Citrin v. Erikson, 95 Civ. 9004 (DNE).

Decision Date10 January 1996
Docket NumberNo. 95 Civ. 9004 (DNE).,95 Civ. 9004 (DNE).
Citation911 F. Supp. 673
PartiesYale CITRIN, in his capacity as an Association Trustee for the Joint Apprentice and Training Program of the Elevator Industry, and on behalf of all of the Association Trustees, Petitioners, v. Christopher ERIKSON and James O'Hara, as Union Trustees of the Joint Apprentice and Training Program of the Elevator Industry, Respondents.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Michael J. DiMattia, Donald S. Krueger, Ross & Hardies, New York City, Norman Rothfeld, New York City, for Petitioner.

OPINION & ORDER

EDELSTEIN, District Judge.

The instant petition arises under the provisions of section 502 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1132, and section 302(c) of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 186(c). The parties to this action are the two groups of trustees who jointly administer a multi-employer and union apprentice plan to provide training for the exclusive benefit of individuals interested in working in the elevator industry. Petitioners1 are the trustees appointed by the employers ("Petitioners" or "Association Trustees"), and Respondents are the trustees appointed by the union ("Respondents" or "Unions Trustees"). The instant petition arises because of a disagreement between the Association Trustees and the Union Trustees over whether to approve a new apprenticeship class.

Petitioner Yale Citrin ("Citrin"), in his capacity as an Association Trustee for the Joint Apprentice and Training Program ("the JATP") of the Elevator Industry, and on behalf of all JATP Association Trustees, requests this Court to appoint an impartial trustee to resolve a dispute between Petitioners Association Trustees and Respondents Union Trustees of the JATP. Petitioners request that this Court: (1) issue an immediate order appointing an impartial trustee to break the deadlock and directing the impartial trustee to vote on the issue on which the JATP Trustees are deadlocked; (2) direct the parties to submit their dispute regarding the selection of an impartial trustee to the American Arbitration Association ("AAA"), or, alternatively, direct the parties to exchange lists of names of neutral individuals from which a neutral trustee will be chosen; (3) award Petitioners attorneys' fees, costs, and disbursements; and (4) direct that JATP funds be used to reimburse Petitioners for their reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.

Respondents Union Trustees raise several claims in opposition to Petitioners' requests. The Union Trustees argue that: (1) this Court should not grant the Association Trustees' petition; (2) an impartial umpire appointed pursuant to this petition would lack power to resolve the dispute between the two groups of Trustees; (3) that Petitioners' claims of injury lack merit; and (4) that this Court should not submit any matter arising from this dispute to the AAA. Respondents move this Court for summary judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 ("Rule 56"), to dismiss the petition.

Because Petitioners have satisfied the prerequisites for requesting a court-appointed impartial trustee, and because Respondents have failed to demonstrate that they are entitled to a judgement as a matter of law, the instant petition is granted, and Respondents' Rule 56 motion is denied. In addition, this Court orders further procedures for counsel to follow in resolving this dispute.

BACKGROUND

The instant petition concerns the administration of a trust fund established pursuant to the LMRA and ERISA. This trust fund was created and is jointly administered by the Elevator Industries Association, Inc. ("the Association") and Local Union No. 3 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ("the Union"). The Association is a not-for-profit corporation that performs various services for its employer-members, who service, repair, and modernize elevators. (Petition to Appoint an Impartial Trustee Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 185(c), 95 Civ. 9004 ("Pet.") at 3.) These services include negotiating collective bargaining agreements with local unions on behalf of the Association's members. Id. The Union is one of these local unions. Id.

The Union is a labor organization within the meaning of 29 U.S.C. § 152(5)2 and is the exclusive bargaining representative of certain employees employed by the Association's constituent members. Id. For an unspecified number of years, the Association and the Union have been parties to successive collective bargaining agreements. (Petitioners' Memorandum of Law in Support of the Association Trustees' Petition to Appoint an Impartial Trustee Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 186(c) ("Pets.Memo") at 2.)

Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement between the Association and the Union, (Agreement and Working Rules Between Elevator Industries Association, Inc. and Local Union No. 3 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, 1993-1996 Art. XXIX(a) ("the Collective Bargaining Agreement" or "CBA")), the parties entered into a trust agreement in 1976 that created the Joint Apprenticeship Training Program. (Trust Agreement Creating the Apprenticeship and Training Program for the Elevator Industry 1 ("the Trust Agreement").) "The basic idea of an apprenticeship program is to allow on-the-job training for apprentices who work under the supervision of journeymen and thus encourage and assist persons to enter the skilled work force throughout the nation." Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Comm. v. MacDonald, 949 F.2d 270, 274 (9th Cir.1991); see Joint Apprenticeship and Training Council of Local 363, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 829 F.Supp. 101, 103 (S.D.N.Y.1993). As set forth in the Trust Agreement in this case, the JATP established an apprentice school

for the benefit of the elevator industry and to help meet its staffing needs by providing and maintaining training and/or retraining programs for the benefit of Employees, or persons who wish to become Employees, ... and to devise and implement such programs as may be necessary from time to time to fulfill these objectives.

