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Laborers' International Union of North America, Local Union v. American Water Works Company Inc.

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

May 30, 2013

LABORERS’ INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA, LOCAL UNION NO. 397, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN WATER WORKS COMPANY INC., and ILLINOIS AMERICAN WATER COMPANY GRANITE CITY DISTRICT, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, DISTRICT JUDGE

This matter comes before the Court on the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment (Docs. 30 & 31), to which the respective parties have responded (Docs. 35 & 34). Plaintiff Laborers’ International Union of North America, Local Union No. 397 (“Local 397”) has also replied (Doc. 37) to the defendants’ response to its summary judgment motion.

Local 397 brought this against defendants American Water Works Company, Inc. (“American Water”) and its subsidiary Illinois American Water Company (“IAWC”) pursuant to § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 185, for breach of a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”). It believes the defendants have breached the applicable CBA by refusing to arbitrate a grievance filed by a union member. The defendants contend they did not agree to arbitrate disputes of the sort contained in the grievance. The parties agree that this case can be resolved by cross summary judgment motions, although the defendants contend in their briefing that factual issues exist. After reviewing the evidence on file, the Court believes any such factual disputes are not material to the outcome of this case and that, indeed, this case can be resolved on summary judgment.

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment must be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int’l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). Because there are no issues of material fact, this case turns on which side is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, that is, whether the parties agreed to arbitrate the matter presented in the grievance.

II. Facts

The evidence reveals the following undisputed facts.

A. The 2011-16 CBA

Local 397 represents a number of employees of IAWC in its Granite City District. Pursuant to that representation, Local 397 and IAWC negotiated and executed a CBA covering the period from April 1, 2011, through March 31, 2016, (“2011-16 CBA”). The 2011-16 CBA contains the following arbitration clause:

Section 3. Differences which may arise out of the application or interpretation of the provisions of this agreement shall be termed grievances. . . . Grievances of employees . . . shall normally be adjusted by direct contact between the employee and his/her immediate superior, either personally or with the employee’s Union representative.
Where differences cannot be adjusted in the normal way, they shall be reduced to writing and referred by the employee and his/her representative to his immediate superior and the Designated Company Representative. . . . If still not resolved, the matter shall then be referred to a joint conference committee between the Company and the Union in an attempt to resolve said grievance.
If the joint conference committee does not settle the grievance, it shall be subject to arbitration. . . .
The impartial arbitrator shall promptly hear the dispute and make a decision which shall be reduced to writing and shall be final and binding upon the Company, the Union and all employees represented by the Union. . . .

2011-16 CBA at 3.

The 2011-16 CBA also contains the following provision relating to pension benefits:

Section 21. INSURANCE – PENSIONS – SAVINGS PLANS
Bargaining unit employees may be eligible to participate in the following benefit plans sponsored by American Water Works Company, Inc.:
• Group Insurance Plan
• Savings Plan – 401(k) (contribution levels based ...

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