The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert W. Sweet, U.S. District Judge.
The Parties and Related Entities
Local 32B-J, Service Employees International Union, AFLCIO
("Union") is a labor organization that represents members
employed in the building service industry in metropolitan New
The Funds are jointly administered, multi-employer, labor-management
trust Funds based in New York City. The Funds are employee
benefit plans that provide benefit coverage for participants
employed by employers who are parties to collective bargaining
agreements with the Union. The purpose of the Funds is to receive
contributions from employers who are parties to collective
bargaining agreements with the Union, to invest and maintain
those monies, and to distribute pensions, health and insurance
benefits, and annuity payments to eligible employees.
The Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, Inc. ("RAB") is a
multi-employer organization which is a signatory to a series of
collective bargaining agreements ("CBA") with the Union covering
employees of apartment buildings in New York City.
Vanderveer is a for-profit domestic limited liability company
based in New York City that owns several buildings in Brooklyn
and employs workers covered by the RAB collective bargaining
The prior proceedings in this case are set forth in a prior
opinion, Building Service 32B-J Health Fund v. Vanderveer Estates
Holding, LLC, 115 F. Supp.2d 459 (S.D.N.Y. 2000), familiarity
with which is assumed.
Briefly, this case seeks to compel payment for back contributions
for the period July 5, 1998 through September 30, 1998, arising
from Vanderveer's "lockout" of 51 Union employees working at an
apartment complex in Brooklyn after Vanderveer purchased that
property on June 5, 1998. In a previous action in this District,
the Honorable Louis L. Stanton held that Vanderveer was bound by
the RAB Agreement, under which it was required to submit disputes
to arbitration. See No. 98 Civ. 4232 (LLS), Order of Oct. 22,
1998. Vanderveer submitted to arbitration, and in November of
1998 was ordered to pay the Union a total of $167,878.62 in back
benefit contributions under the CBA as well as $181,200.57 in
damages. This award was upheld by Judge Stanton, Bevona v.
Vanderveer Estates Holding, LLC, No. 98 Civ. 8689 (S.D.N.Y. Feb.
11, 1999), and summarily affirmed by the Second Circuit, Bevona
v. Vanderveer Estates Holding, LLC, Nos. 98 Civ. 9529 and 99 Civ.
7048 (2d Cir. April 12, 1999)
The Funds brought the instant lawsuit on January 19, 2000
pursuant to sections 502(a)(3) and 515 of the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act, as amended ("ERISA") (29 U.S.C. § 1132
(a)(3) and 1145) and section 301 of the Labor Management
Relations Act of 1947 ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185, seeking to
compel payment on $598,263.96 in benefit fund contributions
claimed due for the period January 1, 1999 through June 30, 2000,
as well as liquidated damages.
The Funds moved for summary judgment on June 28, 2000. Vanderveer
filed its opposition and a cross-motion for summary judgment on
August 4, 2000. The Funds filed a reply memorandum on August 24,
2000, and the motion was deemed fully submitted after oral argument
on September 6, 2000.
Each of the Funds operates under its own Trust Agreement
pursuant to ERISA, and all three Trust Agreements contemplate
that employers will contribute pursuant to the terms of
collective bargaining agreements with the Union. Vanderveer is
not a signatory to the Trust Agreements. The Health Fund Trustee
Agreement provides that trustees have "the power to demand,
collect and receive Employer Contributions," Def. Ex. 1 ¶ 28(A),
as well as to construe the terms of the Trust Agreement and the
Plan, and to resolve "any disputed matter" that arises. Def. Ex.
1 ¶¶ 7(B), 15(b). The Trustees' decisions are to be "binding
and conclusive upon all parties and persons." Id. In addition,
"any owner of a member-building of the RAB . . . may participate
in the Fund . . . whether or not any of such employees is covered
by a collective bargaining agreement between such Employer and
the Union." Def. Ex. 1 ¶ 6(b)(i).
The Pension Fund Trust Agreement specifically empowers its
Trustees to accept and receive employer contributions, as well as
to "do all acts whether or not expressly authorized herein, which
the Trustees may deem necessary to accomplish the general
objectives of maintaining the Fund solely in the interests of the
participants and beneficiaries." Def. Ex. 2 ¶¶ 6(a), 11(b).
The Annuity Fund Trust Agreement specifically contemplates that
non-member employers will nonetheless be bound by collective
bargaining agreements to contribute to the Fund. The Agreement
provides that non-party employers who are bound by collective
bargaining agreements shall become parties to the Trust Agreement
by executing a written acceptance of its terms. Def. Ex. 3. Art.
III § 1. However, the Trust Agreement nonetheless applies to "any
Employers" — whether or not they become parties to the Trust
Agreement — who are bound to contribute to the Fund pursuant to
collective bargaining agreements. Def. Ex. 3, p. 1; Art. 1 § 1(c)
(defining covered "Employers" as "employers who are obligated to
make payment to the TRUST created by this Agreement by a
Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Union. . . ."). Trustees
are empowered to "enforce the payment of contributions to
the Annuity Fund by Employers" and to "receive Employer
contributions," Def. Ex. 3, Art. V §§ 1(w), (x), as well as
"to do all acts whether or not expressly authorized herein" in
the interests of the Fund, Def. Ex. 3, Art. IX § 3. Employers are
required to contribute to the Annuity Fund as per the terms of
the collective bargaining agreements. Def. Ex. 3, Art. VIII §§
In prior actions, Vanderveer has been found to be (1) bound by
a collective bargaining agreement with the Funds; (2) under a
contractual obligation to pay benefit contributions to the Funds,
a multi-employer plan; and (3) ...