United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
January 11, 2005.
J.F. EDWARDS CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, 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
On June 24, 2004, this court entered an Order dismissing
Plaintiff J.F. Edwards Construction Company's Complaint for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction. See J.F. Edwards Construction
Co. v. Int'l Union of Operating Eng's, No. 03-C-6058, 2004 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 11803 (N.D. Ill. June 24, 2004). J.F. Edwards
Construction Company ("Edwards") now moves the court to
reconsider its decision. For the following reasons, Edwards'
Motion for Reconsideration is denied.
Plaintiff Edwards, an electrical contractor, entered into a
collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") with Defendant Local
Union 150 ("150") in August 1996, which incorporated by reference a Master CBA ("MCBA") between 150 and the Mid-America
Regional Bargaining Association ("MARBA"). Although the parties
disputed whether their CBA was a "pre-hire" agreement or a
"majority representation" agreement, they apparently worked
together amicably under the CBA until April 1997. On April 2,
1997, however, Edwards attempted to terminate the CBA by labeling
a "contribution report" a "final report." 150 did not agree that
the CBA was terminated; however, Edwards ceased utilizing members
of 150 at that point.
In February 2001, a representative of 150 called Edwards,
seeking to place workers at a project on which Edwards was
working. Edwards declined this offer, asserting that its
contractual agreement with 150 was terminated. 150 did not pursue
the matter further. Edwards then sent 150 a letter which asserted
that Edwards' CBA with 150 was formally terminated. 150 again did
not agree, and in July 2003 sought to place workers on an Edwards
project at Harper College. Edwards again refused, and 150 filed a
grievance with MARBA under the terms of the MCBA.
B. Procedural History
Edwards responded to the grievance by filing suit against 150
in the Northern District of Illinois. Edwards asks the court to
enter declaratory judgment against 150, asserting that because
its CBA with 150 was terminated, Edwards is no longer bound by
the MCBA, and is therefore not subject to grievance and
arbitration procedures. Edwards also asks the court to enjoin 150
from pursuing its grievance against Edwards. 150 filed a Motion
to Dismiss, which the court converted to a motion for summary
judgment. After the Motion was fully briefed, the court
determined that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction, and
dismissed the Complaint. Edwards, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11803.
Edwards then filed its Motion to Reconsider. That Motion is fully briefed and before the court.
A. Standard of Decision
In seeking relief from a judgment of this court, Edwards would
have to proceed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e)
or 60(b). However, Edwards fails to cite either Rule 59(e) or
60(b) in support of its Motion. This alone is sufficient reason
to deny Edwards' Motion. See United States v. Jones,
224 F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir. 2000) (noting that an undeveloped argument
speaks to its paucity, and that courts are not required to
consider such arguments). Although Edwards cites no Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure for which this Motion is brought, the court,
with an abundance of caution, construes Edwards' Motion as being
brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e).
Rule 59(e) requires that "[a]ny motion to alter or amend
judgment shall be filed no later than 10 days after the entry of
judgment." FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e). Rule 6(a) states that "[w]hen
the period of time prescribed or allowed [for filing] is less
than 11 days, intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays
shall be excluded in the computation." FED. R. CIV. P. (6)(a). In
addition, "entry of judgment is not completed until it is
recorded on the docket. . . ." Dame v. Dept. of Revenue,
137 F.3d 484, 486 (7th Cir. 1998). In this particular instance, after
making the appropriate computations, the court finds that
Edwards' Motion was timely filed with the court for it to be
considered a Rule 59(e) Motion for Reconsideration.
"The only grounds for a Rule 59(e) motion . . . are newly
discovered evidence, an intervening change in the controlling
law, and manifest error of law [or fact]." Cosgrove v.
Bartolotta, 150 F.3d 729, 732 (7th Cir. 1998). Rule 59(e) "is
not appropriately used to advance arguments or theories that could and should have been made before
the district court rendered a judgment . . . or to present
evidence that was available earlier." LB Credit Corp. v.
Resolution Trust Corp., 49 F.3d 1263, 1267 (7th Cir. 1995)
(citations omitted); see also Moro v. Shell Oil Co.,
91 F.3d 872, 876 (7th Cir. 1996). "The rule essentially enables a
district court to correct its own errors, sparing the parties and
the appellate courts the burden of unnecessary appellate
proceedings." Russell v. Delco Remy Div. of Gen. Motors Corp.,
51 F.3d 746, 749 (7th Cir. 1995). Whether to grant or deny a Rule
59(e) motion "is entrusted to the sound judgment of the district
court." Matter of Prince, 85 F.3d 314, 324 (7th Cir. 1996).
