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SMITH v. ALLIED SYS.

March 23, 1994

RON COLSON and DONALD GENE SMITH, Plaintiffs,
v.
ALLIED SYSTEMS, LTD., and the INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA, Defendants, and DONALD GENE SMITH, KENNETH DUDLEY, and DANIEL JENNINGS, Plaintiffs, v. AUTO CONVOY CO. and TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, HELPERS AND TAXI CAB DRIVERS, LOCAL NO. 327, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT L. ECHOLS

 Presently pending before this Court are the following Motions: (1) the Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment; (2) Defendant Auto Convoy Co.'s and Defendant Allied Systems, Ltd. 's Motion for Summary Judgment; (3) Defendant International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen & Helpers of America's Motion for Summary Judgment; (4) Defendant Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Helpers and Taxi Cab Drivers, Local No. 327's Motion for Summary Judgment; and (5) Plaintiffs' Motion for an Order Permitting the Filing of Depositions and Answers to Interrogatories. Each party has responded in opposition to every other party's cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons more fully outlined herein, Defendant Auto Convoy Co.'s Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby DENIED, Defendant Allied Systems, Ltd.'s Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby GRANTED in part, and DENIED in part, Defendants Local No. 327 and International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen & Helpers of America's Motions for Summary Judgment are hereby DENIED, and Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment and for permission to file Depositions and Answers to Interrogatories are hereby DENIED.

 This consolidated action combines two legally similar, but factually different claims which were brought by individual Plaintiffs against numerous separate, although related Defendants. In order to alleviate the inherent confusion which attends such a consolidation, this Court will address each presently outstanding Motion in the context of the specific case to which it pertains.

 I. Smith v. Auto Convoy, No. 3-89-0141

 On February 15, 1989, the Plaintiffs in this action, Donald Smith, Kenneth Dudley, and Daniel Jennings, filed a Complaint against Defendants Auto Convoy Co. ("Auto Convoy") and Local 327 alleging violations against both Defendants of Section 101 of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, 29 U.S.C. § 411 (a) ("LMRDA"), and Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185 ("LMRA"). This dispute arose out of the July 11, 1988 implementation of a rider to a collective bargaining agreement, known as the National Master Automobile Transporters Agreement ("NMATA"), which was entered into between Auto Convoy, Local 327, and various other local unions and employers. In this action, the Plaintiffs primarily allege that Auto Convoy and Local 327 violated the above-referenced statutes by agreeing to a new rider the effect of which was to lower the Plaintiffs' wage rates and terminate the Plaintiffs' rights to bid equipment annually on a company-wide basis, all without giving the Plaintiffs and other Auto Convoy employees the right to ratify these decisions by a vote. The Plaintiffs contend that their right to ratify the decision to accept the modified rider is protected by the International Union's Constitution, and Local 327's Bylaws.

 By a previously entered Order, this Court granted Auto Convoy's Motion for Summary Judgment dismissal of the Plaintiffs' claim under the LMRDA. As such, three claims remain in this action, all of which are the subject of the parties' Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment: (1) the Plaintiffs' claim against Auto Convoy under the LMRA; (2) the Plaintiffs' claim against Local 327 under the LMRA; and (3) the Plaintiffs' claim against Local 327 under the LMRDA. This Court will now proceed to address each of these claims, as well as each parties' respective arguments pertaining thereto.

 A. The Smith Plaintiffs' Claims against Auto Convoy and Local 327 under the LMRA

 The Smith Plaintiffs have sued both Auto Convoy and Local 327 under § 185 of the LMRA which provides:

 
Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties.

 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). The Smith Plaintiffs contend that Auto Convoy, as the employer, violated § 185 since its decision to approve and implement the rider without employee ratification constituted a breach of the parties collective bargaining agreement, the NMATA. In essence, the Plaintiffs argue that certain provisions of the NMATA protected their ratification rights, and that Auto Convoy, by implementing the rider without ratification, breached the parties' agreement, thereby violating 29 U.S.C. § 185. In addition, the Smith Plaintiffs contend that provisions of the International Union's Constitution, as well as the bylaws of Local 327, require union ratification of contract modifications like the 1988 rider. As such, the Smith Plaintiffs contend that Local 327, as their bargaining representative, breached the provisions of the International Union's Constitution and its own Bylaws by approving Auto Convoy's impleinentation of the 1988 rider without insisting upon membership ratification.

 In its Motion for Summary Judgment, Auto Convoy denies that it violated § 185 or breached the parties' collective bargaining agreement. In addition, Auto Convoy argues that it was legally entitled to rely upon Local 327's apparent authority to agree to and implement the 1988 rider without membership ratification.

 In its Motion for Summary Judgment, Local 327 contends that, in order to have breached its duty of fair representation under § 185 of the LMRA, its conduct must have been arbitrary, capricious or in bad faith. Local 327 argues that, since the record is devoid of any evidence that its conduct niet this admittedly high standard, its Motion for Summary Judgment dismissal of the Plaintiffs' LMRA claim should be granted.

 In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, this Court must construe the evidence produced in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, drawing all justifiable inferences in his or her favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). A party may obtain summary judgment if the evidentiary material on file shows "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. The moving party bears the burden of satisfying the court that the standards of Rule 56 have been met. See Martin v. Kelley, 803 F.2d 236, 239 n.4 (6th Cir. 1986). The ultimate question to be addressed is whether there exists any genuine issue of material fact which is disputed. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248. If so, summary judgment dismissal is inappropriate.

 In order to establish a claim under the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. § 185, a plaintiff must demonstrate either the employer's or the union's breach of the parties' collective bargaining agreement, or the union's breach of a provision in its constitution or bylaws. In this case, the Smith Plaintiffs contend that their interpretations of the International Union's Constitution, Local 327's Bylaws, and the provisions of the NMATA compel the conclusion that mid-term contract modifications, like the 1988 rider, must be submitted to membership ratification before acceptance and implementation. In response, Local 327 contends that, when properly interpreted, neither the International Union's Constitution nor its Bylaws requires membership ratification. In addition, Local 327 contends that, even if this Court should find that it breached provisions of any of the applicable agreements, its conduct was not arbitrary, capricious, or in bad faith, and that it accordingly cannot be held liable for breaching its duty of fair representation. Finally, Auto Convoy contends that the proper interpretation of the NMATA's various provisions likewise supports its contention that no such ratification vote was required. Both parties have submitted extensive evidentiary materials in support of their respective interpretations of the various overlapping and somewhat conflicting provisions of the NMATA, the International Union's Constitution, and Local 327's Bylaws, and the impact of those inconsistent interpretations upon the questions presented in this case.

 After fully reviewing the extensive and somewhat convoluted record in this case, the Court is of the opinion that genuine issues of material fact exist regarding the appropriate interpretation and interplay among the various provisions of the parties' collective bargaining agreement, the International Union's Constitution, and Local 327's Bylaws, all of which make summary judgment resolution of the Smith Plaintiff's § 185 claims against Auto Convoy and Local 327 completely inappropriate. Both parties have submitted extensive and conflicting materials which arguably support their contradictory interpretations of these various and admittedly unclear provisions, many of which are based purely upon the relevant party's historical and somewhat subjective explanation of the how these provisions had been implemented in the past. Clearly, without further proof this Court cannot ultimately resolve the question of whether Auto Convoy and Local 327 are liable to the Smith Plaintiffs for breach of the NMATA, the International Union's Constitution, or Local 327's Bylaws when the parties themselves vehemently dispute the proper historical interpretation of all of these documents, as well as the appropriate means by which to apply them to this case. As such, the ...


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