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Local Union No. 1 of United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of United States and Canada v. P.A.C. Heating, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 23, 2017

LOCAL UNION NO. 1 OF THE UNITED ASSOCIATION OF JOURNEYMEN & APPRENTICES OF THE PLUMBING & PIPEFITTING INDUSTRY OF THE UNITED STATES & CANADA, by MICHAEL APUZZO, as Financial Secretary-Treasurer, Petitioner,
v.
P.A.C. HEATING, INC., d/b/a/ P.A.C. PLUMBING, HEATING & AIR CONDITIONING, Respondent.

          OPINION & ORDER

          NINA GERSHON United States District Judge

         Local Union No. 1 of the United Association of Journeyman and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada (the "Union" or "petitioner") brings this action to confirm a labor arbitration award of February 5, 2015 in the amount of $67, 500 (the "Award") against P.A.C. Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning ("PAC" or "respondent"). It now moves for summary judgment to confirm the award pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185. Respondent opposes this motion and moves for summary judgment seeking that the arbitration award be vacated. For the reasons set forth below, I grant petitioner's motion to confirm the award and deny respondent's motion to vacate it.

         I. Background

         The historical facts are undisputed. The Union is a labor organization that is the exclusive bargaining agent for all journey-level plumbers and apprentices employed by employers that are members of the Association of Contracting Plumbers of New York City, Inc. (the "Association"). PAC was a member of the Association until August 29, 2012, at which time the Association terminated its membership. The Association informed the Union of PAC's termination on September 17, 2012. After receiving this notice from the Association, the Union wrote PAC on September 24, 2012 informing it that, "since you are no longer a signatory contractor with the [Association], it is necessary for you to sign the enclosed [Agreement]." Pet. Ex. E. at 9.

         Central to this case are three collective bargaining agreements between the Union and the Association, which it negotiated on behalf of its members ("Agreements"). The first is referred to as the "A-Agreement, " which was in effect from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2016. The other two are referred to as the "MES Agreements." The first MES Agreement was in effect from October 1, 2010 through September 30, 2013. The second MES Agreement was in effect from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2016.

         The Agreements provide that they continue in full force and effect during their terms and that an entity wishing to abrogate any of the Agreements must notify the Association and the Union 180 days prior to the expiration date of the Agreement. PAC did not send a request to abrogate the Agreements until December 31, 2014.

         Pursuant to the Agreements, disputes and controversies arising out of the Agreements are referred to an arbitration committee comprised of an equal number of members appointed by the Union and the Association. According to the Union, PAC did not comply with certain provisions of the Agreements, including its failure to: post a bond; obtain green cards on jobs performed; hire only union laborers; pay fringe benefit contributions; and use the proper ratio of journeymen to helpers.

         On December 16, 2014, the Union requested arbitration, and PAC was notified on January 7, 2015 that the arbitration hearing would be held on January 29, 2015. On January 9, 2015, PAC's attorney objected to the arbitration. An arbitration hearing was held on January 29, 2015, at which the Union appeared, but PAC did not.

         On February 5, 2015, the arbitration committee issued its written decision (the "Decision"). It found that PAC was bound by the Agreements because it did not request to abrogate them until December of 2014. In reaching this conclusion, the committee found that, though PAC's membership in the Association had been terminated, that did not occur until after the A-Agreement went into effect. Therefore, PAC was bound by this A-Agreement and had to abrogate it if it wanted to forgo its obligations, which it did not do. As to the MES Agreements, the arbitration committee concluded that PAC never requested to abrogate the first MES Agreement, thus remaining bound, and that its failure to abrogate the first MES Agreement also caused it to be bound to the second MES Agreement. Also influencing the committee's Decision was that PAC continued to submit fringe benefit contributions to the Union throughout 2014, which, according to the committee, demonstrated PAC's intent to remain bound. Ultimately, the committee imposed a fine of $67, 500 for various breaches of the Agreements, and it directed PAC to pay this fine by March 1, 2015, which PAC did not do. The Union then filed this petition to confirm the arbitration award on February 2, 2016.

         II. Discussion

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is appropriate if the movant demonstrates that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). "A dispute is not genuine unless the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Shiflett v. Scores Holding Co., Inc., 601 Fed.Appx. 28, 29 (2d Cir. 2015) (internal quotation omitted). A court is required to "construe all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, drawing all inferences and resolving all ambiguities in its favor." Dicker son v. Napolitano, 604 F.3d 732, 740 (2d Cir. 2010). The moving party bears the burden of proof that no genuine issues of fact exist, but, once it satisfies this initial burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to present evidence that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. "Summary judgment is appropriate where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Rosenfeld v. Hostos Cmty. Coll., 554 Fed.Appx. 72, 73 (2d Cir. 2014).

         B. Parties' Positions

         PAC argues that, at the time of the actions underlying the committee's award, it was not bound by any of the Agreements. According to PAC, once the Association terminated its membership on August 29, 2012, it ceased being a party to any of the Agreements. See Respondent's Opp. at 5. Because it was not a party to the Agreements, PAC argues, the arbitration award, which was based on PAC violating these Agreements, should be vacated. The Union contends that PAC's termination from the Association is insufficient to abrogate its responsibilities pursuant to the Agreements. Rather, the Agreements set forth specific procedures that required PAC to provide 180 days' notice if it desired to abrogate. Since PAC did not provide such notice until 2014, it is the Union's position that PAC continued to be bound by the Agreements.

         C. Arbitrability

         As a threshold issue, it must be determined if PAC was bound to arbitrate whether its termination from the Association also terminated its obligations under the Agreements. The issue of arbitrability arises when there is a question as to whether "there is even a valid agreement to arbitrate in effect at a particular time." Abram Landau Real Estate v. Bevona,123 F.3d 69, 72-73 (2d Cir. 1997). ...


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