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TRUSTEES OF THE GLAZIERS v. THE GLASS HOUSE

August 19, 2005.

TRUSTEES OF THE GLAZIERS, ARCHITECTURAL METAL AND GLASS WORKERS LOCAL UNION NO. 27 WELFARE AND PENSION FUNDS, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE GLASS HOUSE, INC., an Illinois Corporation, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRY LEINENWEBER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs are fiduciaries and plan sponsors of the Glaziers Architectural Metal and Glass Workers Local Union No. 27 (the "Union") Welfare Fund and Pension Fund (the "Funds"). They bring this action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., to recover delinquent Funds' contributions that Defendant, The Glass House, Inc. ("Glass House"), allegedly owes under the parties' collective bargaining agreement (the "CBA"). Before the Court are Plaintiffs' and Defendant's cross motions for summary judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

  In 1999, Glass House's President Steven Holwell discussed Union membership with the Union's business agent, Michael O'Donnell, and its business manager, Leonard Mathias. Holwell entered into the CBA with the Union on August 2, 1999. After signing the CBA, Glass House employed both Union and non-Union workers to perform glazing work on residential and commercial projects within the CBA's trade and geographic jurisdictions. (See CBA, arts. 6 & 8).

  The CBA's "Union Recognition" Clause outlines the parties' relationship:
The Employer recognizes the Union as the sole and exclusive collective bargaining representative of all Glazier and Apprentice Glazier employees (performing work hereinafter described in Article 6 and within the geographical area covered in Article 8 of this Agreement) for the purpose of collective bargaining in respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, employment practices, standards of workmanship, safety practices and other conditions of employment.
(Id., Art. 1 § 1). Additionally, the CBA explicitly binds Glass House to the companion "Declaration of Trust," which establishes the Union's Funds. (Id., Art. 18 § 3, ¶ 1e ("The Employer hereby agrees to be bound by and to the said Agreement and Declaration of Trust, as though he had actually signed the same.")). Under the Declaration of Trust, Defendant must make periodic contributions to the Funds on behalf of specified employees and submit all necessary books and records to Plaintiff's accountant to conduct compliance audits. (Id., Art. 18 § 3, ¶ 3).

  The Union employed Richard Wolf and Company (the "Firm") to conduct the compliance audits. The Firm audited Glass House for the glazing work performed by its employees on three separate occasions — August 2, 1999 through September 20, 2001; October 1, 2001 through May 31, 2003; and June 1, 2003 through August 31, 2004. During the audit process, the Firm first confirmed the accuracy of the hours reported for Glass House employees. (Pl. 56.1(b) Resp., ¶ 16). Next, the Firm assessed the hours and determined whether there were additional employee hours for which Glass House still needed to make contributions. (Id.) The Firm addressed their questions concerning Glass House record keeping to Glass House management before asking the Union. In the three audit reports of Glass House, the Firm excluded contributions for any employee hours if Glass House identified the hours as "in-shop" or "administrative." The present dispute concerns $50,060.26 in outstanding Funds' contributions for the period between June 1, 2003 and August 31, 2004.

  II. LEGAL STANDARD

  Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. PROC. 56(c). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court "review[s] the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and to draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Vanasco v. Nat'l-Louis Univ., 137 F.3d 962, 964 (7th Cir. 1998). Once the moving party has produced evidence to show that it is entitled to summary judgment, the party seeking to avoid such judgment must affirmatively demonstrate that a genuine issue of material fact remains for trial. See LINC Finance Corp. v. Onwuteaka, 129 F.3d 917, 920 (7th Cir. 1997). When the opposing party cannot demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact, summary judgment for the moving party is appropriate. FED. R. CIV. PROC. 56(c).

  III. DISCUSSION

  Plaintiffs claim that from June 1, 2003 through August 31, 2004, Glass House failed to pay required contributions to the Funds for CBA work performed by four employees — Timothy Medved, Ronald Nickles, Bob Pechtold, and Michael Russell. The actual hours worked by the four employees are undisputed. (Plaintiffs are not seeking contributions for employees Adam Rogalny and Mark Salazer, whose hours also were identified in the audit.) Glass House contends that the CBA only requires contributions on behalf of employees who are Union members, Journeyperson Glaziers or Apprentices, and who perform commercial glazing work. Glass House argues that the employees in question are not covered by the CBA because they are not Union members or Journeyperson Glaziers or Apprentices. Additionally, Glass House asserts that Holwell's precontract discussions with Union representatives carved out a contribution exemption for residential work hours. A. Residential Worker Exemption

  Glass House insists that contributions to the Funds are not required for "residential workers," a phrase first mentioned by Holwell in his deposition and peppered throughout Glass House's summary judgment briefing. (See Def. 56.1, ¶ 18). Glass House asserts that extrinsic evidence of the Firm's past auditing practices and precontract conversations between Holwell and Union representatives establish a residential work exemption. However, the CBA's plain language and Seventh Circuit case law undermine any use of extrinsic evidence.

  1. The CBA

  The CBA's language is unambiguous and does not provide a contribution exemption for residential work. If no ambiguity is found in the terms of the CBA, "then, in determining its meaning as a matter of law, we need not review extrinsic evidence suggesting how those terms should be interpreted." Mazzei v. Rock-N-Around Trucking, Inc., 246 F.3d 956, 960 (7th Cir. 2001). Article 6 of the CBA — "Classification/Scope of Work" — states that "[i]t is mutually understood and agreed that none but Journeyperson Glaziers or Apprentices will be employed on the following classifications: general glazing, including setting, cutting, preparing. . . ." (CBA, Art. 6). Article 6 continues on for nearly a page and covers an extensive list of glazing work. The list does not specify a residential glazing work exemption. In fact, Article 6 actually lists glazing work that appears to be ...


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