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Teamsters Local Union 705, et al v. Bnsf Railway Company

November 3, 2011

TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION 705, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendants' motions to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, the motions are granted.

BACKGROUND

Individual Plaintiffs in this action are members of Plaintiff Teamsters Union Local 705 (Local 705). Defendant Burlington Northern Santa Fe, LLC (Burlington LLC), Defendant Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation (Burlington Corp.), Defendant BNSF Railway Company (BNSF), Defendant Santa Fe Terminal Services, Inc. (Terminal), and Defendant Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. (Berkshire) allegedly operated the Corwith Inter-Modal Rail Yard (Corwith) in Chicago, Illinois. BNSF allegedly retained Defendant Rail Terminal Services (RTS) to manage Corwith. BNSF was also assisted in the operation of Corwith by Defendant Rail Management Services (RMS) and Defendant Carrix, Inc. (Carrix).

Local 705 allegedly represented the RTS workers at Corwith prior to June 2010. In June 2010, BNSF allegedly covertly negotiated a proposed agreement concerning the pension, health, and welfare benefits of workers at Corwith with Defendant Transportation Communications International Union (TCU). BNSF then allegedly negotiated with Local 705 to determine whether BNSF could obtain benefit concessions from Local 705. BNSF then allegedly took steps to replace Local 705 with TCU at Corwith.

BNSF allegedly cancelled the contract with RTS at Corwith and in October 2010, RTS allegedly informed Local 705 that it was permanently discontinuing assistance in the operations at Corwith and that Local 705 would be terminated within a 14-day period commencing on December 31, 2010. Plaintiffs contend that the majority of workers represented by Local 705 will be terminated and that although some could re-apply for jobs at Corwith, they would forfeit certain benefits, including pension benefits. Plaintiffs contend that Defendants engaged in a deceptive scheme in order to interfere with the ability of the workers at Corwith to exercise their rights under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., and to retaliate against workers for the exercise of their rights under ERISA.

Plaintiffs include in their amended complaint ERISA interference and retaliation claims (Count I), and a civil conspiracy claim (Count II). Defendants move to dismiss all claims.

LEGAL STANDARD

In ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Rule 12(b)(6)), a court must "accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint" and make reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)(stating that the tenet is "inapplicable to legal conclusions"); Thompson v. Ill. Dep't of Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002). To defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (internal quotations omitted)(quoting in part Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint that contains factual allegations that are "merely consistent with a defendant's liability . . . stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (internal quotations omitted).

DISCUSSION

I. Section 511 ERISA Claims

Defendants argue that the claims brought pursuant to Section 511 of ERISA are not applicable in the instant action. Plaintiffs indicate in their amended complaint that they are bringing ERISA claims pursuant to Section 510 of ERISA (Section 510), 29 U.S.C. § 1140, and Section 511 of ERISA (Section 511), 29 U.S.C. § 1141.

(A. Compl. Par. 41). As Defendants correctly point out, Section 511 imposes criminal penalties for certain ERISA violations. 29 U.S.C. ยง 1141. Section 511 is thus not applicable in the instant ...


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