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Joseph Healey v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

September 4, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge:


Plaintiffs Joseph Healey, Tom O'Driscoll, Alan Porter, James B. Howland, Karl Diede, Jim Timothy, and John Ryan have sued International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union No. 134 (the union), Freeman Electrical, Inc., Global Experience Specialists, Inc. (GES), and the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA). They assert claims for breach of the union's duty of fair representation, breach of the union's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with electrical contractors, and tortious interference with the CBA. Plaintiffs also seek declaratory judgments that various contracts are illegal under Illinois statute.Plaintiffs seek to represent a class of similarly situated individuals. Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiffs' second amended complaint. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants defendants' motions in part and denies them in part.


The Court accepts the allegations in plaintiff's complaint as true for purposes of resolving the motions to dismiss. See Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009).

The MPEA, GES, and Freeman are all parties to a CBA that the union has with the Electrical Contractors' Association of City of Chicago. The CBA provides a process by which electricians are referred to contractors for hire. Under the CBA, the union is the sole source of referrals to contractors.In the referral system, electricians are placed into four groups based on their experience and skills, and within each group electricians receive priority for referrals based upon when they signed up as available to work. Generally, the union keeps two different call lists of available positions, one for positions that will last less than ten days and one for positions that will last at least ten days.

The MPEA is a local government entity that owns and operates McCormick Place and Navy Pier in Chicago. The union assigns electricians to the MPEA to work at McCormick Place, a convention center, using a list different from the two described above. Plaintiffs allege that the list that is used to refer employees to McCormick Place is supposed to be for short-term assignments, but that some of the employees referred to work at McCormick Place for short terms are later converted into long-term workers at McCormick Place. Plaintiffs contend that there are no particular standards to determine which electricians get long-term work at McCormick Place and that in practice, the long-term positions go to electricians who have personal and political connections to influential people in Chicago. According to plaintiffs, no other contractor who uses union electricians is allowed to act like the MPEA and decide arbitrarily to make some short-term workers long-term.

Beginning in 2009, the sponsors of a number of conventions that previously had been held at McCormick Place announced that they were relocating or considering relocating to other cities. The convention sponsors expressed concerns about high costs and union labor rules. In response, the Illinois legislature amended the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority Act (MPEA Act) in 2010. The amended MPEA Act provided that a convention had the right to choose an electrical contractor approved by the MPEA and stated that the MPEA "shall not serve as the exclusive provider of electrical services." 70 ILCS 210/5.4(c)(15) & (f)(2).

After the amendments to the MPEA Act, the MPEA began to allow GES and Freeman to provide electrical services at McCormick Place.The union referred plaintiffs, who are electricians and members of the union, to GES and Freeman via the normal referral process. Plaintiffs then worked at McCormick Place for these entities on a long-term basis.

In 2011, the union entered into agreements with Freeman and GES that purported to be side letters interpreting the CBA. In these letters, Freeman and GES agreed to get all the workers they used at McCormick Place through the MPEA. As a consequence, Freeman and GES would no longer use the normal CBA-based referral process to hire electricians. Freeman and GES then entered into McCormick Place Utility Service Agreements with the MPEA. In these contracts, the MPEA arranged a way that it would refer its electricians to Freeman and GES. Plaintiffs allege that the MPEA entered into these contracts intending to stop GES and Freeman from using the referral process created by the CBA. Plaintiffs also assert that these contracts violate the MPEA Act, because the MPEA is now providing all of the electricians used at McCormick Place and so is the de facto exclusive provider of electrical services at McCormick Place.

On August 15, 2011, Freeman and GES laid off all of their employees who were members of the union, including plaintiffs. Plaintiffs allege that since that time, GES and Freeman have only used electricians on loan from the MPEA.


A plaintiff "has stated a claim only if it has alleged enough facts to render the claim facially plausible, not just conceivable." Fednav Int'l Ltd. v. Cont'l Ins. Co., 624 F.3d 834, 837 (7th Cir. 2010). "When analyzing the sufficiency of a complaint, [the Court] construe[s] it in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, accept[s] well-pleaded facts as true, and draw[s] all inferences in the nonmoving party's favor." Id.

In their second amended complaint, plaintiffs assert claims for breach of the duty of fair representation against the union, breach of the CBA against Freeman and GES, and tortious interference with the CBA against the MPEA. Plaintiffs also seek declaratory judgments that the side letters and utility service agreements entered into by the defendants are invalid because they are illegal under the MPEA Act.

Defendants contend that all claims except those related to breach of the union's duty of fair representation should be dismissed. Freeman and GES contend that plaintiffs have not sufficiently alleged a breach of the CBA and that they have not sufficiently alleged the required exhaustion of contractual remedies and breach of the duty of fair representation. The MPEA joins these arguments as they relate to the tortious interference claim and also contends that the claim is preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). All defendants contend that the Court lacks jurisdiction to ...

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