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Panek v. Cimato Bros. Construction

October 15, 2007

THOMAS L. PANEK, AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE BUFFALO LABORERS WELFARE FUND, BUFFALO LABORERS PENSION FUND, BUFFALO LABORERS EDUCATION AND TRAINING FUND, BUFFALO LABORERS SUPPLEMENTAL EMPLOYMENT BENEFIT FUND AND BUFFALO LABORERS ANNUITY FUND AND LABORERS LOCAL 210, LABORERS' INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CIMATO BROS. CONSTRUCTION, INC. AND CIMATO BROS., INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Richard J. Arcara Chief Judge United States District Court

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Laborers' Local No. 210 brought this action against Cimato Bros. Construction, Inc., a construction company that employs both union and nonunion laborers, to enforce a series of collective bargaining agreements, even though Cimato never signed the agreements and never joined the multi-employer bargaining unit that negotiated them. Local 210 claims that Cimato is nevertheless bound by the agreements, because over a 5-year period, Cimato submitted benefit fund contributions and remittance reports to the union trust funds on behalf of some of its employees, thus manifesting an intent on the part of Cimato to be bound by the agreements. The Court finds that Cimato's conduct in making benefit contributions was not, by itself, sufficient to show its intent to be bound by the agreements, especially in light of other conduct by Cimato that was inconsistent with the agreements.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Thomas L. Panek, as Administrator of the Buffalo Laborers Welfare Fund, Buffalo Laborers Pension Fund, Buffalo Laborers Education and Training Fund, Buffalo Laborers Supplemental Unemployment Benefit Fund and Buffalo Laborers' Annuity Fund (hereinafter "Local 210 Benefit Funds") and Laborers Local 210, Laborers' International Union of North America (hereinafter "Local 210") (together with the Local 210 Benefit Funds, jointly "Plaintiffs"), bring this action under Sections 502 and 515 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, against defendant Cimato Bros. Construction, Inc., to enforce a series of collective bargaining agreements ("CBAs") negotiated by Local 210 with the Council of Utility Contractors, a multi-employer bargaining unit.*fn1

Currently before the Court are the Plaintiffs' motion for partial judgment as a matter of law ("JMOL") and Cimato Bros. Construction, Inc.'s cross-motion for JMOL. Both motions are based on a joint stipulation of facts.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Cimato Bros., Inc. ("CBI") was incorporated as a New York Corporation on July 5, 1963. CBI's business during the 1970's and 1980's consisted of municipal sewer work. In the late 1970's and 1980's, CBI, in addition to municipal sewer work, became involved in residential project developments and real estate.

The Council of Utility Contractors, Inc. ("CUC"), a multi-employer collective bargaining unit, was formed in 1976. CBI was a CUC charter member. CUC would negotiate CBAs with various building trades, including Local 210, on behalf of its members.

In 1995, CBI ceased engaging in the construction business. CBI continued, however, to engage in the real estate business.

Cimato Bros. Construction, Inc. ("Cimato"), was incorporated on January 4, 1996. CBI sold construction equipment, vehicles and personal property to Cimato.*fn2

Although CBI was a member of CUC, Cimato never became a member of CUC and never authorized CUC to bargain on its behalf.

CUC and Local 210 entered into a series of CBAs effective April 1, 1999 through March 31, 2002, April 1, 2002 through March 31, 2005 and April 1, 2005 through March 31, 2008. Cimato, however, never signed a CBA with Local 210.

From April 1999 until sometime in 2004, Cimato paid to Local 210 Benefit Funds contributions on behalf of some of its employees. Such payments were accompanied by pre-printed benefit forms, referred to as remittance reports, prepared by Local 210 Benefit Funds. Sometimes the forms ...


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