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Rutherford v. Judge & Dolph Ltd.

September 29, 2009

JOHN RUTHERFORD, ERIC THOMPSON, ROBERT ZONTA, BRIAN MCNAIR, GEORGE STATHIS, RALPH MURILLO, REYNALDO DELGADO, AND TIMOTHY GARVEY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JUDGE & DOLPH LTD. N/K/A JUDGE & DOLPH LLC, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, TEAMSTER LOCAL UNION 705 AND TEAMSTER LOCAL UNION 744, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge United States District Court

Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In this hybrid Section 301 (National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185) case, eight former employees of Judge & Dolph (hereinafter, "J&D") contend that J&D breached its collective bargaining agreement with the Defendant Teamster Local Union 705 (hereinafter, "Local 705") and that Local 705 and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (hereinafter, "IBOT") breached their duty of fair representation. (The Plaintiffs also contended that Teamster Local Union 744 also breached its duty of faire representation but has since agreed to Local 744's dismissal.)

I. BACKGROUND

The plaintiffs are former truck driver employees of J&D and members of Local 705 and the IBOT. J&D is a wine and spirits distributor. The Local and the International are labor organizations. On April 1, 2003, J&D and Local 705 entered into a collective bargaining agreement (the "CBA") for the term was of April 1, 2003 through March 31, 2007. The contract contained a provision allowing either party to serve on the other a written notice of desire to cancel so long as it was served at least 60 days prior to March 31, 2007. If no such notice was served and if either party desired to continue the agreement or negotiate changes, the party could serve a notice on the other of such desire and the contract was to continue in effect.

On November 16, 2006, well before the 60-day deadline, Local 705 served a notice in the following terms:

Pursuant to the provision of the current, April 1, 2003 through March 31, 2007 Collective Bargaining agreement (CBA) Article 23, Sections 1 and 2 between Judge & Dolph LTD, and the Union, please accept this letter as official notice of both terminate and negotiate modifications. In order to clarify the Union's bargaining position, relative to successor contract negotiations, it is the Union's desire to negotiate modifications to the current CBA, but Local 705 does not desire to continue or extend the current CBA beyond its expiration date of March 31, 2007.

The union remains committed to engage in good faith bargaining for a successor contract, as regulated under provisions of the NLRA.

There is no allegation in the Complaint that J&D and Local 705 reached a successor Collective Bargaining Agreement.

After the alleged expiration of the CBA, J&D decided to require its employees to sign employment agreements which provided that they were at-will employees. The eight Plaintiffs refused to do so and were discharged. Although the CBA contained grievance procedures, J&D refused to process or arbitrate any grievances filed after March 31, 2007, claiming that it had no contractual obligation to do so. Instead of moving to compel arbitration, Local 705 filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (the "NLRB").

In 2008, Judge & Dolph LLC ("J&D LLC") was created in connection with J&D's acquisition of Union Beverage Company ("UBC") and all of the drivers that had been employed by J&D became employees of J&D LLC. While J&D drivers, including the eight Plaintiffs, had been represented by Local 705, the drivers employed by UBC had been represented by Teamster Local 744. A jurisdictional dispute arose between Local 705 and 744 over who should represent the drivers of J&D LLC. Local 705 filed charges with the NLRB which subsequently filed a complaint against J&D LLC concerning the jurisdictional issues. Local 744 meanwhile filed a request to resolve the jurisdictional dispute with the IBT. Initially the IBT ruled that each local would continue to represent the drivers it represented prior to the acquisition of UBC and Local 744 would represent all new employees hired by J&D LLC. This ruling was appealed to the General Executive Board of the IBT which, in turn, ruled that Local 744 would represent all employees of J&D LLC. Local 705 was subsequently threatened that it would be subjected to a trusteeship by the IBT if it did not accept the jurisdictional decision and withdraw its charges with the NLRB. It subsequently did so.

In 2009, Local 705 negotiated a Final Settlement and Release Agreement with J&D whereby, each of the Plaintiffs, in return for a release of his claim for wrongful termination, J&D would make a monetary payment. Each Plaintiff objected to the settlement terms believing that the amount of money offered was unreasonably low.

J&D and Local 705 have each filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint and the IBT has filed a Motion to Dismiss or in the ...


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