was intended to be a majority
representation agreement, pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 159(a) ("§ 9(a)
agreement"). Under § 9 of the National Labor Relations Act,
employers are obligated to bargain only with unions that have
been selected by a majority of employees; however, under § 8(f)
of the National Labor Relations Act, an exception to this
majority support requirement exists within the construction
industry, allowing employers to enter a "pre-hire" agreement with
a union regardless of how many employees authorize the union's
representation. See 1 The Developing Labor Law 958-66
(Patrick Hardin, et al. eds., 4th ed. 2001); see also
John Deklewa & Sons, 282 N.L.R.B. 1375, 1378, 124 L.R.R.M.
1185, 1188 (1987), enforced sub nom., Iron Workers, Local 3 v.
NLRB, 843 F.2d 770, 779-80, 128 L.R.R.M. 2020, 2028 (3d Cir.
1988). In sum, the parties present the court with a
The parties worked together under the collective bargaining
agreement, with J.F. Edwards employing two employees from Local
150 on two separate jobs in and around 1996. Thereafter, J.F.
Edwards did not utilize any members of Local 150 on any other
projects within the jurisdiction of Local 150.
J.F. Edwards contends that it intended to terminate the
collective bargaining agreement on April 2, 1997 by labeling a
contribution report as the final report. Local 150 did not share
that intention. In February 2001, Local 150 sought to place one
of its members on a project J.F. Edwards was working; however,
the matter was not pursued further. On March 30, 2001, J.F.
Edwards sent a formal letter notifying Local 150 of its intention
to terminate the collective bargaining agreement. Once again,
Local 150 did not share that intention. The parties dispute
whether such termination was effective, which in turn depends on
whether the collective bargaining agreement was a § 8(f) or a §
9(a) agreement. In July 2003, Local 150 once again sought to place one of its
members on a project, and ultimately notified J.F. Edwards that
it had filed a grievance under the grievance and arbitration
procedure in the Master Agreement. On August 27, 2003, J.F.
Edwards responded by filing the Complaint in this case. In its
Complaint, J.F. Edwards asks this court to enter declaratory
judgment against Local 150, concluding that it is no longer bound
to the collective bargaining agreement with Local 150 and not
obligated to abide by the terms and conditions set forth therein.
J.F. Edwards further requests this court to enjoin Local 150 from
processing a grievance against it under the grievance and
arbitration procedure in the Master Agreement.
Local 150 filed a motion to dismiss, brought pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Once that motion was
fully briefed, the court issued a minute order indicating that,
based on the parties' submissions, it intended to convert the
motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. While not
developed by the parties, it has become apparent that the court's
jurisdiction must first be determined.
"The federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction [and]
[w]e have no authority to adjudicate cases outside our purview."
Int'l Union of Oper. Eng'rs, Local 150, AFL-CIO v. Rabine,
161 F.3d 427, 430 (7th Cir. 1998). Thus, the federal courts are
"always obliged to inquire sua sponte whenever a doubt arises
as to the existence of federal jurisdiction." Tylka v. Gerber
Prods. Co., 211 F.3d 445, 447-48 (7th Cir. 2000) (quotation and
internal marks omitted).
The jurisdictional statement in J.F. Edwards' Complaint
provides: "This action is brought pursuant to and jurisdiction is
founded upon Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act,
29 U.S.C. § 185 to declare the rights and obligations of the
parties." Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 1. Section 301(a) of the LMRA provides in pertinent part:
Suits for violation of contracts between an employer
and a labor organization representing employees in an
industry affecting commerce . . . may be brought in
any district court of the United States having
jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the
amount in controversy or without regard to the
citizenship of the parties.
29 U.S.C. § 185(a)(2003).
"The § 301 grant of jurisdiction is extremely limited."
Teamsters Nat'l Auto. Transporters Ind. Negotiating Comm. v.
Troha, 328 F.3d 325, 329 (7th Cir. 2003). The lynchpin of any
claim under § 301 of the LMRA is a "violation" of a labor
contract, as the Supreme Court clarified in Textron Lycoming
Reciprocating Engine Div., AVCO Corp. v. UAW, 523 U.S. 653
(1998). In the absence of an allegation of a "violation" of a
labor agreement, a federal district court has no jurisdiction
under § 301 of the LMRA to entertain a controversy. See
Textron, 523 U.S. at 661-62 ("Because the Union's complaint
alleges no violation of the collective-bargaining agreement,
neither we nor the federal courts below have subject-matter
jurisdiction over this case under § 301(a)."); see also
Troha, 328 F.3d at 329 ("The holding of Textron is that only
cases that allege violations of the collective bargaining
agreement fall under the jurisdictional grant of § 301.").
In Textron, the union alleged that it had been induced to
agree to a no-strike clause in a collective bargaining agreement
by the employer's fraudulent concealment during negotiations of
its plans to subcontract a major portion of the work of the
bargaining unit. See Textron, 523 U.S. at 655. The union
filed suit in federal district court, basing subject matter
jurisdiction on § 301 of the LMRA, seeking a declaratory judgment
that the collective bargaining agreement was voidable as a result
of fraud in the inducement. See id. The Supreme Court held
that § 301 does not encompass a suit for declaratory judgment
that a collective bargaining agreement was procured by fraud in the inducement. See id. at 661-62. As the Court
stated: "`Suits for violation of contracts' under § 301(a) are
not suits that claim a contract is invalid, but suits that claim
a contract has been violated." Id. at 657. The Textron Court
proceeded to state:
This does not mean that a federal court can never
adjudicate the validity of a contract under § 301(a).
