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Trustees for the Mason Tenders District Council Welfare Fund v. Briscoe Sunrise Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 2, 2017

TRUSTEES FOR THE MASON TENDERS DISTRICT COUNCIL WELFARE FUND, PENSION FUND, ANNUITY FUND, AND TRAINING PROGRAM FUND, and ROBERT BONANZA, Petitioners,
v.
BRISCOE SUNRISE CORPORATION, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          KATHERINE POLK FAILLA, District Judge

         Petitioners Trustees for the Mason Tenders District Council Welfare Fund, Pension Fund, Annuity Fund, and Training Program Fund (the “Funds”) and Robert Bonanza (together, “Petitioners”) have filed a motion for summary judgment to confirm an arbitration award (the “Award”) under Section 301 of the Taft-Hartley Labor Management Relations Act (the “LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 185. Respondent Briscoe Sunrise Corporation did not appear in the underlying arbitration (the “Arbitration”). Nor has it appeared in the instant action. And because the undisputed facts of this case establish that the Award must be confirmed, the Court grants Petitioners' motion.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         A. Factual Background

         The case arises out of a labor dispute over a collective-bargaining agreement: the Project Labor Agreement Covering Specified Construction Work Under the Capital Improvement Program for Fiscal Years 2014-2019 (the “SCA PLA”). The Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York and Long Island is a labor union under the LMRA and “a member of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and Vicinity” (the “BCTC”). (Pet'r 56.1 ¶ 2). Bonanza is the union's Business Manager. (Id. at ¶ 3). The “Funds are ‘employee benefit plan[s]' as defined in Section 3(3) of [the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (‘ERISA')], 29 U.S.C. § 1002(3) and ‘multiemployer plan[s]' within the meaning of Section 3 (37)(A) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. §[ ] 1002(37)(A).” (Id. at ¶ 1).

         The SCA PLA is an agreement between the BCTC and the New York City School Construction Authority. (Pet'r 56.1 ¶ 4; SCA PLA art. 1, § 1). It sets terms “for rehabilitation and renovation work performed on New York City Public Schools.” (SCA PLA, art. 3, § 1). As relevant here, the SCA PLA requires contractors performing work pursuant to it “to pay wages and benefit contributions … to [ ] applicable jointly trusted employee benefit fund[s]” (like the Funds here). (Pet'r 56.1 ¶ 8). And to this end, the SCA PLA also requires such contractors to make benefit contributions pursuant to the terms of the benefit funds' “Trust Agreements.” (SCA PLA, art. 11, § 2(C)).

         Two provisions in the Funds' Trust Agreements bear mention here.[2]First, Section 9.7 empowers the Funds to “audit payroll, employment, and any other pertinent records of any” contractor-employer bound by the Trust Agreements. (Trust Agreements, § 9.7). Second, Section 9.8 provides that the Funds may initiate arbitration proceedings against contractor-employers who “fail[ ] to make required contributions to the” Funds. (Id., § 9.8).

         Respondent, a subcontractor, entered into the SCA PLA in February 2013, in order to perform work at Staten Island Technical High School. (Savci Decl., Ex. 2 at 1-2). In October 2014, the Funds authorized an accounting firm to audit Respondent's “books and records” for the period between “February 15, 2013[, ] through August 31, 2014 (the ‘Audit Period').” (Id. at ¶ 19; 4/13/15 Letter). In a letter the Funds received on April 13, 2015, the accounting firm reported to the Funds that Respondent had failed to make required contributions during the Audit Period. (4/13/15 Letter). Consequently, the Funds sent Respondent two certified letters demanding repayment for its outstanding balance. (4/22/15 Letter; 5/26/15 Letter).

         Respondent did not pay that balance. (Savci Decl., ¶ 20). On August 20, 2015, the Funds sent to Respondent and Joseph Harris, an arbitrator, a Notice of Intention to Arbitrate. (Arbitration Notice 1-2).[3] In that Notice, the Funds wrote that they intended to seek repayment from Respondent for its delinquent payments during the Audit Period, as well as other delinquent payments from a separate, later period in time. (Id. at 1). On August 25, 2015, Arbitrator Harris mailed his own letter to the Funds and Respondent, writing that he intended to hold an arbitration hearing on September 21, 2015. (Savci Decl., ¶ 21; Award 1). Arbitrator Harris sent that letter to both parties by USPS First-Class Mail. (Award 1). He received no response from Respondent; nor was his letter to Respondent returned by the USPS. (Id.).

         The Arbitration proceeded as scheduled on September 21, 2015. (Award 1). Respondent did not appear. (Id.). The Funds did, although they “amended their [arbitration] claim to cover only the issue of payment covering the Audit Period.” (Savci Decl., ¶ 23). And in support of that claim, the Funds introduced into evidence the results of their 2015 payroll audit. (Award 2). On the basis of that audit, the Funds argued that Respondent had failed to pay $15, 504.08 in required benefit contributions, and also owed thousands of dollars in other dues, costs, interest, and liquidated damages. (Id.; see also Trust Agreements, § 9.9 (permitting Petitioners to recover, inter alia, liquidated damages and attorney's fees “[i]n any legal action for [u]npaid [c]ontributions”)). In total, the Funds sought $26, 309.37. (Award 2). On the basis of “the substantial and credible evidence” the Funds presented at the Arbitration, Arbitrator Harris issued an Opinion and Default Award for the full amount that the Funds sought on October 1, 2015. (Id.).

         B. Procedural Background

         Petitioners filed a Complaint against Respondent on September 30, 2016. (Dkt. #1).[4] In response to an Order of this Court dated October 5, 2016 (Dkt. #6), Petitioners filed a motion for summary judgment and supporting papers on October 19, 2016 (Dkt. #9-12). Respondent has not appeared in this action.

         DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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