B. Edwards' Motion for Reconsideration under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 59(e)
Edwards asserts that the court made an error of fact when it
found that the "Complaint contains no express allegations that
the collective bargaining agreement has been violated."
Edwards, 2004 U.S. Dist. Lexis 11803, at *9. Edwards points to
paragraphs 24-26 of its nine page Complaint as evidence that it
did, in fact, allege a violation of the CBA. These paragraphs
24. J.F. Edwards continues to employ persons
represented by IBEW Local 134 on the Harper College
Project. It is paying those persons rates governed by
the contract between IBEW Local 134 and Electrical
Contractors Association of the City of Chicago.
25. Operating Engineers Local 150 has expressed its
intent to arbitrate this dispute and seeks as a
remedy all the monies in wages and benefits that
would have been paid to employees represented by
Operating Engineers Local 150 for the work on the
project at Harper College.
26. Because of Local 150's claims, J.F. Edwards could
find itself in a position of paying two groups of
employees for work performed by the members of IBEW
Local 134. Hence, there exists an actual controversy
and a concrete dispute as to whether the Agreement
relied upon by Operating Engineers Local 150,
attached hereto as Exhibit E, is valid and
enforceable against Plaintiff, J.F. Edwards.
Compl., ¶¶ 24-26. Edwards goes on to assert that, under the holding in Textron
Lycoming Reciprocating Engine Div. v. UAW, 523 U.S. 653
these allegations are sufficient to allege a violation of the
CBA. Edwards points to the following passage in Textron in
support of its assertion. "[A] declaratory judgment plaintiff
accused of violating a collective-bargaining agreement may ask a
court to declare the agreement invalid." Textron,
523 U.S. at 658. As a declaratory judgment plaintiff who is accused of
violating a CBA, Edwards asserts, it may ask this court to
declare that the MCBA is no longer valid as to Edwards.
The court acknowledges that there is an undeveloped reference,
in paragraphs 24-26 of the Complaint, to a dispute over the CBA
regarding 150's participation in Edwards' project at Harper
College. However, there is no express reference to a violation of
the CBA. Edwards' Complaint is nine pages long, and buried within
those nine pages are the above quoted three paragraphs, which
make a reference to a "dispute" between the parties as to whether
the CBA is valid. Compl., ¶ 26. The inference Edwards would have
the court draw that 150 is alleging a violation of the CBA is
not fully developed. See DeSilva v. DiLeonardi, 181 F.3d 865,
866-67 (7th Cir. 1999) (litigants must fully develop their
arguments, and not ask the court to "play archaeologist with the
record"). Edwards' undeveloped assertions involving a dispute
between it and 150 regarding the Harper College project are
simply not enough to bring to the forefront the idea that this
Complaint expressly alleges a violation of a contract.
Moreover, this suit asks the court to declare a contract
invalid. "Plaintiff, J.F. Edwards Construction Company, prays
that this Court enter an Order: (a) declaring that the joint
agreement between the Mid-American Regional Bargaining
Association and the International Union of Operating Engineers
Local 150, AFL-CIO . . . is not valid and effective as to
Plaintiff J.F. Edwards Construction Company." Compl., at 8-9. This the
court cannot do. The Seventh Circuit recently wrote,
The § 301 grant of jurisdiction is extremely
limited. The Supreme Court holding in Textron
emphasized this narrowness. The plaintiffs in that
suit sought a declaration that a contract was
invalid. Relying on the specific statutory language
of § 301, the Textron court explained, "By its
terms, this provision confers federal subject-matter
jurisdiction only over `suits for violations of
contracts.'" The Court reasoned that the phrase "for
violations of contracts" encompassed only suits
"filed because a contract has been violated" and
therefore did not include "suits that claim a
contract is invalid."
Teamsters Nat'l Auto. Transporters Indus. Negotiating Comm. v.
Troha, 328 F.3d 325
, 329 (7th Cir. 2003) (quoting Textron,
523 U.S. at 656-57) (citations omitted). A plain reading of Edwards'
Complaint reveals that it was filed not because a contract had
been violated, but rather in order to have a contract declared
invalid. This court simply does not have jurisdiction to hear
such matters. See id.
Finally, the court notes that this matter stems from a dispute
over whether the CBA was a "pre-hire" agreement, or a "majority
representation" agreement. Federal district courts must defer
when presented with § 301 cases that fall within the National
Labor Relations Board's ("NLRB") primary jurisdiction. A 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)); see also 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)).
For the foregoing reasons, Edwards' Motion for Reconsideration
IT IS SO ORDERED.