Miner v. Local 373

Decision Date25 January 2008
Docket NumberNo. 07-1383.,07-1383.
Citation513 F.3d 854
PartiesMelody Rogers MINER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. LOCAL # 373, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Local # 516, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

Charles M. Kester, Fayetteville, AR, for appellant.

Melva Harmon, argued, Little Rock, AR, Joe E. White, Jr., Oklahoma City, OK, for appellees.

Before WOLLMAN and BENTON, Circuit Judges, and DOTY,1 District Judge.

DOTY, District Judge.

Melody Rogers Miner ("Miner") sued her employer Local 373, International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("Local 373") for breach of a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") and her union Local 516, International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("Local 516") for breach of its duty of fair representation under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"). Miner also asserted a breach of contract claim against Local 373. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants. Plaintiff appeals, and we reverse.

I. BACKGROUND

Miner worked for Local 373 as an executive secretary from July 14, 1986, until September 14, 2005. During that period, Local 373 maintained an office in Ft. Smith, Arkansas and had three full-time employees, including a principal officer (Secretary/Treasurer) who was also a directing business agent, a second business agent and an executive secretary. Local 373 also employed a temporary clerical worker for an unspecified period of time. At the time Local 373 hired Miner, her father, Ott Rogers ("Rogers"), was the principal officer. In March or April of 1991, Miner approached Larry Garner ("Garner")—principal officer of Local 516 in Muskogee, Oklahoma—about Local 516 becoming her personal bargaining representative in negotiating a CBA covering the terms of her employment. On April 14, 1991, Locals 373 and 516 entered into a CBA entitled "Office Clerical Addenda" ("Addenda") to govern the employment of Local 373's office clerical employees. The Addenda incorporated by reference the Teamsters' National Master Freight Agreement2 ("Master Agreement") in its entirety—with the exception of wages— and provided for automatic renewal without notice when the Master Agreement expired and a new agreement was negotiated. Local 373's executive committee later approved the Addenda.

Article 46 of the Master Agreement provides that an employee can only be discharged for just cause and requires that an employee and the relevant Union receive at least one written warning notice before an employee's discharge. Article 44 provides for the establishment of state or multi-state grievance committees to "adjust the disputes which cannot be settled between the Employer and the Local Union." (J.A. at 204.) Further, article 45 provides that "[w]here a State or Multiple State Committee, by a majority vote, settles a dispute no appeal may be taken to the Southern Region Area Grievance Committee. Such decision will be final and binding on both parties." (Id. at 204.1.)

Miner paid Local 516 a fee of fifteen dollars per month from May 3, 1991, until August 1997. Between March 17, 1992, and August 10, 1993, Randall Sanderson ("Sanderson")—who replaced Rogers as principal officer of Local 373—wrote Garner on five occasions noting Local 373's compliance with the wage increases required by the Addenda. The last written communication with respect to the Addenda before Miner's discharge was a September 11, 1995, letter from Sanderson requesting Garner's signature on two copies of a new Master Agreement effective from April 1, 1994, until March 31, 1998.

On May 25, 1995, the General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("IBT") sent an electronic message called a Titan message ("1995 Titan") to all Locals stating that one IBT Local cannot properly represent the interests of the employees of another IBT Local because of potential conflicts of interest. Therefore, the message prohibited any future agreements between one Local for the representation of another Local's employees and provided that any such agreements then in effect were to be reviewed upon their expiration. Another Titan message from June 20, 1997, ("1997 Titan") regarding dual unionism—in which IBT employees are members of an IBT Local and a non-IBT Union—referenced the conflict noted in the 1995 Titan and ordered all Locals to "issue honorable withdrawal cards ... to all employees and staff who are members of, or represented by, another labor organization and are also dues paying members of a [Local]."

