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Teamster Local Union No. 714 v. GES Exposition Services

July 6, 2007

TEAMSTER LOCAL UNION NO. 714, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GES EXPOSITION SERVICES, INC., DEFENDANT.
TEAMSTER LOCAL UNION NO. 714, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FREEMAN DECORATING SERVICES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur Senior United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Teamster Local Union No. 714 ("Teamsters," treated as a singular collective noun) brought each of these actions under Labor Management Relations Act §301 (29 U.S.C. §185), seeking to compel two employers--GES Exposition Services, Inc. ("GES") and Freeman Decorating Services, Inc. ("Freeman"), collectively "Employers"--to arbitrate certain work assignment disputes pursuant to Teamsters' collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") with each employer. Teamsters has now moved in each action for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 56, and each Employer has in turn moved for summary judgment to block Teamsters' action to compel arbitration.

For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, a decision on the merits in either action would be premature because a second union, Riggers and Machinery Movers Local 136 ("Riggers"), must be joined (if feasible) as a necessary party to each action under Rule 19--and such joinder is indeed feasible. Each motion for summary judgment is therefore denied, and Teamsters is ordered to join Riggers as a party to each action.

Background*fn1

Each of GES and Freeman contracts union labor to carry out various work assignments at facilities controlled by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority ("Authority")(F. Mem. 1; G. Mem. 1-2). Teamsters and Riggers are two of those unions, and each union is a signatory to a CBA with GES and Freeman. Both Teamsters CBAs contain identical arbitration clauses (T. St. Ex. A ("Teamsters/GES CBA") at 5-6; T. St. Ex. B. ("Teamsters/Freeman CBA") at 5-6).*fn2 Riggers' CBA with each employer also contains substantially similar arbitration clauses (see, e.g., F. St. Ex. 1 ("Riggers/Freeman CBA").*fn3

Additionally, both Teamsters and Riggers are signatories to a later-signed contract with the Authority ("Authority Agreement," G. St. Ex. C), Section 8(B) of which provides an exclusive dispute resolution mechanism for "jurisdictional" disputes between unions regarding work assignments at Authority-controlled facilities (J. St. ¶5).*fn4 Neither Employer is a signatory to that agreement (J. St. ¶5), but each claims that it can enforce the agreement's terms as a third-party beneficiary.

In June 2006 Teamsters filed grievances with GES and Freeman in which it contested the assignment to Riggers members of certain freight unloading work at Authority-controlled McCormick Place in Chicago (J. St. ¶6). Claiming that the unloading work should have been assigned to its own members under the Teamsters CBAs, Teamsters demanded that each Employer enter into a separate bilateral arbitration pursuant to its CBA to resolve the grievance (J. S. ¶7). But Employers, arguing that the present dispute is really a "jurisdictional" dispute over the unloading work between Teamsters and Riggers, insist that Teamsters must instead pursue its grievances via the terms of the Authority Agreement's dispute resolution procedure for multi-party arbitration (which would thus include both Teamsters and Riggers) (Jt. Stip. ¶8).

As stated earlier, Teamsters filed these actions and now seeks summary judgment to compel GES and Freeman to arbitrate under their CBAs with Teamsters. In response, both Employers have raised the Authority Agreement as a defense and seek summary judgment and dismissal of the actions.

Potential Joinder of Riggers Before turning to the merits of any of the parties' Rule 56 motions, this opinion must address one preliminary matter--the potential joinder of the absent union, Riggers. Here is Rule 19(a):

A person who is subject to service of process and whose joinder will not deprive the court of jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action shall be joined as a party in the action if (1) in the person's absence complete relief cannot be accorded among those already parties, or (2) the person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that the disposition of the action in the person's absence may (i) as a practical matter impair or impede the person's ability to protect that interest or (ii) leave any of the persons already parties subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations by reason of the claimed interest. Davis Cos. v. Emerald Casino, Inc. 268 F.3d 477, 481 (7th Cir. 2001) has distilled that language into a three-element inquiry to evaluate whether an absent party should be joined:

(1) whether complete relief can be accorded without joinder, (2) whether [the absent party's] ability to protect [its] interest will be impaired, and (3) whether the existing parties will be subjected to a substantial risk of multiple or inconsistent obligations unless [the absent party] is joined.

While Davis links those factors with a conjunctive "and," which might perhaps be read as suggesting that each must be present to call for joinder, Rule 19 uses the disjunctive "or"--the fair reading of which clearly teaches that the presence of any one of those factors makes joinder appropriate. In addition, Rule 21 allows a court to order joinder sua sponte at any point in the litigation (Rule 21; McCowen v. Jamieson, 724 F.2d 1421, 1424 (9th Cir. 1984)). Finally, given the importance of joinder to protect the material interests of both existing and absent parties, a court should consider the issue before addressing the merits of the case (Tankersley v. Albright, 514 F.2d 956, 965-66 (7th Cir. 1975)). It is thus appropriate for this Court to look at the potential for joinder that has been highlighted by the Employers' and Teamsters' summary judgment submissions before it considers the merits of their substantive arguments.

Of course Riggers is the elephant in the room. Its members are currently performing the disputed work, and Employers' claim that it and Teamsters are in a jurisdictional dispute is advanced as the defense to Teamsters' efforts to compel bilateral arbitration. Yet neither Employers nor Teamsters have seen fit to bring Riggers into these actions. Even so, because the purposes of joinder include (1) protecting the interests of absent parties and (2) serving this Court's own interest in judicial economy (Davis, 268 F.3d at 481), this opinion will independently evaluate whether Riggers should be joined based on the parties' summary judgment submissions.

As for the Davis-identified joinder factors, the first--that of being able to afford complete relief to the present parties without joinder--is really not an issue. This Court could certainly order bilateral arbitration based on Teamsters' CBAs, leaving it to another day and another tribunal to sort out the future ramifications of an arbitrator's award (cf. Carey v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 375 U.S. 261, 265 (1964)). And on ...


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