United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION AND ORDER
Vincent L. Briccetti United States District Judge
Timothy Walsh and James Worden bring this action against
defendants International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Local 503 (“Local 503”), Scott Jensen, Robert
Decker, Brian McPartland, Patrick Greaven, Michael Hlavec,
and Brian Scott. Plaintiffs claim defendants breached their
duty to represent plaintiffs fairly in connection with
collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”)
negotiations, thereby causing plaintiffs economic harm.
the Court are defendants' motion for summary judgment
(Doc. # 102) and plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary
judgment (Doc. # 112).
reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is GRANTED
and plaintiffs' cross-motion is DENIED.
Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
parties have submitted briefs, statements of facts, and
declarations with supporting exhibits, which reflect the
following factual background.
503 is a labor organization that represents gas and electric
utility employees who perform utility work for Orange &
Rockland Utilities (“O&R”) and GenOn Energy
Services, LLC (“GenOn”), and employees who
perform telephone work for Frontier Telephone Company
(“Frontier”) and Alteva Telecommunications
(“Alteva”). In 2013, smaller bargaining units
represented the subunits of Local 503. This action pertains
to Unit 503.3, which had thirty-six members who were employed
by GenOn. Each subunit, including Unit 503.3, had its own
chairperson (who was also a member of the Local 503 Executive
Board), vice chairperson, and recorder, and each held its own
monthly meetings to address issues particular to the subunit,
in addition to the Local 503 general meeting. Each subunit
had a bargaining committee to represent the subunit in CBA
negotiations with the respective employers. The Local 503
President and Business Representative were members of each
subunit's bargaining committee, along with
representatives from the subunit.
Walsh and Worden, and defendants Jensen, McPartland, Decker,
Hlavac, and Greaven are all members of Local 503. Plaintiffs
Walsh and Worden and defendants Decker, Greaven, and Hlavac
are also members of Unit 503.3 and employees of GenOn at the
Bowline Generating Station (“Bowline”) in West
Haverstraw, New York. Defendant Jensen has been the
President, Business Manager, and Financial Secretary of Local
503 since 2012 and has been a member of Local 503 for
approximately twenty-nine years. Prior to serving full-time
in his Local 503 leadership roles, Jensen was a Lineman First
Class HV (High Voltage) for O&R. McPartland has been the
Business Representative of Local 503 for eight years and has
been a member of Local 503 since 1983, also serving as its
Treasurer for about eight years. Prior to serving full-time
as Business Representative, McPartland was an Underground
Line Chief for O&R.
Walsh, a maintenance mechanic at Bowline, has been a member
of Local 503 and a GenOn employee since 1987. Plaintiff
Worden works in the warehouse at Bowline and has been a
member of Local 503 and a GenOn employee since 1989.
Decker, an ice technician at Bowline, has been a member of
Local 503 for approximately twenty-nine years and has been
employed by GenOn and its predecessors since May 1989.
Hlavac, an operations technician at Bowline, has been a
member of Local 503 and employed by GenOn and its
predecessors for thirty-two years. Greaven, an
instrumentation technician at Bowline, has been a member of
Local 503 for approximately thirty years and has been
employed by GenOn and its predecessors for approximately
than the ratification meeting on May 7, 2013, plaintiffs
Walsh and Worden have not attended Unit 503.3 meetings or
Local 503 general meetings for several years, and have never
been involved in negotiating a CBA.
current litigation arises from the negotiation of the CBA
between Local 503 and GenOn for the period May 1, 2013,
through April 30, 2016 (the “2013 CBA”).
Plaintiffs claim defendants breached the duty of fair
representation owed to the members of Unit 503.3 by failing
to obtain an extension of a pension provision known as the
Rule of 85.
C of the CBA between Local 503 and GenOn for the period June
1, 2008 through April 30, 2013 (the “2008 CBA”),
contains various pension plan provisions, including the Rule
of 85. The Rule of 85 provided that “[e]mployees
terminating after June 30, 2008 who will attain age 55 on or
before December 31, 2013 and will satisfy the Rule of 85 on
or before December 31, 2013 shall be grandfathered into the
Rule of 85. Employees must reach age 55 and have years of
service and age greater than or equal to 85 by this date to
qualify for an unreduced benefit.” (Jensen Decl., Ex.
C of the CBA refers to the Summary Plan Description
(“SPD”) for a more detailed description of the
pension plan and its terms, including the Rule of 85. The SPD
relevant to this litigation is the SPD to Schedule B, GenOn
Mirant Bargaining Unit Pension Plan (For New York Employees
Hired Before June 1, 2000, and Who Are Covered by a
Collective Bargaining Agreement with I.B.E.W. Local 503),
July 2012 (the “GenOn SPD”). Pursuant to the
GenOn SPD's Early Retirement provision, employees
“are eligible to retire and receive a benefit under the
Plan before age 65 if [they] meet the early retirement
definition, ” but the benefit will be reduced based on
a specified formula unless the employee satisfies the Rule of
85. (Jensen Decl., Ex. L). The “Rule of 85 means that
the sum of [the employee's] years of Eligibility Service
and [the employee's] age equal or exceed 85.”
(Id.). If the employee “terminate[s] prior to
reaching [his] Early Retirement Date (i.e., prior to reaching
age 55 with 10 years of Accredited Service), [the employee]
will not satisfy the Rule of 85.” (Id.). A
“Grandfathered Participant” is an employee who
will have both attained age 55 and satisfied the Rule of 85
on or before December 31, 2013. (Id.).
2008 CBA was scheduled to expire on April 30, 2013. A
bargaining committee, which included Local 503 President
Jensen, Local 503 Business Representative McPartland, Unit
503.3 Chairman Decker, Unit 503.3 Vice Chairman Hlavac, and
Unit 503.3 Reporter Greaven, was organized to negotiate a new
CBA with GenOn (the “Unit 503.3 Bargaining
to negotiations, the Unit 503.3 Bargaining Committee held a
strategy meeting during which the Bargaining Committee
drafted a list of bargaining proposals, based in part on
questionnaires from the Unit 503.3 membership indicating the
importance of each bargaining issue. The Bargaining Committee
was aware the members of Unit 503.3 considered the Rule of 85
to be an important part of their contract.
to bargaining, Local 503 and GenOn discussed ground rules for
the negotiations, which Decker drafted (the “Ground
Rules”). The Ground Rules provided in part that
“all current contract language that is unchanged would
remain unchanged in the next agreement, unless it contained a
sunset clause.” (Jensen Aff. ¶ 10, Ex. M).
negotiators were the Director of Human Resources and Labor
Relations from GenOn's parent company, NRG Energy, Inc.
(“NRG”), Vince Pepenelli; NRG Labor Relations
Specialist, Kim Pavolka; GenOn Human Resources Manager at
Bowline, Donna Pizzo; and Bowline Manager, Bill Metzger.
negotiations took place during approximately six bargaining
sessions, each of which lasted approximately eight to twelve
hours, except the last bargaining session which lasted
approximately twenty-four hours. At the first bargaining
session, the Unit 503.3 Bargaining Committee and GenOn
simultaneously exchanged written proposals. Jensen and
McPartland negotiated on behalf of the Unit 503.3 Bargaining
Committee. Decker, Hlavac, and Greaven were in the bargaining
room during each session and participated in the Unit 503.3