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Brock Industrial Services, LLC v. Laborers' International Union of North America

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 5, 2017




         Two motions are pending before the Court: a Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. 43) filed by Brock Industrial Services, LLC (“Brock”) and a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 42) filed by Laborers International Union of North America, Construction & General Laborers Local #100 (“Laborers”). For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Brock's Motion for Reconsideration and grants Laborers' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Factual And Procedural Background

         This action arises out of a contract dispute between Brock and Laborers. Specifically, Brock seeks to have the April 14, 2016 decision by the National Maintenance Agreement Policy Committee, Inc. (“NMAPC”) Grievance Review Subcommittee (“GRS”) vacated by this Court.

         The facts leading to the GRS decision are largely uncontested. Brock and Laborers agreed to the National Maintenance Agreement collective bargaining agreement (NMA) with an effective date of January 7, 2016. (Doc. 1-3, p. 11). The NMA provides in pertinent part that “[e]xcept for jurisdictional and general wage rates disputes…all disputes and grievances arising out of work performed under this Agreement…shall be resolved…”through the procedure outlined in Article VI- Grievances of the NMA (Article VI). (Doc. 1-3, p. 15). Article VI requires the parties to submit any unresolved grievances to the NMACP for arbitration. (Doc. 1-3, p. 15). For work jurisdictional disputes, a different procedure under the NMA applies. (Doc. 1-3, p. 12-13, specifically, Article I, Sections 6-12). A work jurisdiction dispute is “a dispute between two or more groups of employees over which are entitled to do certain work for an employer.” Hutter Const. Co. v. Int'l Union of Operating Eng'rs, Local 139, AFL-CIO, 862 F.2d 641, 644 (7th Cir. 1988).

         Brock employed Laborers to construct scaffolding at the Afton Chemical Plant. (Doc. 1-3, p. 56). However, on January 8, 2016, Brock notified Laborers that they were laid off and that scaffolding work at the Afton Chemical Plant would be assigned to the International Brotherhood of Carpenters (“Carpenters”). (Doc. 18-1; Doc. 1-3, p. 56). Laborers notified the NMAPC via letter on January 11, 2016, that Brock violated the NMA when it wrongfully terminated Laborers and subsequently awarded the scaffolding work to Carpenters. (Doc. 1-3, pp. 34-35). On January 21, 2016, Laborers also notified Carpenters that there was a work jurisdiction dispute between their respective organizations over the scaffolding work. (Doc. 1-3, p. 37).

         In accordance with Article VI, Laborers filed a grievance with the NMAPC alleging that a wrongful termination of Laborers' members had occurred on January 8, 2016, and seeking the reinstatement of those members. (Doc. 1-3, p. 39). Brock responded to the grievance, asserting that the dispute relating to the January 8, 2016 layoff was a work jurisdiction dispute and was therefore beyond the scope of the NMAPC's arbitration authority. (Doc. 1-3, pp. 54-56). Brock further requested that the grievance be dismissed and denied. (Doc. 1-3, p. 56).

         The GRS denied Brock's request to dismiss, and on April 14, 2016, sustained the grievance finding a violation of Article I, Section 5, of the NMA. (Doc. 1-3, p. 3). Article 1, Section 5, states that “[d]uring the existence of the Agreement, there shall be no strikes, lockouts, work stoppages, or picketing arising out of any jurisdictional dispute. Work will continue as originally assigned, pending resolution of the dispute.” (Doc. 1-3, p. 12). The GRS concluded that Brock violated that section when it made a “change of assignment.” (Doc. 1-3, p. 3).

         On July 12, 2016, Brock filed suit against Laborers pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 185, seeking to have the GRS decision vacated on the basis that it was outside the scope of the GRS's arbitration authority. (Doc. 1, p. 2). Subsequently, the parties filed four motions with the Court, one by Brock and three by Laborers, all of which were interrelated. Specifically, on August 2, 2016, Laborers filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 15), seeking dismissal of the Complaint for failure to state a claim. On September 19, 2016, Brock filed a Motion to Vacate (Doc. 18), seeking to have the GRS arbitration decision vacated. On September 30, 2016, Laborers filed a Motion to Dismiss the Motion to Vacate (Doc. 26), seeking to have Brock's Motion to Vacate dismissed on timeliness grounds, as well as being redundant with Brock's Complaint. Lastly, on November 28, 2016, Laborers filed a Motion to Enforce (Doc. 30), seeking to have the GRS arbitration decision enforced.

