United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
JOAN B. GOTTSCHALL, District Judge.
Plaintiff James Jones has brought suit against Ford Motor Company and the United Auto Workers Local 551 alleging that he has been denied proper assignment of overtime hours. Jones is a union representative, and he alleges that his hours have not been appropriately assigned according to agreements between Ford and Local 551. This suit is a "hybrid" claim under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, alleging both breach of contract against Ford and breach of the duty of fair representation against Local 551.
Now before the court are motions for summary judgment filed separately by defendants Ford and Local 551. The motions argue that Jones must exhaust other available remedies before filing this suit, and that Jones has not yet exhausted those remedies. The court agrees and grants Ford and Local 551's motions for summary judgment.
The following facts are not in dispute unless otherwise indicated.
Plaintiff James Jones is an employee of Ford and a member of the UAW and a union representative. UAW Local 551 is a constituent local labor union of UAW representing bargaining unit members employed by Ford at its Chicago assembly plant. Ford and UAW are parties to a collective-bargaining agreement setting forth the terms and conditions of employment for Ford's bargaining-unit employees represented by the UAW.
Jones sued Local 551 and Ford alleging that his overtime opportunities as a UAW Local 551 union representative have not been fairly allocated pursuant to a provision of the collective-bargaining agreement because of his political opposition to Local 551's bargaining chair, Grant Morton. He argues that Local 551 breached its duty of fair representation and that Ford breached the collective-bargaining agreement, which sets forth a procedure for determining allocation of overtime hours for union representatives.
The collective-bargaining agreement between Ford and the UAW establishes a grievance procedure designed to resolve disputes between Ford and an employee or the union. Section 1 of the grievance procedure states: "When an employee, or the Union collectively, has a grievance against the Company, it shall be processed in accordance with the Grievance Procedure hereinafter provided." (ECF No. 551-1, at 3.) The grievance procedure consists of four steps that culminate in final and binding arbitration before a mutually selected arbitrator. UAW's National Ford Department determines whether to submit a grievance to the arbitration step if the grievance was unresolved by the third step of the procedure.
In addition to the collective bargaining agreement, UAW and Ford entered into a separate Side Letter of Agreement which gives union representatives a private and independent right to bring to the attention of the UAW National Ford Department and the U.S. Union Affairs Office, Ford Automotive Operations, Employee Relations "for review and resolution" any dispute by a union representative concerning overtime allocation. The Side Letter states that "complaints that representative overtime opportunities are not being fairly distributed may be brought to the attention of the UAW National Ford Department and the U.S. Union Affairs Office, Ford Automotive Operations, Employee Relations, for review and resolution as the national parties deem appropriate." (Jan. 11, 1995 Letter 3, ECF No. 55-6.)
Additionally, the UAW constitution guarantees members the right to challenge a wide range of actions of their local union, including challenging the handling or disposition of a grievance. The UAW guarantees its members multiple levels to challenge the actions of their local union: (1) members have the right to appeal to the local union's membership; (2) if the local union rejects the challenge, members have the right to appeal to the UAW International Executive Board; (3) if members are dissatisfied with the Board's decision, they have the right to appeal to the UAW's Convention Appeals Committee or the Public Review Board, which consists of law professors who are not members of the UAW. The UAW and Ford entered into a "Reinstitution of Grievances Letter of Understanding" under which the International Executive Board, Convention Appeals Committee, and Public Review Board each have the authority to order the reinstatement of a grievance.
Jones has filed three grievances protesting his overtime allocation in July, August, and October 2012. The grievance procedure has not been completed. Jones states that he has never received any response to his grievances. Defendants have submitted an affidavit from a UAW representative stating that Jones's grievances are "being processed in the lower Stages of the Grievance Procedure at the Plant level, " and "there are hundreds of other and older grievances filed by UAW Local 551 also pending at the Ford Assembly Plant in Chicago." (ECF No. 55, at 2.)
Jones has not filed a complaint with the UAW National Ford Department or the U.S. Union Affairs Office, Ford Automotive Operations, Employee Relations. Additionally, Jones has not filed an intra-UAW appeal with the UAW.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Summary judgment is appropriate when the movant shows 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; Smith v. Hope Sch., 560 F.3d 694, 699 (7th Cir. 2009). The court ruling on the motion construes all facts and makes all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate for when the nonmoving party cannot establish an ...