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Local 702 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. Illinois Consolidated Telephone Co.

November 30, 2007


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


I. Background

On May 21, 2007, Plaintiff, Local 702 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ("Local 702" or "the Union"), filed a three-count complaint against Defendant, Illinois Consolidated Telephone Company ("ICTC"), pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., and Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 185. The action now proceeds on the Union's amended complaint, filed July 31, 2007. The Union seeks to vacate an arbitration award issued on March 1, 2007, or, in the alternative, either to enforce the award or to compel arbitration.

ICTC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Consolidated Communications Holdings, Inc. ("Consolidated"). The Union and ICTC are parties to a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA" or "Agreement"). The parties' current CBA, effective November 15, 2005 through November 15, 2008, governs the terms and conditions of employment for ICTC employees, including those who work at ICTC's Network Operations Center ("NOC") in Mattoon, Illinois. Doc. 20, Exhibit 1. In April, 2004, Consolidated completed its purchase of Texas-based TXU Communications ("TXU"). TXU maintains a NOC in Lufkin, Texas. In 2006, Consolidated adopted a plan to integrate the functions of the Illinois NOC and the Texas NOC, including transfer of bargaining unit work from the Illinois NOC to the Texas NOC.

The Union filed a series of grievances protesting this transfer of bargaining unit work. The grievances were consolidated into one class action grievance which was arbitrated by an impartial arbitrator from a Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service panel, chosen according to the terms of the CBA. On March 1, 2007, the arbitrator issued his Opinion and Award.

The Union asserts that the award should be vacated because it fails to resolve the sole issue presented and is ambiguous, factually inaccurate and incomprehensible. Consolidated proposed seeking clarification by resubmitting to the arbitrator the issue the parties originally asked him to decide. The Union rejected this offer as futile, and as risking further confusion and an arbitrary interpretation of the facts. Consolidated rejected the Union's proposal to submit the issue to another arbitrator.

The Union seeks a Court Order vacating the arbitrator's award and directing Consolidated to participate with the Union in requesting a new arbitrator. In the alternative, the Union seeks the enforcement of its interpretation of the award - that the arbitrator ruled in its favor on the issue of whether Consolidated could transfer Illinois NOC work to the Texas NOC. As a third alternative, the Union seeks a Court Order directing Consolidated to proceed to arbitration on the Union's two-part grievance filed March 27, 2007. This grievance alleged that Consolidated was violating the arbitrator's award and/or the CBA by continuing to transfer Illinois NOC work to the Texas NOC.

ICTC moves the Court to dismiss this action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) or to transfer it to the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Urbana Division, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) or § 1406(a).

II. Legal Standard for Transfer of Venue

28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) provides, "The district court . . . in which is filed a case laying venue in the wrong . . . district shall dismiss, or if it be in the interest of justice, transfer such case to any district or division in which it could have been brought. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) provides, "For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought."

To prevail on a motion for transfer pursuant to § 1406(a) or § 1404(a), the party seeking transfer must establish that the transferee forum is clearly more convenient.Wild v. Subscription Plus, Inc., 292 F.3d 526, 530 (7th Cir. 2002) (stating that § 1406(a ) and § 1404(a) are "closely parallel" and both permit transfer for convenience of parties). When evaluating the convenience of the parties and witnesses, the Court considers the following factors: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the situs of material events; (3) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (4) the convenience of the witnesses; and (5) the convenience to the parties. First Nat'l Bank v. El Camino Resources, Ltd., 447 F.Supp.2d 902, 911-12 (N.D.Ill. 2006) (citing Federated Dep't Stores, Inc. v. U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n, 2001 WL 503039, at *1 (N.D.Ill. 2001). The Court also considers factors related to the interests of justice, including "the court's familiarity with the applicable law, the speed at which the case will proceed to trial, and the desirability of resolving controversies in their locale." Id. Public interest factors "may be determinative in a particular case, even if the parties and witnesses might call for a different result." Id. "The party seeking to transfer venue also 'has the burden of establishing, by reference to particular circumstances, that the [proposed] transfer forum is clearly more convenient' than the transferring court."Lancelot Investors Fund, L.P. v. TSM Holdings, Ltd., 2007 WL 3120011, *2 (N.D.Ill. 2007) (quoting Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 220 (7th Cir. 1986)).

III. Analysis

A. The Union's Choice of Forum

The Union chose to bring its suit in the Southern District of Illinois, and generally, the plaintiff's choice of forum carries substantial weight, particularly where it is plaintiff's home forum. See Kamel v. Hill-Rom Co., Inc., 108 F.3d 799, 803 (7th Cir.1997). The significance of plaintiff's choice, however, is materially diminished when "no significant connection to the chosen forum ...

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