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Murphy v. Cascades Containerboard Packaging

United States District Court, W.D. New York

July 30, 2018

Paul J. Murphy, Plaintiff,
v.
Cascades Containerboard Packaging, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          LAWRENCE J. VILARDO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On March 23, 2018, the plaintiff, Paul J. Murphy, Regional Director of the Third Region of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”), filed this action on behalf of the NLRB seeking a preliminary injunction under § 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act (“the Act”), 29 U.S.C. § 160(j). Docket Item 1. The NLRB also moved for an expedited hearing and asked this Court to issue the injunction on the basis of affidavits and documentary evidence. Docket Items 2 and 3. The defendant, Cascades Containerboard Packaging - Lancaster, a division of Cascades New York, Inc. (“Cascades”), replied, Docket Item 9, and on April 11, 2018, a hearing was held. The Court reserved decision and asked the parties for additional submissions. Docket Item 10. Those submissions have now been filed. Docket Items 15 and 18.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         Since 2004, Cascades has recognized the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (the “union”), Local 27 (“Local 27”), as the bargaining representative of Cascades' employees. In 2012, Local 27 suffered financial problems when a plant employing many of its members closed, and the union asked union Local 503-M (“Local 503”) to accept the “administrative transfer” of Local 27. But after performing a due diligence review, Local 503 decided that it could not accept the transfer until Local 27 resolved its financial problems.

         As a result, in September 2012, the union placed Local 27 in trusteeship, with the Local 503 president as trustee. The trusteeship lasted more than four-and-a-half years-until April 2017-when the union terminated the trusteeship and finalized the administrative transfer. According to Local 503, its president notified Cascades about the administrative transfer in a meeting at about that time.

         In the meantime, in October 2016, Cascades negotiated a four-year collective-bargaining agreement with the Local 27 trustee. By all accounts, labor-management relations went smoothly until about a year ago. But in July 2017, when Local 503 asked Cascades to remit dues payments to Local 503 and filed grievances on behalf of four Cascades employees, Cascades refused both to recognize Local 503 as the employees' representative and to arbitrate the grievances. And so Local 503 brought an action in this Court, 17-CV-06605 (Telesca, J.), seeking to compel Cascades to arbitrate.

         Judge Telesca denied the motion for a preliminary injunction in December 2017. A little over three months later, and eight months after the problems between Cascades and Local 503 first surfaced, the NLRB stepped in. It sought injunctive relief by bringing the case at bar, and it issued a “Complaint and Notice of Hearing” before an administrative law judge to decide whether Cascades did, in fact, engage in unfair labor practices. That NLRB hearing was held in April and May of this year, post-hearing briefs have now been filed, and the matter is ripe for a decision by Administrative Law Judge Kimberley Sorg-Graves.

         In the matter at bar, Local 503 appeared as amicus curiae and asked this Court to consolidate its action before Judge Telesca with this case. Cascades opposed that motion. Docket Item 16. Because the two cases are related, interests of efficiency cut in favor of consolidation. Therefore, Local 503's request is granted, and 17-cv-6605 (MAT) is consolidated with 18-cv-00375 (LJV) under the latter docket number.

         DISCUSSION

         Although conceptually similar, the standard for analyzing a preliminary injunction generally and a preliminary injunction under § 10(j) differ slightly.[2] Kreisberg v. Health Bridge Mgmt, LLC., 732 F.3d 131, 141 (2d Cir. 2013). The “two-prong standard for § 10(j) injunctive relief is well established.” Id. The Court must find reasonable cause that an unfair labor practice has been committed and also must find the requested relief to be “just and proper.” Id. Reasonable cause means what it says: that there is reasonable evidence supporting the conclusion that an unfair labor practice occurred. A final determination on the unfair labor practice, however, is not necessary. Id.

         “[I]njunctive relief under § 10(j) is just and proper when it is necessary to prevent irreparable harm or to preserve the status quo.” Hoffman ex rel. NLRB v. Inn Credible Caterers, Ltd., 247 F.3d 360, 368 (2d Cir. 2001). This standard reflects the principles that govern injunctive relief generally, but with a special gloss-the § 10(j) standard must be applied to “further the policies of the Act”. Id. (internal citation omitted). And the status quo that must be preserved is what existed before the employer's unfair labor practice. Id.

         I. REASONABLE CAUSE

         Here, the NLRB, now joined by Local 503, argues that two unfair labor practices, in violation of §§ 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(5) of the Act, justify the injunction: (1) Cascades' failure to recognize Local 503, and (2) Cascades' unilateral modification of the collective bargaining agreement. The NLRB and Local 503 assert that these two actions will result in irreparable harm to the union.

         Whether Local 503 is, in fact, the official bargaining unit for the employees is part and parcel of the decision the ALJ Sorg-Graves will make. But at this phase, the Court need only find reasonable cause to believe that the failure to recognize and arbitrate with Local 503 is an unfair labor practice. According to the evidence submitted by the NLRB, there seems to be sufficient similarity between Local 503 and Local 27-the members have the same stewards, maintain the same grievance processes, and have the same ...


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