Sanderson resigned as Local 373's principal officer on April 17, 2005. Despite Miner's interest in replacing Sanderson, Stacy Fox ("Fox") was appointed to the position. Miner and Fox's relationship was strained, and on May 2, 2005, Fox sent Miner home and terminated her employment by phone the next day. In response, on May 13, 2005, Miner sent a letter to Jerry Van Allen ("Van Allen")—who had replaced Garner on July 1, 1998. In that letter, Miner sought a copy of the Addenda and requested that Local 516 process her grievance. Miner also sent notice of her grievance to Fox and requested a copy of the Addenda. Van Allen and his secretary searched Local 516's files but could not find the Addenda, and Van Allen called Fox, who indicated that Local 373 did not have a copy either. Unable to obtain a copy of the Addenda, Van Allen wrote to Miner on May 16, 2005, that he was aware of a past agreement between Locals 373 and 516 but that it was not among the active agreements in Local 516's files when he took over and therefore Local 516 could not process her grievance. Miner responded by filing two National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") charges against Local 516 on or around May 20, 2005, alleging that Local 516 violated the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") by not processing her grievance and by failing to produce a copy of the Addenda.3 Van Allen responded by letter on May 25, 2005, indicating that no agreement existed between Locals 373 and 516.

On July 14, 2005, Miner mailed Van Allen a copy of the Addenda that she allegedly found in her family Bible. The copy was signed by Rogers and Local 373's Executive Board but not by Garner or another Local 516 representative. Miner also withdrew the NLRB charges. On July 18, 2005, Van Allen wrote to Fox indicating that he was "in possession of what [he] believed] to be a bonafide collective bargaining agreement between Teamsters Local 516 and Teamsters Local 373," and requested a meeting to resolve Miner's grievance. (J.A. at 278.) Van Allen also sent Fox a copy of the Addenda. Fox failed to respond, and on July 27, 2005, Van Allen sent another letter proposing an August 2, 2005, meeting date. That same day, Van Allen requested that Miner's grievance be placed on the Southern Multi-State Grievance Committee's ("Committee") August 2005 agenda. Fox responded to Van Allen's letter on August 1, 2005, noting that in light of the 1995 Titan, Local 373 "cannot and does not recognize the purported office clerical collective bargaining agreement alleged to exist between Local 373 and Local 516, nor Local 516's representative status in regard to Local 373 clerical employees in that context." (J.A. at 367.)

On August 1, 2005, Van Allen notified Miner that the Committee would hear her grievance at its meeting in mid-September. At that meeting, which. Miner did not attend, Fox, on behalf of Local 373, challenged the validity of the Addenda on a point of order. Van Allen presented a copy of the Addenda to the Committee and argued that Local 373 was bound by its terms. Local 373 offered a rebuttal and introduced the 1997 Titan message. After asking questions regarding Garner's missing signature on the Addenda and Miner's failure to pay fees after August 1997, the Committee upheld Local 373's point of order.

On September 14, 2005, after the Committee dismissed Miner's grievance, she obtained what she claimed to be her personal files from Local 373's office. One of the files contained a copy of the Addenda with Garner's signature.

Miner filed this action on November 10, 2005, asserting claims under Section 301 of the LMRA against Locals 373 and 516 and in the alternative for breach of contract against Local 373. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants on all claims. On appeal, Miner argues that genuine issues of material fact remain as to the existence of a CBA between defendants and as to the adequacy of Local 516's representation. In the alternative, Miner argues that in the absence of a CBA the state law breach of contract claim is not preempted by the LMRA.

DISCUSSION

We review de novo the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants. Mayer v. Nextel W. Corp., 318 F.3d 803, 806 (8th Cir.2003). Summary judgment is appropriate when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and ... the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(c). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). We view all evidence and inferences in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See id. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505. The nonmoving party, however, may not rest upon mere denials or allegations in the pleadings, but must set forth specific facts sufficient to raise a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

A. Section 301(a)

Section 301(a) of the LMRA vests subject matter jurisdiction in the federal courts for "[s]uits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined by this Act, or between any such labor organizations." 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). An employee can bring a "hybrid" action...

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