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ALTERI v. GMC

March 19, 1996

LOUIS J. ALTERI, JOHN F. BUJAK, GARRY CHAPPELL, DAVID CORSARO, WILLIAM J. DeRITO, ROSE MARIE FOX, ROBERT GALLIPEAU, THOMAS J. GIBBONS, JR., MICHAEL A. GIROUX, MARJORIE H. GLOWACKI, CHARLOTTE D. HAWKINS, CHRISTINE M. HOTALING, MICHAEL B. KOLODZIE, BARBARA KULAK, STEFAN KUCZYNSKI, KAREN M. LANE, ERNEST LEWIS, DONNA M. LYSKAWA, JOHN F. LYSKAWA, DAVID L. MATHEWS, LENNY R. MATTISON, JOHN C. MELOLING, CYNTHIA G. NAGY, NANCY A. RAYMO, DAVID RUSTON, DARLENE STEDMAN, JOANNE M. TAYLOR, DANIEL THOMAS, FRANK L. THOMPSON, LINDA E. WRIGHT, and TIMOTHY J. YOUNG, Plaintiffs,
v.
GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION; LOCAL UNION 854, UNITED AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE & AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA-UAW, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: POOLER

 Defendants General Motors Corp. ("GM") and Local Union 854 ("Local 854") each moved for summary judgment against plaintiffs Louis J. Alteri, et al. in this action under the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. ยง 185. Defendants argue in the alternative that plaintiffs failed to meet the six-month statute of limitations applicable to this lawsuit and failed to exhaust their administrative remedies with the union. Because plaintiffs reasonably knew or should have known of defendants' breach more than six months before they filed this lawsuit, I grant defendants' motions.

 BACKGROUND

 The 31 plaintiffs, each of whom was a member of Local 854, worked for GM at the Inland Fisher Guide Division ("Fisher Guide") plant in East Syracuse. In early December 1992, GM announced that it would close the Fisher Guide plant. At the time of the announcement a collective bargaining agreement that the international union and GM had negotiated in 1990 was in effect (the "1990 Agreement"). *fn1" James Ciotti Aff. of 10/24/94, Ex. A. Pursuant to the 1990 Agreement, GM and the international union negotiated an additional agreement to govern the GM plant closings, including the shutdown in East Syracuse. The two parties signed the resulting Memorandum of Understanding on February 23, 1993. Id. Ex. B.

 Starting in March 1993, Local 854 posted notices and distributed leaflets at the Fisher Guide plant to explain the Memorandum of Understanding. Each of the plaintiffs agrees that he or she saw or received a copy of a bulletin board notice from Local 854 dated "March 1993." Id. Ex. C (also attached as ex. A to individual plaintiffs' affidavits). *fn2" Local 854 officials also met with union members to discuss the Memorandum of Understanding and its impact on the imminent plant closing. Id. P 8. Plaintiffs allege, however, that Local 854 leaders failed to explain the agreement or misled union members about its provisions.

 Plaintiffs chiefly dispute a provision in the Memorandum of Understanding that expands the "area hire" region from that within a 50-mile radius of Syracuse to the area within a 150-mile radius of Syracuse. Ciotti Aff. Ex. B. The Memorandum of Understanding provided that eligible GM employees could retire and that other GM employees could transfer to various GM factories according to preferences they indicated on a "Special Placement Process Selection Sheet." Id. Ex. B P 2. GM employees also could apply to work at Saturn Corporation in Tennessee. Id. In addition, the Memorandum of Understanding stated:

 
Employees remaining at Inland Fisher Guide - Syracuse as of September 1, 1993 who have not elected to retire pursuant to the letter of agreement noted in 1 above, have not been redeployed pursuant to this memorandum and have not selected "none of the above" on the Special Placement Process Selection Sheet attached, will be assigned to one of the plants within the 150 mile radius of Syracuse, New York based upon an allocation determined by Management with employees being given their choice in line with their seniority.

 Id. Ex. B P 8 (emphasis added). The Memorandum of Understanding therefore amended "Doc No. 21" to the 1990 Agreement, which provided that "an Area Hire is comprised of all plants with a 50-mile radius of a given plant or larger as may be agreed upon by the National Parties." Id. Ex. A, at 374. All of the plaintiffs except Nancy A. Raymo and Timothy J. Young completed and signed Special Placement Process Selection Sheets ("selection sheets"). Under the heading "Area Hire Transfers," these documents indicated that five GM factories were within a 150-mile radius of Syracuse. Although plaintiffs allege that they questioned Local 854 officials about the content and implications of the Memorandum of Understanding, plaintiffs did not formally complain to Local 854 or to the international union about the area hire policy change. *fn3"

 GM laid off plaintiffs between October 1993 and January 1994. Pl. Statement of Material Facts, P 10. Because they did not accept jobs at GM plants within a 150-mile radius of Syracuse, GM placed plaintiffs on "formal leave of absence for personal reasons" status between November 1993 and April 1994. Id. The Memorandum of Understanding stated that an employee "who, at the point of being offered a transfer in accordance with their (sic) election, refuses to accept such transfer or fails to report in accordance with such transfer, will be placed on a Formal Leave of Absence...." Ciotti Aff. Ex. B P 9. This status designation meant that plaintiffs were ineligible to receive company fringe benefits, including supplemental unemployment benefits.

 Plaintiffs commenced this lawsuit on May 17, 1994. The second amended complaint filed on July 18, 1995, contains one cause of action regarding GM's breach of contract and Local 854's breach of its duty of fair representation. Defendants filed responsive pleadings. By order of Magistrate Judge Di Bianco, defendants provided limited discovery to plaintiffs. GM and Local 854 then moved separately for summary judgment. Defendants primarily argue that the complaint should be dismissed because plaintiffs (1) missed the six-month statute of limitations applicable to "hybrid" lawsuits under the LMRA; and (2) failed to exhaust their administrative remedies with the union. Plaintiffs opposed the motion. Oral argument took place on February 5, 1996.

 DISCUSSION

 I. Summary Judgment Standard

 Summary judgment shall enter if, when viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, the court determines that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Eastman Kodak Co. v. Image Technical Servs., Inc., 504 U.S. 451, 456, 119 L. Ed. 2d 265, 112 S. Ct. 2072 (1992). A party seeking summary judgment must demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). If the movant satisfies this initial burden, then the burden shifts to the nonmovant to proffer evidence demonstrating that a trial is required because a disputed issue of fact exists. Weg v. Macchiarola, 995 F.2d 15, 18 (2d Cir. 1993). The nonmovant must do more than present evidence that is merely colorable, conclusory, or speculative and must present "concrete evidence from which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in his favor...." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 ...


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