The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDERICK J. SCULLIN, JR.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Firemen's Insurance Company ("Plaintiff") filed the instant declaratory judgment action in federal court on May 22, 1992. Plaintiff seeks a declaration that it is not required to make payments to certain of the defendants under N.Y. STATE FIN. LAW § 137,
alleging that such a requirement is preempted by the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA").
This action is presently before the court on Defendants'
motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 (b)(1). The court heard oral argument on September 25, 1992 in Albany, New York.
This lawsuit involves the relationship among three parties; an employer, a surety and a labor union. The employer, M. Wilson Control Services, Inc. ("Wilson"), a New York corporation, is a plumbing and pipefitting contractor which entered into several contracts with the State of New York for construction of certain public improvements. In performing the construction contracts, Wilson used members of Local 105, one of the defendants in this declaratory judgment action, and was a signatory to its collective bargaining agreement. Nicholsan Aff. PP 4-6. Under the agreement, Wilson was obligated to pay Local 105 members the appropriate wage rate and make contributions on behalf of its employees to the Plumbers and Pipefitters National Pension Fund ("Pension Fund"). Id. P 3.
The surety, Plaintiff in this declaratory judgment action, contends upon information and belief that the Pension Fund is a duly organized and existing pension trust which is affiliated with Local 105, into which employers having contractual arrangements with Local 105 pay pension contributions. Upon information and belief, Plaintiff also contends that the Wages, Industry, Welfare, Pension, Educational and Annuity Funds of Local 105 ("Benefit Funds") are funds or trusts affiliated with Local 105, into which employers who have contractual arrangements with Local 105 pay fringe benefit contributions. Am. Complaint P 5. As such, Plaintiff contends that Defendants fall under the purview of ERISA.
Subsequently, Wilson defaulted on each of these State projects and failed to meet its required payments under its collective bargaining obligation to Local 105 in connection with each of the projects for which these bonds had been provided. Am. Complaint P 11; Nicholson Aff. P 6. Between March 31, 1992 and April 10, 1992, Defendants submitted claims to Plaintiff, for payment in the amount of $ 71,888.69, contending that the labor and material bonds required Plaintiff to pay for, inter alia, wages and fringe benefits owing to the union member employees. Id. P 13-17. Plaintiff contends that it has honored all claims for direct wages which are "just and verifiable." Am. Complaint P 12. However, it refuses to pay for any claims made by Defendants based on fringe benefit payments allegedly owed by Wilson. Defendants had not, as of the date of this motion, initiated any state court action regarding their claims.
On May 22, 1992, Plaintiff flied the instant action, seeking a declaratory judgment that the bonds required by N.Y. STATE FIN. LAW § 137 (1) are preempted by ERISA and that Plaintiff is under no obligation to pay for any fringe benefits to Defendants under its agreement with Wilson. On July 10, 1992, Defendants filed the present notion asserting that, pursuant to Fed.P.Civ.P. 12 (b)(1), the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's action and that Plaintiff lacks standing to bring its suit under ERISA.
The question presented by the present motion is whether the court has subject matter jurisdiction over a declaratory judgment action brought by a plaintiff-surety who alleges that, were Defendants to initiate a suit against Plaintiff in state court, Defendants' action would be preempted by ERISA. At the time that this motion was heard by the court, this issue appeared to be one of first impression in this circuit. However, since the court heard oral argument in this case, the Second Circuit decided Albradco, Inc. v. Bevona, 982 F.2d 82 (2d Cir. 1992), heavily relied upon by Defendants and directly on point with the present case. The court finds Albradco to be dispositive in this case.
Like the present case, the Albradco case involved a dispute over payments due union employees after their employer was unable to satisfy its debts. In Albradco, shareholders of a bankrupt corporation ("Bradley") brought a declaratory judgment action in federal court after Bradley defaulted on its obligations to certain of its union employees, and the union sued Bradley's shareholders in state court. The union had brought its action pursuant to N.Y.B.C.L. § 630, "which provides that the ten largest shareholders of close corporations 'shall jointly and severally be personally liable for all debts, wages, or salaries due and owing' to employees." Albradco, 982 F.2d at 84 (citing N.Y.B.C.L. § 630 (a)). Moreover, "this [(§ 630 (a))] includes 'employer contributions . . . of insurance or welfare benefits [and] employer ...