999 F.Supp. 1213 (N.D.Ill. 1998), 97 C 5564, Howard v. Local 152 of Intern. Const. and General Laborers' Union of America

Docket Nº:97 C 5564.
Citation:999 F.Supp. 1213
Party Name:James E. HOWARD, Plaintiff, v. LOCAL 152 OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONSTRUCTION AND GENERAL LABORERS' UNION OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.
Case Date:April 15, 1998
Court:United States District Courts, 7th Circuit, Northern District of Illinois

Page 1213

999 F.Supp. 1213 (N.D.Ill. 1998)

James E. HOWARD, Plaintiff,

v.

LOCAL 152 OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONSTRUCTION AND GENERAL LABORERS' UNION OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.

No. 97 C 5564.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division.

April 15, 1998

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Laurie Ellen Leader, Leader & Associates, Ltd., Northbrook, IL, for James E. Howard.

Hugh B. Arnold, John Joseph Toomey, Arnold & Kadjan, Chicago, IL, for Local 152.

William J. Hacker, Timothy Allen Hickey, Clausen, Miller, Gorman, Caffrey & Witous, P.C., Chicago, IL, for William A. Pope Co.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ALESIA, District Judge.

Before the court is a motion filed by defendant Local 152 of the International Construction and General Laborers' Union of America ("Local 152"). This motion is defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff James E. Howard's ("Howard") complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, the court grants in part and denies in part defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND

Howard's complaint makes the following allegations which, for the purposes of ruling on defendant Local 152's Rule 12(b)(6) motion, are taken as true. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984). Defendant Pope ("Pope"), an Illinois corporation, is a general contractor at the Zion Nuclear Generating Station ("Zion nuclear plant"). Defendant Local 152 is a laborers' union which represents employees of Pope. Howard was employed at the Zion nuclear plant for approximately fourteen or fifteen years until March 11, 1997 when he alleges he was terminated by Pope without just cause.

Howard is a member in good standing of Local 152. Pope and Local 152 both signed a

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collective bargaining agreement, namely the Power House Maintenance Modification Agreement ("PHMMA"), which governs the terms and conditions of employment at the Zion nuclear plant. The PHMMA provides that Pope shall not discharge any employee without just cause and it also recognizes Local 152 as a "source of employment referrals" but allows for Pope to make the ultimate decision on the hiring of employees at the Zion nuclear plant. Under the employment referral system, Local 152 must refer laborers to employers, including Pope, in chronological order and without discrimination.

After Howard's termination by Pope on March 11, 1997, Howard filed a grievance with Local 152 to protest his termination. Local 152 failed to refer him for work at the Zion nuclear plant and only once referred him for work with other employers within Local 152's jurisdiction. Howard contends that: (1) Local 152 discriminated against Howard because he has been a leader in filing unfair labor practice charges and other complaints against the union; (2) Local 152 failed to adequately investigate, process, present and argue Howard's grievance and failed to provide Howard with a fair and impartial hearing; and (3) Local 152 handled Howard's grievance in a perfunctory manner due to the Local's hostility towards him.

Howard was unable to find work following his termination by Pope and initiated a suit on August 7, 1997. Howard's complaint alleges that Pope breached the collective bargaining agreement by terminating him without good cause and that Local 152's failure to adequately investigate his grievance constituted breach of duty of fair representation. Pope rehired Howard on September 15, 1997.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard for deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss

When deciding a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Midwest Grinding Co. v. Spitz, 976 F.2d 1016, 1019 (7th Cir.1992). If, when viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must dismiss the case. See FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6); Gomez v. Illinois State Bd. of Educ., 811 F.2d 1030, 1039 (7th Cir.1987). However, the court may dismiss the complaint only if it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957).

Even under the liberal notice pleading standard of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, however, a complaint must include either direct or inferential allegations respecting all material elements of the claim asserted. Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir.1991). Bare legal conclusions attached to narrated facts will not suffice. Strauss v. City of Chicago, 760 F.2d 765, 768 (7th Cir.1985).

B. Count I--Breach of duty of fair representation

Count I is a claim against Local 152 for breach of duty of fair representation. Local 152 has moved to dismiss count I on two alternative grounds. Local 152 first argues that Howard has failed to exhaust his internal union remedies. Alternatively, Local 152 argues that Howard has failed to allege sufficient facts to establish the union's violation of its duty of fair representation. The court will consider each of the arguments in turn.

1. Exhaustion under LMRA

Local 152 argues that count I must be dismissed for failure to exhaust or attempt to exhaust internal union remedies as required by the Constitution of the Laborers' International Union of North America ("LIUNA"), Article XVI Section 2. 1 For the reasons set

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forth below, Local 152's motion to dismiss this count is denied.

Unlike Title I of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 411-415, the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA") contains no explicit exhaustion requirement. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court embraced an LMRA exhaustion requirement in Republic Steel Corp. v. Maddox, 379 U.S. 650, 85 S.Ct. 614, 13 L.Ed.2d 580 (1965). The Court in that case held that an employee seeking a remedy for an alleged breach of the collective bargaining agreement between his union and employer must attempt to exhaust any exclusive grievance and arbitration procedures established by that agreement before he may maintain a suit against his union or employer under § 301(a) of the LMRA. Republic Steel Corp., 379 U.S. at 652-53. However, courts have discretion to excuse the exhaustion requirement if the circumstances warrant. See Stevens v. N.W. Ind. Dist. Council, 20 F.3d 720 (7th Cir.1994). The Supreme Court in Clayton v. International Union enumerated three factors for courts to consider in exercising their discretion in this area:

First, whether union officials are so hostile to the employee that he could not hope to obtain a fair hearing on his claim; second, whether the internal union appeals procedures would be inadequate either to reactivate the employee's grievance or to award him the full relief he seeks under § 301; and third, whether exhaustion of internal procedures would unreasonably delay the employee's opportunity to obtain a judicial hearing on the merits of his claim.

451 U.S. 679, 689, 101 S.Ct. 2088, 68 L.Ed.2d 538 (1981). The court's discretion is guided, but not limited, by the factors set forth in Clayton. If any of the three factors are found to exist, a court may excuse an employee-plaintiff from the duty to exhaust. Sosbe v. Delco Elec. Div. of Gen. Motors Corp., 830 F.2d 83, 86 (7th Cir.1987).

Howard claims that the first Clayton factor applies, i.e., that it would have been futile for him to further pursue internal remedies due to union hostility. He asserts that Local 152's hostility prevented him from receiving a fair hearing on his grievance and also resulted in his failure to be referred to employers in a non-discriminatory manner.

Local 152 challenges Howard's claim of futility. Local 152 claims that Howard has not alleged the requisite hostility by the proper parties at each step of the grievance process. In contrast to Local 152's argument, the court finds that, with respect to the duty of fair representation claim, Howard has pleaded union hostility sufficiently to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.

2. Failure to state a cause of action

Local 152 next argues that count I should be dismissed because it fails to state a claim....

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