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American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (Aka Afscme v. Richard Tobe

December 15, 2011

AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES (AKA AFSCME), LOCAL 264, AFSCME LOCAL 650, AFSCME LOCAL 2651, INTERNATIONAL UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS, LOCAL 17, AND INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, LOCAL 264, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RICHARD TOBE, THOMAS E. BAKER, ALAIR TOWNSEND, H. CARL MCCALL, JOHN J. FASO, JOEL A. GIAMBRA, ANTHONY M. MASIELLO, RICHARD A. STENHOUSE AND ROBERT G. WILMERS, IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AS DIRECTORS/ MEMBERS OF THE BUFFALO FISCAL STABILITY AUTHORITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Court

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This is the last in a series of three actions brought in this Court by various unions representing City of Buffalo employees against members of the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority ("Control Board").*fn1

On July 3, 2003, the New York State Legislature, through the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority Act ("Act"), created the Control Board to stabilize and improve the City of Buffalo's failing financial health. One of the powers the legislature vested in the Control Board was the discretion to freeze wages. On April 21, 2004, the Control Board exercised that discretion and enacted Resolution No. 04-35, otherwise known as the Wage Freeze Resolution, which, for purposes of this case, had the effect of eliminating contractual salary increases that Plaintiffs had negotiated with the City of Buffalo.

Plaintiffs' suit challenges the Wage Freeze Resolution as violative of the Contract and Takings Clauses of the United States Constitution. See U.S. Const. art. I, § 10, cl. 1; U.S. Const. amend. V. Plaintiffs also claim that the wage freeze violated their rights to Equal Protection and Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. They bring these claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Further, they argue that the Act violated Article I of the New York State Constitution and New York State's Taylor Law, which is found under New York Civil Service Law § 200 et seq.

Although Plantiffs jointly filed a motion for summary judgment and memoranda in support, all but one of the plaintiffs have now reached, or are close to reaching, a resolution or settlement of their claims. (See Buzzard Letter; Docket No. 117.) The remaining plaintiff is the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 264 ("Local 264"). (Id.) Defendants have also moved for summary judgment. Thus, presently before this Court are Local 264's (Docket No. 41) and Defendants' (Docket No. 48) dueling Motions for Summary Judgment. For the following reasons, Local 264's motion is denied, while Defendants' motion is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

A. The Parties

Local 264 is an employee organization that serves as the exclusive bargaining representative for the City of Buffalo Water Division employees. (Defendants' Rule 56 Statement of Undisputed Facts ("Defendants' Statement"), ¶ 6.) Defendants are directors/members of the Control Board, which is a public benefit corporation. (Id. ¶ 7, 8.)

Local 264 is a party to a collective bargaining agreement with the City of Buffalo. (Id. ¶ 10.) This agreement provides for periodic step increases and/or other types of salary increases to be paid to the covered employees.*fn2 (Id.)

B. Buffalo Teachers

As noted above, this is the third in a series of cases concerning the Act and the effect of the wage freeze on unions within the City of Buffalo. As such, the history of the Act and accompanying wage freeze, the reasons for their enactments, and their effects have all been well documented.*fn3 In the first case to deal with the wage freeze, Buffalo Teachers Federation v. Tobe, 446 F. Supp. 2d 134 (W.D.N.Y. 2005) ("Buffalo Teachers"), brought by teachers and other school district employees for the City of Buffalo, this Court found that the Wage Freeze Resolution did not violate the plaintiffs' rights under the Contract or Takings Clauses. The Second Circuit affirmed this Decision and the Supreme Court denied certiorari. Buffalo Teachers Federation v. Tobe, 464 F.3d 362 (2d Cir. 2006), cert. denied, 550 U.S. 918,127 S. Ct. 2133, 167 L. Ed. 2d 864 (2007). Local 264, in this case, appears to concede that the twin Buffalo Teachers cases resolve its Contract and Takings Clause claims in Defendants' favor. (See Issues Remaining, p. 2, ¶ 2; Docket No. 91) ("This Court's Decision in the [Buffalo Teachers] case, and its affirmance by the Court of Appeals, have resolved the issues with respect to impairment of contract rights and unlawful taking as to the Buffalo School Board employees, and arguably may have also as to City employees.") (Emphasis added). In that submission, Plaintiff makes no argument that the Second Circuit's holding does not apply to them as well*fn4 , and there is no question that it should: for the purposes of the Contract and Takings Clause, the plaintiffs in Buffalo Teachers and the plaintiffs here were equally affected by the wage freeze; their claims*fn5 , and thus the resolution of their claims, are identical. However, Buffalo Teachers did not address Local 264's Equal Protection, Due Process, and state law claims, which will be discussed in the following analysis.

C. Procedural History

On September 17, 2004, Plaintiffs commenced this action by filing a Complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York. (Docket No. 1.) Defendants filed their Answer on October 19, 2004 (Docket No. 12.) On June 9, 2005, Plaintiffs moved for Leave to Amend their Complaint (Docket No. 23), which, after briefing, was denied by the Honorable Leslie G. Foschio on October 4, 2005. (Docket No. 39.) Plaintiffs and Defendants moved for summary judgment on December 5, 2005 and January 20, 2006, respectively. After full briefing on the motions, this Court held oral argument on April 23, 2008, and reserved decision at that time. (Docket No. 114.) By letter dated April 23, 2010, this Court was informed that all the plaintiffs except Local 264 had reached, or were close to reaching, settlement of their claims. (Docket No. 117.)

III. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." A fact is "material" only if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). A "genuine" dispute exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Id. In determining whether a genuine dispute regarding a material fact exists, the evidence and the inferences drawn from the evidence "must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158--59, 90 S. Ct.1598, 1609, 26 L. Ed. 2d 142 (1970) (internal quotations and citation omitted).

"Only when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of evidence is summary judgment proper." Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991) (citation omitted). Indeed, "[i]f, as to the issue on which summary judgment is sought, there is any evidence in the record from which a reasonable inference could be drawn in favor of the opposing party, summary judgment is improper." Sec. Ins. Co. of Hartford v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., 391 F.3d 77, 82--83 (2d Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). The function of the court is not "to weigh ...


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