738 F.Supp. 214 (E.D.Mich. 1990), 89-1233, Lucas v. Leaseway Multi Transp. Service, Inc.

Docket Nº:89-1233.
Citation:738 F.Supp. 214
Party Name:Michael J. LUCAS, Jr., Plaintiff, v. LEASEWAY MULTI TRANSPORTATION SERVICE, INC., and Local Union No. 614 a/w International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen & Helpers of America, Jointly and Severally, Defendants.
Case Date:April 24, 1990
Court:United States District Courts, 6th Circuit

Page 214

738 F.Supp. 214 (E.D.Mich. 1990)

Michael J. LUCAS, Jr., Plaintiff,

v.

LEASEWAY MULTI TRANSPORTATION SERVICE, INC., and Local Union No. 614 a/w International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen & Helpers of America, Jointly and Severally, Defendants.

No. 89-1233.

United States District Court, D. Michigan

April 24, 1990

Page 215

Ronald W. Chapman, Chapman & Associates, Detroit, Mich., for plaintiff.

Richard J. Seryak, Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone, Detroit, Mich., Daniel G. Zeiser, Allport, Knowles, Cleveland, Ohio, for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GADOLA, District Judge.

This action is a hybrid suit under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, in which plaintiff alleges breach of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and breach of a duty of fair representation. Before the court are motions for summary judgment filed by both defendants. Defendant Local Union No. 614 (Local) also has moved for Rule 11 sanctions. The court will state the undisputed factual background, the standard by which the court must judge the motions, and then address the merits of the motions.

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I. BACKGROUND FACTS

Defendant Leaseway provides yard services for Chrysler Motor Corporation's Sterling Heights plant. Leaseway and Local are parties to a CBA, the provisions of which govern plaintiff's employment. See Local's Exhibit B (the CBA). Plaintiff began his employment with Leaseway on January 18, 1987. In June of 1987, plaintiff was discharged following an altercation with another employee. Plaintiff filed a grievance protesting the termination, and the termination was reduced to a ten-day suspension.

On June 7, 1988, Craig Dean, a Leaseway foreman, called plaintiff and told him he had work for him the next day. Dean inquired of him whether he would do odd jobs, and plaintiff indicated that he would not object as long as Dean had a full crew. At that time plaintiff had the lowest seniority of all employees. After plaintiff reported to work, Rob Velez, another Leaseway foreman, told plaintiff to pick up trash around the perimeter of the yard. Plaintiff objected to picking up trash, stating "that that was foreman's work." Lucas Dep., at 47. Plaintiff admits that he was given a direct order to pick up trash. Lucas Dep., at 84.

Velez and plaintiff then went to Leaseway's office to discuss the problem with Bob Ratcliff, the terminal manager. Ratcliff also instructed plaintiff to pick up the trash and informed him that if he did not do the work and left, he would be considered a voluntary quit. Lucas Dep., at 38; Raes Dep., at 37.

Plaintiff's present contention is that he told Ratcliff and Velez that he wanted to speak with his union steward. Plaintiff left Ratcliff's office and sought out his committee man, Mr. Virga. Virga was busy at the moment and told plaintiff to see the steward, Mr. Hunt. Plaintiff located Hunt but was unable to discuss the matter with him because foreman Velez interrupted them. Velez allegedly ordered them to stop talking and for plaintiff to punch out. Plaintiff punched out and was later notified that he was considered a voluntary quit because he walked off the job. See Local's Exhibit C (termination letter).

On June 13, 1988, plaintiff filed a grievance protesting his discharge, claiming that he was ordered off the job and did not quit. A local level hearing was held several weeks later at which Leonard Williams (a business agent and trustee for Teamsters, Local 614), Tim Dellasandro (a union steward), Tony Virga (a committee man), and plaintiff attended. Ratcliff, Velez, Dean, and Dave Koty were present for Leaseway. Prior to the hearing Virga, who witnessed some of the events at issue, investigated the allegations of the grievance and spoke with Hunt, Frank Lopez, and plaintiff. Virga then reported his findings to Leonard Williams, Local's business agent, by telephone and in person. Williams told plaintiff that he might be able to get him reinstated without back pay. Plaintiff, however, wanted reinstatement with back pay.

Since the grievance could not be disposed of at the local level, plaintiff's grievance was heard by a joint labor-management arbitration panel pursuant to Article VIII of the CBA. Plaintiff did not appear at the panel hearing because he was working in Chicago, Illinois. Williams told plaintiff to obtain notarized statements for the panel, which he did. Plaintiff also prepared a statement for the panel. See Local's Exhibit E. Williams presented plaintiff's statement to the panel as well as the statements obtained by plaintiff.

The arbitration panel upheld Lucas' discharge, finding that he left the job without authorization from a management employee. See Local's Exhibit G. Plaintiff then filed this suit, alleging that the union breached its duty of fair representation and that Leaseway breached the CBA.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, summary judgment may be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to

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any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." "A fact is 'material' and precludes grant of summary judgment if proof of that fact would have [the] effect of establishing or refuting one of the essential elements of the cause of action or defense asserted by the parties, and would necessarily affect [the] application of appropriate principle[s] of law to the rights and obligations of the parties. [citation omitted]." Kendall v. Hoover Co., 751 F.2d 171, 174 (6th Cir.1984) (quoting Black's Law Dictionary 881 (6th ed.1979)). The court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmovant as well as draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmovant's favor. See United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 994, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962); Bender v. Southland Corp., 749 F.2d 1205, 1210-11 (6th Cir.1984).

The movant bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of all genuine issues of material fact. See Gregg v. Allen-Bradley Co., 801 F.2d 859, 861 (6th Cir.1986). The initial burden on the movant is not as formidable as some decisions have indicated. The moving party need not produce evidence showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact; rather, "the burden on the moving party may be discharged by 'showing'--that is, pointing out to the district court--that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2554, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once the moving party discharges that burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth specific facts showing a genuine triable issue. F.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Gregg, 801 F.2d at 861.

To create a genuine issue of material fact, however, the nonmovant must do more than present some evidence on a disputed issue. As the United States Supreme Court stated in Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986),

there is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. If the [nonmovant's] evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.

Id. at 249-50, 106 S.Ct. at 2511 (citations omitted); see Catrett, 477 U.S. at 322-23, 106 S.Ct. at 2552-53; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1355-56, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). The standard for summary judgment mirrors the standard for a directed verdict under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a). Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250, 106 S.Ct. at 2511. Consequently, a nonmovant must do more than raise some doubt as to the existence of a fact; the nonmovant must produce evidence that would be sufficient to require submission to the jury of the dispute over the fact.

III. SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTIONS

To prevail in an action under section 301 of the Labor-Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, an employee must prove both that the employer breached the CBA and that the union breached its duty of fair representation. Hines v. Anchor Motor Freight, Inc., 424 U.S. 554, 96 S.Ct. 1048, 47 L.Ed.2d 231 (1976); Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 87 S.Ct. 903, 17 L.Ed.2d 842 (1967). Both defendants initially argue that summary judgment should be granted because plaintiff cannot show Local 614 breached its duty of fair representation.

A breach of the statutory duty of fair representation occurs only when a union's conduct is arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith, or when the union handles the grievance in a perfunctory or arbitrary manner. Vaca, 386 U.S. at 192, 87 S.Ct. at 917. Ordinary negligence, mistake, error, or flaws in judgment by the union representative do not constitute a breach of the union's duty. Deringer v. Columbia Transp. Div., Oglebay Norton, 866 F.2d 859 (6th Cir.1989); Poole v....

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