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Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons' Local #18 Annuity Fund v. J.P. Phillips

August 27, 2008

OPERATIVE PLASTERERS' AND CEMENT MASONS' LOCAL #18 ANNUITY FUND, OPERATIVE PLASTERERS' AND CEMENT MASONS' LOCAL # 18 PENSION FUND, AND CEMENT MASONS' LOC AL # 18 AREA #539 APPRENTICESHIP AND TRAINING FUND, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
J.P. PHILLIPS, INC, DEFENDANT AND THIRD PARTY PLAINTIFF,
v.
OPERATIVE PLASTERERS' AND CEMENT MASONS' INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA, ALF-CIO, LOCAL #18, THIRD PARTY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

Plaintiffs, a trio of union-administered multiemployer benefit funds ("Funds"), seek to recover fringe benefit contributions allegedly owed by Defendant J.P. Phillips, Inc. ("JPP"). JPP denies any obligation to pay contributions to the Funds, arguing that a prior arbitration already resolved this dispute. JPP has also filed a third-party complaint against Third Party Defendant Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons International Association of the United States and Canada, AFL-CIO, Local #18 ("Local 18") for breach of contract.

JPP now seeks summary judgment against both the Funds and Local 18 (collectively, "OPCMIA"). Local 18 seeks summary judgment on the third-party complaint.

Summary judgment is granted in favor of JPP on both claims. Local 18's motion for summary judgment is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Overview

Sandwiched between the conflicting demands of competing unions, JPP finds itself entangled in the fallout of a jurisdictional dispute. Hired by CORE Construction to perform certain plastering work at the Illinois Capitol, JPP employed workers affiliated with local branches of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers' AFL-CIO ("BAC"). JPP paid these employees their regular wages and benefits, as required under its Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") with the BAC Locals.*fn1

Soon after work began, Local 18 objected to JPP's assignment of the plaster work to BAC-represented employees rather than to its union. Local 18 claimed that JPP, by signing the Capital Development Board Standard Project Labor Agreement ("PLA"), had obligated itself to comply with Local 18's CBA and therefore had to assign the plastering work to Local 18. For relief, Local 18 initiated arbitration procedures under the PLA. JPP concurrently invoked the arbitration procedures set out in the Plan for the Settlement of Jurisdictional Disputes in the Construction Industry ("National Plan"), as required by the National Plan and Local 18's CBA. Ultimately, this sequence of events resulted in different arbitrators reaching antipodal conclusions.

B. National Plan Arbitration

JPP relies on an arbitration and court order entered under the auspices of the National Plan. However, before explicating the National Plan provisions, some background detail is required.

According to the BAC's Director of Trade Union Jurisdiction, the BAC and OPCMIA unions "are unique in the construction industry" since, for the last century, "[e]ach union has core charter jurisdiction over the same two crafts of plasterers and cement masons . . . ." (Driscoll Aff. ¶¶ 4-5.) Whereas BAC represents sundry trades, OPCMIA only covers these two crafts. To accommodate this overlap, the BAC and OPCMIA observed various agreements delimiting the boundaries of each union's jurisdictional domain. These agreements were, however, abrogated in 1998, resulting in jurisdictional discord.

In order to quell this type of inter-union strife, the Building and Construction Trades Department ("BCTD") of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations ("AFL-CIO") had previously established the National Plan. As stated in the Preamble, the National Plan was designed for "handling of disputes over work assignment without strikes or work stoppages. . . ." Article I, entitled "Scope of Application" provides that employers are subject to the National Plan through stipulation, affiliation, or CBA; unions are covered through affiliation with the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFLCIO. At all relevant times, JPP, BAC, and OPMCIA were bound by the National Plan. Further, the Local 18's CBA contained provisions requiring National Plan arbitration and compliance with any National Plan awards.

The National Plan contains two vehicles for dispute resolution. First, Article V specifies procedures for resolving individual jurisdictional disputes. Second, Article X creates a three-member "National Arbitration Panel" ("NAP") capable of granting more comprehensive relief. Such relief may be obtained in cases where a separate committee determines that National Plan members are involved in a "repetitive" dispute. The parties are then given an opportunity to settle the issue; failing that, the matter is referred to the NAP for resolution, whose decisions ...


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