That provision simply erects a gateway through which
parties may pass into federal court; once they have
entered, it does not restrict the legal landscape
they may traverse. Thus if, in the course of deciding
whether a plaintiff is entitled to relief for the
defendant's alleged violation of a contract, the
defendant interposes the affirmative defense that the
contract was invalid, the court may, consistent with
§ 301(a), adjudicate that defense. Similarly, a
declaratory judgment plaintiff accused of violating a
collective-bargaining agreement may ask a court to
declare the agreement invalid. But in these cases,
the federal court's power to adjudicate the
contract's validity is ancillary to, and not
independent of, its power to adjudicate "[s]uits for
violation of contracts."
Id. at 657-58 (internal citation omitted).
J.F. Edwards asks this court to enter declaratory judgment
against Local 150, concluding that it is no longer bound to the
collective bargaining agreement with Local 150 and not obligated
to abide by the terms and conditions set forth therein, including
the grievance and arbitration procedures. Specifically, J.F.
Edwards contends that it properly terminated its collective
bargaining agreement with Local 150 and Local 150 claims that no
such proper termination occurred, which in turn depends on
whether the agreement was a § 8(f) or a § 9(a) agreement.
However, the Complaint contains no express allegations that the
collective bargaining agreement has been violated. While not
expressly stated in the Complaint, the parties' pleadings and
exhibits for the motion to dismiss indicate that Local 150 filed
a grievance because J.F. Edwards refused to recognize the
collective bargaining agreement. Yet, the mere allegation that an
employer violated a collective bargaining agreement by refusing
to recognize the agreement is insufficient to confer federal
jurisdiction. See Chicago & Northeast Ill. Dist. Council
Carpenters v. GDCNI/CAWCC, No. 01 C 6097, 2002 WL 237972, *3-5 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 19, 2002) (interpreting Textron).
The rationale is that an allegation that an employer refuses to
recognize a collective bargaining agreement states a claim for
contract formation and validity, and not violation of contract as
mandated by the express language of § 301. See id.; see
also The Developing Labor Law 315 (Howard Z. Rosen, et al.,
eds., 4th ed. 2003 Supp.).
Furthermore, even if § 301 jurisdiction arguably exists,
federal district courts must defer when presented with § 301
cases that fall within the National Labor Relations Board's
("NLRB") primary jurisdiction. While § 301 contemplates
situations in which the NLRB and the federal district courts will
have concurrent jurisdiction, this concurrent jurisdiction
requires federal district courts to decide whether they should
exercise jurisdiction over matters within the primary
jurisdiction of the NLRB. Further, certain matters are committed
by Congress to the exclusive jurisdiction of the NLRB.
A brief review of the arguments presented to the court by the
parties underscores the importance of respecting the
jurisdictional grant of § 301. In short, J.F. Edwards attempts to
present this court with a representation issue that properly
belongs to the NLRB, which Congress granted primary jurisdiction
over such matters. When a labor dispute is arguably
representational, a district court should not exercise
jurisdiction. See Kaiser Steel Corp. v. Mullins, 455 U.S. 72,
83 (1982) ("As a general rule, federal courts do not have
jurisdiction over activity which is arguably subject to § 7 or §
8 of the NLRA, and they must defer to the exclusive competence of
the National Labor Relations Board." (internal quotations and
citations omitted)); Loewen Group Intern., Inc. v. Haberichter,
65 F.3d 1417, 1425 (7th Cir. 1995) (indicating that when an
activity is arguably prohibited under the National Labor
Relations Act, state and federal courts must defer to the
exclusive jurisdiction of the NLRB); see also Pace v.
Honolulu Disposal Service, Inc., 227 F.3d 1150, 1156-57 (9th Cir. 2000) ("Although § 301 confers concurrent
jurisdiction upon the NLRB and federal courts, we have recognized
that district courts must tread lightly in areas of the NLRB's
primary jurisdiction and must continue to defer when, on close
examination, section 301 cases fall within the NLRB's primary
jurisdiction." (internal quotations and citations omitted)).
This conclusion is supported by the Textron Court's
contraction of § 301 jurisdiction in the federal district courts.
As Justice Stevens, concurring in Textron, stated, respecting
the jurisdictional grant of § 301 "comports with the important
goal of protecting the primary jurisdiction of the National Labor
Relations Board in resolving disputes arising from the
collective-bargaining process." Textron, 523 U.S. at 662
(Stevens, J. concurring). The federal district courts do not
figure into the scheme envisioned by the National Labor Relations
Act in disputes such as those presented by J.F. Edwards.
Another important point underscores the fact that this court
cannot, and if it arguably could, should not, grant the
declaratory and injunctive relief sought by J.F. Edwards. J.F.
Edwards requests this court to enjoin Local 150 from processing a
grievance against it under the grievance and arbitration
procedure in the collective bargaining agreement. In AT & T
Broadband LLC v. IBEW, 317 F.3d 758, 763 (7th Cir. 2003), the
Seventh Circuit held that a district court may not enjoin the
arbitration of a labor dispute. This holding reflects a
well-settled tenct of federal labor law. See, e.g.,
Norris-LaGuardia Anti-Injunction Act, 29 U.S.C. § 101-15. Once
again, the federal district courts do not figure into the scheme
envisioned by the National Labor Relations Act in disputes such
as those presented by J.F. Edwards.
In conclusion, the court holds that it has no jurisdiction
under § 301 of the LMRA to adjudicate the controversy presented
by J.F. Edwards, and further, federal labor law policies require that this court not exercise jurisdiction and give deference to
For the foregoing reasons, J.F. Edwards' Complaint is dismissed
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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