Teamsters Local 117 v. Davis Wire Corp., C01-1345P.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Washington)
Writing for the CourtPechman
Citation187 F.Supp.2d 1279
PartiesTEAMSTERS LOCAL 117, a labor organization, Plaintiff, v. DAVIS WIRE CORP., a Delaware corporation, Defendant.
Docket NumberNo. C01-1345P.,C01-1345P.
Decision Date16 November 2001
187 F.Supp.2d 1279
TEAMSTERS LOCAL 117, a labor organization, Plaintiff,
DAVIS WIRE CORP., a Delaware corporation, Defendant.
No. C01-1345P.
United States District Court, W.D. Washington, at Seattle
November 16, 2001.

Page 1280

Spencer Nathan Thal, Teamsters Local Union 117, Seattle, WA, for Plaintiff.

Rebecca Dean, Preston Gates & Ellis, Seattle, WA, for Defendant.


PECHMAN, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's Motion to Remand. (Dkt.Nos.4, 9). Both motions concern the same question of law: whether federal law completely pre-empts Washington State law in cases regarding attorneys fees in collective bargaining agreement disputes.

Page 1281

Because the Court finds that state law is completely pre-empted, summary judgment for the Defendant is GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Motion to Remand is DENIED.


The Teamsters Local 117 ("Teamsters") and Davis Wire Corporation are parties to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"). Pursuant to the CBA, the Teamsters filed grievances on behalf of two employees. These grievances went to arbitration, the provided remedy under the CBA, and the Teamsters won, the arbitrator holding that Davis Wire violated the CBA. In both cases, the arbitrator awarded back pay, which Davis Wire paid. According to the CBA, the costs of arbitration were to be shared by both parties. There was no mention, however, of attorneys fees in the CBA. The practical effect of the lack of a provision of attorneys fees would be that both parties would pay their own counsel.

After prevailing in the arbitration proceeding, Teamsters brought suit in King County Superior court for attorneys fees under state law. Defendants Davis Wire removed the case to federal court, arguing that federal labor law completely preempts the state law claim when there is a CBA. Davis Wire at the same time moved for summary judgment, arguing that uniformity in federal labor law requires complete pre-emption. Teamsters moved to remand to state court on the grounds that only state law applies.


According to Washington State law and outside the CBA context, an employee could collect attorneys fees under otherwise similar facts. However, in analogous suits, courts have made clear that state-law attorneys fees provisions are completely pre-empted by federal law in order to insure that CBAs are interpreted across the country in a uniform manner. Since federal law would not allow attorneys fees here, a state law may not be read to grant such fees to the plaintiffs.

I. State law attorneys fees provision

This court is required to reach the federal pre-emption question, since under state law Teamsters would, outside the CBA context, be able to collect attorneys fees. The statute in question, reads: "In any action in which any person is successful in recovering judgment for wages or salary owed to him, reasonable attorney's fees, in an amount to be determined by the court, shall be assessed against said employer or former employer." Wash. Rev. Code § 49.48.030 (2001). Washington State courts have read this to allow attorneys fees as a result of arbitration, holding that an arbitration is an "action" and an arbitration award a "judgment." See Hitter v. Bellevue School Dist. No. 405, 66 Wash.App. 391, 396, 832 P.2d 130 (1992), review denied, 120 Wash.2d 1013, 844 P.2d 435 (1992); Int'l Ass'n of Fire Fighters v. Everett, 101 Wash.App. 743, 6 P.3d 50 (2000) (award in CBA arbitration, but outside the context of federal labor law since Everett was a public employer). Since Teamsters might be able to collect under a plain reading of state law, the Court must reach the broader issue of whether federal law pre-empts this statute to the extent that it applies to CBAs.

II. Federal pre-emption

CBAs are governed by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 ("LMRA"), 61 Stat. 156, 29 U.S.C. § 185 (2001). In order to promote uniform federal labor law, § 301 completely pre-empts state law in claims "founded directly on rights created by collective-bargaining agreements," and also claims "substantially dependent on analysis of a collective-bargaining agreement." Caterpillar v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 394, 107 S.Ct. 2425, 96 L.Ed.2d 318 (1987). However,

Page 1282

§ 301 does not pre-empt "nonnegotiable rights conferred on individual employees as a matter of state law." Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 123, 114 S.Ct. 2068, 129 L.Ed.2d 93 (1994). Plaintiffs claim the state attorneys fee provision is an independent, nonnegotiable state law right, and therefore not pre-empted. Defendants claim that any attorneys fees award flows from the violation...

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2 cases
  • Sheet Metal Workers' Int'l Assoc. v. Alliance Mech. Corp.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Central District of California
    • November 7, 2011
    ...prevailing, while in another state [they might] get attorneys fees only when they show 'bad faith.'" Teamsters Local 117 v. Davis Wire Corp., 187 F. Supp. 2d 1279, 1282 (W.D. Wash. 2001). "Precisely because of this concern with uniformity," the Ninth Circuit has "held that the broad preempt......
  • GP Roadway Solutions, Inc. v. Laborers Int'l Union of N. Am. Local 368
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Hawaii
    • July 29, 2014
    ...fees provisions are completely pre-empted by § 301 when the arbitration award is litigated." Teamsters Local 117 v. Davis Wire Corp., 187 F. Supp. 2d 1279, 1282 (W.D. Wash. 2001) (citing Roy Allen Slurry Seal, 241 F.3d at 1146-48; and Warehouse, Processing, Distribution Workers Union v. Hug......

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