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Eatz v. Dme Unit of Local Union Number 3 of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

decided: June 19, 1986.

BRIAN EATZ, EDWARD MCMILLAN, PETER ALBRECHTSEN AND SONNY PASCALE, INDIVIDUALLY ON THEIR OWN BEHALF AND ON BEHALF OF ALL PERSONS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
THE DME UNIT OF LOCAL UNION NUMBER 3 OF THE INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, AFL-CIO; LOCAL UNION NUMBER 3 OF THE INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, AFL-CIO; AND THE NEW YORK RACING ASSOCIATION, INC., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Plaintiffs appeal from the granting by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Mark A. Costantino, Judge, of defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint as time-barred.

Author: Pratt

Before: OAKES, KEARSE, and PRATT, Circuit Judges

PRATT, Circuit Judge:

When a union moves to dismiss an action against it, federal labor policy requires courts to construe liberally allegations that the union has breached the duty of fair representation owed to its members. Because the record revealed numerous instances of alleged unfair representation occurring both within the applicable limitations period and after the filing of the complaint, the district court should not have limited its analysis to the complaint alone and, therefore, erred in granting defendants' motions to dismiss this action as time-barred.

Plaintiffs, mutuel clerks employed by The New York Racing Association, Inc. ("NYRA"), brought a class action against NYRA, their union, Local Union Number 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO ("Local 3"), and their bargaining unit, the DME Unite of Local 3 ("DME"). Local 3 and DME are sometimes hereinafter referred to collectively as the "union". Plaintiffs alleged initially that the union had breached its duty of fair representation in negotiating and administering its 1977, 1979, and 1982 collective bargaining agreements with NYRA by drawing invidious and arbitrary distinctions among NYRA'S mutuel clerks and unfairly discriminating against plaintiffs' class. Plaintiffs alleged further that NYRA had acted in concert with the union in the union's breach of its duty of fair representation.

Defendants moved to dismiss the action under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, or alternatively, for judgment on the pleadings under Fed. R. Civ. P.12(c) or summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 on the ground that the complaint was time-barred under the applicable six-month limitations period. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Mark A. Costantino, Judge, dismissed on the latter ground. Notwithstanding plaintiffs' contention that the breach was ongoing and persisted beyond the ratification and execution of the collective bargaining agreements, the district court found that the claims arose at the very latest when the 1982 agreement was ratified and that, as a result, the filing of the complaint more than six months thereafter was untimely.

While this conclusion may have been justified by a reading of only the complaint, it was not proper in light of plaintiffs' opposing affidavits. The allegations expressed in those affidavits, which comprised a significant portion of the record below, describe several union and NYRA activities, some occurring within the limitations period and some after the filing of the complaint, by which the union may have breached its duty of fair representation. We therefore hold that the district court erred in dismissing the complaint, and we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

NYRA, a nonprofit racing association organized under the laws of New York State, owns and operates three thoroughbred horse-racing tracks within the state--Aqueduct in Queens County, Belmont Park in Nassau County, and Saratoga in Saratoga Springs. Mutuel clerks, NYRA's largest employee group, staff NYRA'S pari-mutuel wagering facilities. Most mutuel clerks work at the betting windows selling or redeeming tickets that evidence bets on the races; some perform related support functions.

Until 1977 NYRA employed only two categories of mutuel clerks: the full-time "Regulars" and the casual, or part-time, "Extras". However, the 1977 labor contract between NYRA and DME's predecessor recognized a new full-time category termed "Provisionals". This new category was continued in the 1979 and 1982 collective bargaining agreements between NYRA and DME, but was relabeled as "New Regulars".

Regulars are distinguished from New Regulars in that they achieved their full-time employment status before the effective date of the 1977 agreement. The distinction is significant because of the two-tiered system of wages and other benefits for full-time mutuel clerks, which, under the collective bargaining agreements, generally provides Regulars with higher wages and more favorable fringe benefits than New Regulars. It is precisely this disparity that prompted plaintiffs to bring the instant class action.

The complaint, filed on March 3, 1983, claims that DME and NYRA, through negotiation, execution, enforcement, and administration of the collective bargaining agreements, have continually treated the New Regulars as an inferior class to be exploited and manipulated for the mutual benefit of NYRA and the Regulars. In support and elaboration of their claims, plaintiffs described in their affidavits numerous instances occurring both before and after ratification of the 1982 collective bargaining agreement, in which the union allegedly breached its duty to represent fairly the minority class of New Regulars.

The provisions of the 1982 collective bargaining agreement were ratified in substance by the union on January 26, 1982, but the document was not fully signed until approximately one year later. In the interim the New Regulars claim to have repeatedly protested to the leadership and membership of DME regarding the discriminatory nature of the agreement and the absence of union representation for the New Regulars. Plaintiffs contend that, as a result of complaints voiced at an October 1982 membership meeting and of named plaintiff Brian Eatz's subsequent correspondence on their behalf with union executives, when the union signed the 1982 agreement it had full knowledge of the agreement's allegedly discriminatory nature.

In addition to events relating to the negotiation and execution of the 1982 agreement, the record before the district court described other, more recent situations in which the union allegedly breached its duty to represent plaintiffs fairly. Four such situations are especially ...


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