(Trust Agreement Art. III, ¶ 3.1.) The JATP is supported by a trust fund to which the Association's employer-members contribute a percentage of their gross weekly production payroll. (CBA Art. XXIX(b)); (Trust Agreement Art. IV, ¶ 4.1.)

The disagreement underlying the instant petition concerns a dispute between the Association Trustees and the Union Trustees over the commencement of a new JATP apprenticeship class. (Pets.Memo at 4); (Respondents' Memorandum of Law in Support of Respondents' Motion for Summary Judgment Dismissing the Petition ("Resps.Memo") at 2.) Petitioners claim that "for about a year, the Union Trustees have adamantly refused to permit a first-year apprenticeship class to begin unless and until a longstanding provision of the collective bargaining agreement between the Union Trustees and the Association is changed." (Letter from Yale Citrin, Association Trustee of the JATP, to Christopher Erikson 1 (Sept. 26, 1995) ("Citrin Letter")); see (Pet. at 5.) On September 6, 1995, Petitioners submitted a resolution to the Union Trustees "to take the necessary steps to commence a first-year apprentice class" of at least twenty-five individuals by September 1995. (Citrin Letter at 1); see (Pet. at 4.) Along with this resolution, the Association Trustees presented a preliminary list of individuals to be enrolled in this class and proposed that the Trustees as a group consider other qualified individuals who applied to the JATP by September 1995. (Citrin Letter at 2.)

Petitioners claim that the Union Trustees refused to agree to this resolution. (Pet. at 4.) They assert that, as a result of this refusal, "the apprenticeship program has not been able to fulfill its function and mission of training individuals to work in the elevator industry." (Pets.Memo at 2-3.) In an effort to resolve this dilemma, Petitioner Citrin wrote to Union Trustee Christopher Erikson on September 26, 1995, outlining the history of the dispute, repeating the text of the September 6, 1995, resolution, and alerting the Union Trustees that their "action constitutes a breach of their fiduciary responsibility under the Trust Agreement" and a violation a ERISA that could expose the Trust and its trustees to "significant liability." (Citrin Letter at 1.) Citrin concluded this letter by informing Erikson that the Association Trustees "strongly suggested that the parties use the services of the American Arbitration Association to seek an arbitrator to serve as the impartial trustee," and by advising Erikson that if the Union Trustees did not respond to the September 26, 1995, letter by October 4, 1995, the Association Trustees intended to petition this Court to appoint an impartial arbitrator. Id. at 2.

Petitioners claim that the Union Trustees have refused to cooperate with the Association Trustees in appointing a neutral arbitrator to break this deadlock. (Pet. at 5.) They contend that this lack of cooperation has caused serious harm to individuals seeking admission to the JATP, has prevented the JATP from fulfilling its mission, and has subjected the Trustees to potential liability for breaching their fiduciary obligations under the Trust. Id. at 5-6; (Pets.Memo at 3.) Accordingly, Petitioners request that this Court appoint an impartial trustee to break the deadlock on this issue. (Pet. at 6); (Pets. Memo at 3.) They assert that this Court has jurisdiction over their petition under section 302 of the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. § 186(c), section 502 of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132, and 28 U.S.C. § 1337. (Pet. at 2.)

In response to the Petition, Respondents Union Trustees move for summary judgement, pursuant to Rule 56, arguing that this Court should dismiss the petition. Unfortunately, it has been very difficult for this Court to ascertain the basis on which Respondents seek summary judgment because Respondents'...

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4 cases
  • Citrin v. Erikson, 95 Civ. 9004 (DNE).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 14 Marzo 1996
    ...and ruling on the issue of attorneys' fees pending supplementary submissions from the parties on each issue. Citrin v. Erikson, 911 F.Supp. 673, 687-89 (S.D.N.Y.1996) ("January 1996 Opinion"). The instant Opinion & Order resolves the issues left open in this Court's January 1996 Petitioners......
  • Emp'r Trs. of W. PA Teamsters v. Union Trs. of W. PA Teamsters
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • 1 Marzo 2016
    ...that phrase. However, other courts have considered this question and come to “at least three different conclusions.” Citrin v. Erikson , 911 F.Supp. 673, 681 (S.D.N.Y.1996). “The Second Circuit defines an issue of trust administration as any issue which the trustees have authority to decide......
  • Union Trs. of W. Pa Teamsters v. Emps. of W.Pa Teamsters & Emp'rs Welfare Fund, 2:16-cv-84
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • 15 Julio 2016
    ..."Determining what constitutes an 'issue of administration' of a trust has preoccupied courts and litigants alike[.]" Citrin v. Erikson, 911 F. Supp. 673, 680 (S.D.N.Y. 1996). The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has not defined that phrase. However, other courts that have considered this ques......
  • Heider v. Dillner, 2:16-cv-84
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • 15 Julio 2016
    ...what constitutes an ‘issue of administration’ of a trust has preoccupied courts and litigants alike[.]" Citrin v. Erikson , 911 F.Supp. 673, 680 (S.D.N.Y.1996). The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has not defined that phrase. However, other courts that have considered this question have come......

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