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International Union of Operating Engineers, AFL-CIO v. Landscape Consultants, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 30, 2019

International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, AFL-CIO; Midwest Operating Engineers Pension Trust Fund; Local 150 IUOE Vacation Savings Plan; and Construction Industry Research and Service Trust Fund, Plaintiffs,
v.
Landscape Consultants, Inc. d/b/a Phil Robin Landscapes, an Illinois Corporation, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John J. Tharp, Jr., United States District Judge

         The plaintiffs brought suit alleging that Landscape Consultants, Inc., doing business as Phil Robin Landscapes (“Phil Robin”), failed to comply with its obligations under a collective bargaining agreement known as the Landscape Construction Labor Agreement and predecessor versions of that agreement. Phil Robin moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that it never agreed to be bound by the Landscape Construction Labor Agreement or any version thereof. The plaintiffs have also moved for partial judgment on the pleadings or summary judgment, arguing that Phil Robin bound itself to that agreement by executing monthly remittance reports and submitting contributions consistent with those required under the most current version of that agreement. The undisputed facts show that Phil Robin signed monthly remittance reports agreeing to be bound by the most current version of the Landscape Construction Labor Agreement and manifested its assent to the same through its conduct. Accordingly, the plaintiffs' motion is granted, and Phil Robin's motion is denied.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         On March 23, 1993, Phil Robin, through its president Brian Rusthoven, signed a Memorandum of Agreement (“MOA”) with the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, AFL-CIO (the “Union”). Under the MOA, the Union and Phil Robin agreed to

adopt the Master Agreement dated December 1, 1985 as amended to November 30, 1996, entered into by and between the Union and the Northern Illinois Landscape Contractors (Illinois and Indiana Landscape Contractors Labor Agreement) and . . . be bound by the terms and conditions of that Master Agreement and the Agreement and Declaration of Trust of Midwest Operating Engineers Welfare Fund and all amendments heretofore or hereafter made thereto, as though the same were incorporated fully herein.

Am. Compl. Ex. B (capitalization and bold formatting omitted), ECF No. 36-2. The Union and Phil Robin further agreed that after the expiration of the Master Agreement, the MOA “shall continue in effect from year to year . . . and specifically adopt[s] any Master Agreement entered into between the Union and Northern Illinois Landscape Contractors subsequent to the expiration date of the Master agreement . . . unless notice of termination or amendment is given . . . .” Id. The MOA has not been terminated. But the Northern Illinois Landscape Contractors no longer signed the Master Agreement after the 1996-99 edition expired, leaving the Union and the Illinois Landscape Contractors Bargaining Association as the only signatories.

         The collective bargaining agreement that the MOA originally adopted as the Master Agreement-the Illinois and Indiana Landscape Contractors Labor Agreement-required Phil Robin to submit monthly contribution remittance reports and payments to the Midwest Operating Engineers Pension Trust Fund and the Midwest Operating Engineers Welfare Fund, as well as monthly dues remittance reports and dues payments to the Union. In the 1996-99 edition of that collective bargaining agreement, the parties substituted the Railroad Maintenance and Industrial Health and Welfare Fund (“Railroad Fund”) for the Midwest Operating Engineers Welfare Fund. The current version of the collective bargaining agreement-which as of 2005 is known as the Landscape Construction Labor Agreement-requires the employer to submit monthly remittance reports and payments to the Railroad Fund and each of the plaintiffs: the Union, the Midwest Operating Engineers Pension Trust Fund, the Local 150 IUOE Vacation Savings Plan, and the Construction Industry Research and Service Trust Fund.

         From at least 1993 until April 2012, Phil Robin submitted monthly remittance reports and payments for contributions to all required parties at the rate listed in the then-current collective bargaining agreement. For example, Phil Robin increased its contributions in the amount called for by the then-current collective bargaining agreement after June 1 of several years, which was when those increases became effective. After April 2012, Phil Robin stopped submitting reports and payments to the plaintiffs. Phil Robin continued, however, submitting monthly contribution payments and remittance reports to the Railroad Fund (a non-party) until at least July 2018. Am. Compl. ¶ 6, Ex. E Landscape Contribution Remittance Forms, Railroad Fund, ECF Nos. 36, 36-5. The remittance reports Phil Robin si gned and submitted to the Railroad Fund and other funds contained the following or substantially similar language:

[T]he employer hereby agrees to be bound by the terms of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement executed between Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers and the Illinois Landscape Contractors' Bargaining Association or other relevant multi-employer associations. Further, the undersigned hereby expressly accepts and agrees to be bound by the terms of the Trust Agreement governing the Railroad Maintenance and Industrial Health and Welfare Fund and accepts all of the terms thereof with the intention of providing benefits to its Operators, thereby being a party to all of said agreements.

Am. Compl. ¶ 7; Pls.' Statement of Facts ¶ 15, ECF No. 52-3. The plaintiffs filed suit alleging that Phil Robin has failed to meet its obligations under the Landscape Contractors Labor Agreement, executed between the Union and the Illinois Landscape Contractors' Bargaining Association, as well as prior versions of that agreement.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Standard of Review

          The parties have filed cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) on the question of whether Phil Robin is bound by the Landscape Contractors Labor Agreement and prior versions of it. “Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate when there are no disputed issues of material fact and it is clear that the moving party . . . is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Unite Here Local 1 v. Hyatt Corp., 862 F.3d 588, 595 (7th Cir. 2017). When ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court is “confined to the matters presented in the pleadings, and [the Court] must consider those pleadings in the light most favorable to” the non-moving party. Id. “If, on a motion under Rule . . . 12(c), matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56. All parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d).

         The plaintiffs have also moved for partial summary judgment and submitted evidence outside of the pleadings in support of their argument that Phil Robin is bound by the Landscape Construction Labor Agreement and prior versions of it. The Court must grant the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment if the plaintiffs show that, construing all facts and reasonable inferences in Phil Robin's favor, no reasonable jury could conclude that Phil Robin was not bound by the most current collective bargaining agreement. See Daugherty v. Page, 906 F.3d 606, 609- 10 (7th Cir. 2018). The Court allowed Phil Robin 35 days to respond to the plaintiffs' motion and statement of facts and 21 days to file a reply in support of its own motion. See Pls.' Reply, ECF No. 56. Phil Robin did ...


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