         On March 27, 2017, the Court denied all four motions. (Doc. 37). The claims presented by the parties appeared to involve a disagreement over whether Brock's January 8, 2016 assignment of scaffolding work to Carpenters involved solely a work jurisdiction dispute, or alternatively, two separate disputes-one a work jurisdiction dispute and the other for wrongful termination. (Doc. 37, p. 7). The Court noted that if the grievance involved solely a work jurisdiction dispute, then it was improper for the GRS to arbitrate the dispute under Article VI of the NMA. (Doc. 37, p. 14). Conversely, if the grievance involved both wrongful termination and jurisdictional claims, then the GRS had authority to resolve the dispute under Article VI.[1]

         The Court found it was unable to make a determination regarding which arbitration process applied, however, due to the existence of disputed issues of material fact.[2] (Doc. 37, p. 16). Specifically, the Court identified a factual disagreement between the parties as to whether Laborers were ever assigned the scaffolding work. (Doc. 37, p. 16). If assigned to perform the scaffolding and then terminated from that assignment, the Court reasoned Laborers would have both a wrongful termination and a separate jurisdictional dispute. (Doc. 37, p. 16). If Laborers were not assigned the scaffolding work in the first place, however, then Brock's choice to assign the work to Carpenters would only constitute a jurisdictional dispute outside the authority of the GRS to arbitrate. (Doc. 37, p. 16). As a result of the apparent disputed facts, the Court denied Brock's Motion to Vacate and Laborers' Motion to Enforce. (Doc. 37, p. 17).[3]

         On April 24, 2017, Brock filed a Motion for Reconsideration asking the Court to revisit its denial of Brock's Motion to Vacate the arbitration decision. (Doc. 43, p. 1). On the same day, Laborers filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 42).


         I. Motion for Reconsideration

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) allows a court to alter or amend a judgment in order to correct manifest errors of law or fact, to present newly discovered evidence, or where there has been an intervening and substantial change in the controlling law since the submission of the issues to the district court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e); See also Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales, Inc., 906 F.2d 1185, 1191 (7th Cir. 1990) (quoting Above the Belt, Inc. v. Mel Bohannan Roofing, Inc., 99 F.R.D. 99, 101 (E.D. Va. 1983)). Motions to reconsider under Rule 59(e) should only be granted in rare circumstances. Id. The decision whether to grant a Rule 59(e) Motion to Reconsider lies in the sound discretion of the Court. Matter of Prince, 85 F.3d 314, 324 (7th Cir. 1996).

         A manifest error of law includes the “disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.” Oto v. Metropolitan Life Ins., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted). A manifest error is not demonstrated by the disappointment of the losing party. Id.

         Brock alleges the Court committed a manifest error of law in three ways: (1) by failing to follow William Charles Construction Co., LLC v. Teamsters Local Union, 827 F.3d 672 (7th Cir. 2016), when denying the Motion to Vacate; (2) by mischaracterizing the dispute as involving either a lockout or wrongful termination; and (3) by coming to the wrong conclusion because, even if a termination or lockout occurred, a separate and distinct contractual procedure for addressing lockouts existed in the contract, which should have led the Court to the find the GRS did not have jurisdiction to arbitrate. (Doc. 43, p.2).

         A. William Charles v. Teamsters Local Union.

         Brock's first argument for reconsideration is that the Court erred by failing to “address or apply the principal and controlling legal authority governing this matter, ” which Brock identifies as being William Charles v. Teamsters Local Union, 827 F.3d 672 (7th Cir. 2016). (Doc. 43, p. 4). Failure to recognize controlling precedent qualifies as a manifest error of law that is properly addressed through a Rule 59 motion for reconsideration. Oto, 24 F.3d at 606. In order to assess the applicability of WilliamCh ...

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