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Carpet Service International, Inc., et al v. Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters

September 25, 2012


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 09 C 1083--Geraldine Soat Brown, Magistrate Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bauer, Circuit Judge.


Before EASTERBROOK, Chief Judge, and BAUER and WOOD, Circuit Judges.

Plaintiff-appellant, Carpet Service International, Inc. ("CSI") (primary employer), brought an action for damages against defendants-appel- lees, Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters ("Regional Council") and United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Local No. 13 ("Local 13"), for unfair labor practices under the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA") as codified in 29 U.S.C. § 187. Plain- tiff-appellant, Carmine Molfese ("Molfese"), brought individual state law claims of assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED") against Patrick Ryan, a union organizer for Local 13. A bench trial was conducted and the district court ruled in favor of defendants Regional Council, Local 13, and Patrick Ryan on all counts. CSI appealed; we affirm.


As the district court stated in its memorandum opinion and order ("opinion"), the facts of this case are particularly difficult to discern; deposition and trial testimony was muddled, inconsistent, and contradictory. The district court noted that one possible reason for the extensive confusion might have been that the labor dispute at issue was one of three similar disputes involving some of the same individuals, companies, and union organizations occurring about the same time. The district court also stated that certain unfavorable trial practices, such as leading witnesses on direct examina- tion, "significantly undermined" the credibility and reliability of plaintiffs' witnesses. Nevertheless, in its opinion the district court made a thorough analysis of all testimony and evidence presented at trial. The court then explained its own determinations of credi- bility and reliability.

Because the issues before this Court were adjudicated pursuant to a full bench trial, we review the district court's conclusions of law de novo and its findings of fact for clear error. Johnson v. West, 218 F.3d 725, 729 (7th Cir. 2000). "If the [district court] correctly states the law, then [its] findings as to whether the facts meet the legal stan- dard will be disturbed only if they are clearly erroneous." Id. at 729 (quoting Daniels v. Essex Group, Inc., 937 F.2d 1264, 1269-70 (7th Cir. 1991)). "One of the basic tenets of appellate review of district court fact-finding is that where there are two permissible views of evidence, the factfinder's choice between them cannot be clearly erroneous." Nemmers v. United States, 870 F.2d 426, 429 (7th Cir. 1989) (quoting Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 573 (1985)) (further citation omitted). As long as the district court's account of the evidence is plausible in light of the record viewed in its entirety, we may not reverse it even if convinced we would have weighed the evidence differently. Id.

Upon review of the record, we find the district court's factual findings to be without clear error. Below are the relevant credible facts as determined by the district court.

A. The Parties

In September 2007, CSI entered into a contract with Sunrise Construction Group, Inc. ("Sunrise") (neutral employer) to install carpets, countertops, flooring, and wall tiles at a new condominium located at 24 South Morgan Street in Chicago, Illinois ("the job site"). The job site was located within the geographical jurisdiction of Local 13. Though CSI was not a signatory to a collective bargaining agreement with Local 13 at the time, it did have four installers working at the job site; Pietro Molfese, the cousin of CSI's president, also served as CSI's onsite group leader. Aside from CSI, most workers at the job site were union members. The general contractor at the job site was a company called Karpediem (secondary employer), which employed Ross Ferraro as site manager and Robert Cruz as super- intendent.

Michael Sexton served as president and business man- ager of Local 13 and was in charge of Local 13's opera- tions. Michael's son, Ed Sexton, served as business representative for Local 13. Defendant-appellee Patrick Ryan served as a union organizer for Local 13.

B. Facts Relating to the 29 U.S.C. § 187 Claims

In July 2008, Ryan went to the job site for a routine check-up on some of the Local 13 union members. At this time, he met some of CSI's workers and became aware that Sunrise had contracted with CSI and was using their non-unionized workers on the job site. Ryan im- mediately announced to the site superintendent, Cruz, that he planned to picket and strike CSI's presence at the job site. In light of this, Cruz asked the CSI workers to leave for the day. Ryan submitted a written statement to the Regional Council requesting to picket the presence of CSI at the job site. On Saturday, July 26, 2008, the picketing began and was led by Ryan. Instead of holding signs, Local 13 wore reversible vests. One side of the vest bore the word "observer"; the other side read, "Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters Local No. 13 ON STRIKE Against CSI for a Contract." Later, a picketer recalled picketing on August 19 and testified that he was told to wear the "observer" side, but only until CSI workers showed up, at which point he and the other picketers were to switch their vests to the "on strike" side.

Most of the picketers were retired carpenters and teamsters paid to picket by the Regional Council; Ryan was responsible ...

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