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Daniel J. D'Amico Plumbing & Heating Co., Inc. v. Local Union No. 13 of the United Association of Journeymen

September 8, 2008

DANIEL J. D'AMICO PLUMBING & HEATING CO., INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
LOCAL UNION NO. 13 OF THE UNITED ASSOCIATION OF JOURNEYMEN AND APPRENTICES OF THE PLUMBING AND PIPE FITTING INDUSTRY OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

In this action Plaintiff seeks payment of money allegedly owed to it pursuant to a "Letter of Understanding" between itself and the Defendant. Now before the Court is Defendant's motion [#5] to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim or, alternatively, for failure to join an indispensable party. For the reasons that follow, the application is granted.

BACKGROUND

Unless otherwise noted, the following background facts are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint [#1], the "Letter of Understanding" and the Parties' Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA").*fn1 At all relevant times, Plaintiff Daniel J. D'Amico Plumbing & Heating Co., Inc. ("Plaintiff"), was a plumbing and heating contracting company that employed plumbers who were members of Defendant Local Union No. 13 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada ("Defendant"). In that regard, Plaintiff belonged to the Mechanical Contractors Association of Rochester, Inc. ("MCA"), which, on behalf of Plaintiff and its other members, negotiated a CBA with Defendant. (Complaint [#1] ¶ 3; D'Amico Affidavit [#8], Ex. A). The CBA stated, in relevant part, that,

[i]t is the intent and purpose of the parties hereto to provide for rates of pay, hours of work and conditions of employment to be observed by the parties, to the end that a continuous and harmonious labor relationship shall exist between the parties hereto, and the possibility of strikes, lockouts, boycotts and like practices may be thereby minimized. (D'Amico Aff., Ex. A). The CBA included provisions regarding the payment of "fringe benefits" by employers to various funds administered by the Defendant union, including an "IAP Fund," which was shorthand for "Industry Advancement Program Fund." (D'Amico Aff., Ex. A, pp. 32-33). However, the CBA does not give any further information regarding the fund or the IAP. Finally, the CBA contains a dispute resolution clause, covering "questions relating to the interpretation of this Agreement, its enforcement, or its violation."

(Id. at p. 15). The provision requires that such issues first be submitted to a Joint Conference Board, comprised of representatives of MCA and Defendant, and that if the matter is not settled by the Joint Conference Board, that it be submitted for binding arbitration. (Id.). The actual language of the clause, in relevant part is as follows:

Section 1: For the purpose of considering questions, relating to the interpretation of this Agreement, its enforcement, or its violation, there shall be a permanent Joint Conference Board consisting of five representatives appointed by the [MCA] and five representatives of Local #13.

***

Section 2: In the event of any dispute with reference to this Agreement, such dispute shall be referred to settlement as follows: First the complaining party shall confer with the Business Manager of the Local Union and the Employer. Second, if the matter is not settled by this Conference, the complainant shall refer the matter to the Joint Conference Board, which shall consider the same on twenty-four hours notice by certified mail.

***

Section 3: If the differences shall not have been adjusted by the above procedures within 48 hours, then either party may refer the matter to arbitration before an arbitrator selected through the rules of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The decision of the arbitrator shall be made within 30 days of the close of the hearing and a copy thereof served upon each party. The decision of the arbitrator shall be final and binding upon each party. (D'Amico Aff., Ex. A, p. 15).

In addition to the CBA, the Court has before it the "Letter of Understanding UA Local 13 MCA Targeted Jobs Program," from which, it appears that the IAP was an association between MCA and Defendant, the actual title of which was "the UA Local 13/MCA Industry Advancement Program." (Complaint ¶ 3; D'Amico Aff., Ex. B, p.1). The Letter of Understanding states that MCA and Defendant agreed "to establish a targeted jobs program as a separate and distinct fund under the auspices of the UA Local 13/MCA Industry Advancement Program." (D'Amico Aff., Ex. B, p.1). Such program was to be funded "by diverting $.91 from the [fringe benefit] contribution currently paid to the IAP Fund," and was to "be operated in accordance with the Labor Management Act § 302(c)(9)." (Id.). The Letter of Understanding further states that the IAP's "Trustees" would serve as "an industry-wide management committee," that would "identify those types of construction projects or those particular projects where UA Local 13 and its participating employers are not competitive," and would "take reasonable steps to increase the competitiveness of participating employers." (Id.). Specifically, as mentioned above, the Letter of Understanding indicates that the parties would establish "a separate and distinct fund" of money, from which employers could receive a subsidy "at an agreed-upon rate for each hour of work performed under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement." (D'Amico Aff., Ex. B, p. 2). To receive the subsidy, employers were required to submit weekly reports of hours worked by journeyman union members under the CBA, and, "upon verification" of those hours, "the targeted job fund shall reimburse the employer monthly in an amount equal to the number of hours actually worked multiplied by the applicable subsidy." (Id.). The Letter of Understanding does not contain a dispute resolution provision or an arbitration clause.

In connection with the targeted job program, Plaintiff applied for subsidy payments, for hours worked on fifteen separate projects, in the amount of $39,254.50. (Complaint ¶ 6). However, the claim was denied. Subsequently, on June 14, 2007, Plaintiff commenced the instant action pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 185, which, in relevant part, provides that the federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction over "[s]uits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce."29 U.S.C. § 185(a). The Complaint alleges, in relevant part, that "Defendant's refusal ...


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