United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of Am. v. Bldg. & Constr. Trades Dep't

Decision Date04 December 2012
Docket NumberNo. 12–CV–0109–TOR.,12–CV–0109–TOR.
Citation911 F.Supp.2d 1118
PartiesUNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS AND JOINERS OF AMERICA, et al., Plaintiffs, v. BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION TRADES DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Washington

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Daniel M. Shanley, John T. DeCarlo, Judy H. Juang, DeCarlo Connor & Shanley, Los Angeles, CA, Charles Matthew Andersen, Winston & Cashatt, Spokane, WA, for Plaintiffs.

Abigail V. Carter, Joshua B. Shiffrin, Leon Dayan, Matthew Stark Rubin, W. Gary Kohlman, Bredhoff & Kaiser PLLC, Washington, DC, Carl Joseph Oreskovich, Etter McMahon Lamberson Clary & Oreskovich PC, Spokane, WA, for Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AND DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO TRANSFER

THOMAS O. RICE, District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT are Defendants' Motion to Transfer to the District Court for the District of Columbia, ECF No. 45, and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, ECF No. 57. These matters were heard with oral argument on October 24, 2012. Daniel M. Shanley and C. Matthew Andersen appeared on behalf of the Plaintiffs. Leon Dayan and Carl J. Oreskovich appeared on behalf of Defendants. The Court has reviewed the relevant pleadings and supporting materials, and is fully informed.

BACKGROUND

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) together with six subordinate bodies of the UBC and 19 individual UBC members (together Plaintiffs) bring nine claims against the Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) and three individuals: James Williams, president of a BCTD affiliate International union of Painters and Allied Trades (“IUPAT”), Ron Ault, president of the Metal Trades Department of the AFL–CIO (“MTD”), and David Molnaa, president of a local Hanford MTD council (together Defendants). These claims include four brought under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), one under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (“LMRDA”), and four state law claims.

FACTS

The BCTD is a labor organization that oversees and coordinates the activities of several subordinate trade unions (electricians, painters, laborers, plumbers). These subordinate unions pay dues to the BCTD and must comply with BCTD rules. The UBC is not associated with the BCTD, and is “unwilling to submit to [BCTD] control or to pay in perpetuity ... a monthly fee ... for services neither requested, wanted, nor necessary.” Compl. ¶ 130. Plaintiffs allege that the BCTD and its affiliates, in response to what they perceived to be an unwanted incursion on the traditional jurisdiction of other building trade unions, have embarked on the “Push–Back Carpenters Campaign” to pressure the UBC to re-affiliate with the BCTD.

The Complaint alleges economic pressure by Defendants, including: promoting a 2008 AFL–CIO resolution authorizing the AFL–CIO to charter a union to compete with the UBC, the organization of a “Unity Rally” in St. Louis, repeated public criticism of the UBC on websites and in other publications, filing frivolous regulatory claims against the UBC, stealing confidential information, “forcing” UBC's Seattle legal counsel to terminate its relationship with the Plaintiffs, and orchestrating the June 2011 termination of an affiliation agreement (“Solidarity Agreement”) between the UBC and MTD. The Complaint also alleges acts of vandalism and threats of force by “BCTD Defendants' agents,” including: vandalism of UBC jobsites and property (sugar in gas tank, smashing sign, spray painting trucks), death threats against Terry Nelson (senior officer of St. Louis UBC), death threats against Ed Marston (a UBC representative), threats of violence at Pier 66 in Seattle, and the public dissemination of video footage of a violent attack on UBC members.

The Complaint alleges that the individually named Defendants played “key roles” in the anti-UBC conspiracy. Defendants Ault and Molnaa allegedly carried out the “bad faith” termination of the Solidarity Agreement with the MTD. Defendant Williams allegedly “authorized the campaign to push back the Carpenters” as a member of the BTCD Executive Council, helped form the anti-Plaintiff “Committee,” and approved anti-Plaintiff publications.

Once the rhetoric and pejorative allegations are peeled back, Plaintiffs' dispute is rather straightforward. The UBC is a trade union that disagrees with various policies of the BTCD and its unified strategy of affiliating with other trade unions under the umbrella of the AFL–CIO. The MTD, an affiliated union, had allowed the UBC to affiliate with it through a “Solidarity Agreement.” The Defendants allegedly convinced the MTD to terminate the “Solidarity Agreement” because the UBC was creeping into other trades' work and were not paying their fair share. The UBC now seeks to go at it alone but is perceived as a competing union by the BTCD. The BTCD seeks greater strength and bargaining power by having UBC reaffiliate with it on equal footing as all other affiliated unions, rather than being a competitor union.

DISCUSSION
I. Motion to Dismiss
A. Standard of Review

To withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must set forth factual allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). The tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. Id. (“Although for the purposes of a motion to dismiss we must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, we are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation” (internal quotation marks omitted)). A pleading that offers “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id.

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” The pleading standard set by Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,’ but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions. Id. at 678–79, 129 S.Ct. 1937. In assessing whether Rule 8(a)(2) is satisfied, the Court first identifies the elements of the asserted claim based on statute or case law. Id. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937. The Ninth Circuit follows the methodological approach set forth in Iqbal for the assessment of a plaintiff's complaint:

[A] court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.”

Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 970 (9th Cir.2009) ( quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950).1

B. Civil RICO Claims

RICO's private right of action, 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c), provides in relevant part that [a]ny person injured in his business or property by reason of a violation of section 1962 of this chapter may sue therefor in any appropriate United States district court and shall recover threefold the damages he sustains and the cost of the suit, including a reasonable attorney's fee.” Plaintiffs seek relief under three substantive subsections of the RICO Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(a), (b), and (c). In their First Claim for Relief, Plaintiffs contend Defendants conspired to violate 18 U.S.C. § 1962(a) which prohibits a person who receives income derived from a pattern of racketeering activity from using or investing such income in an enterprise engaged in interstate commerce. In their Second Claim for Relief, Plaintiffs contend Defendants conspired to violate § 1962(b), which makes it unlawful for a person through a pattern of racketeering activity to acquire or maintain interest or control of an enterprise engaged in interstate commerce. In their Third Claim for Relief, Plaintiffs contend Defendants violated § 1962(c) which prohibits a person employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in interstate commerce to conduct or participate in the conduct of the enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity. In their Fourth Claim for Relief, Plaintiffs contend Defendants conspired to violate § 1962(c).

The elements of a civil RICO claim are: (1) conduct (2) of an enterprise (3) through a pattern (4) of racketeering activity (known as predicate acts) (5) causing injury to plaintiff's business or property.” Living Designs, Inc. v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours and Co., 431 F.3d 353, 361 (9th Cir.2005); Odom v. Microsoft Corp., 486 F.3d 541, 547 (9th Cir.2007) (en banc) (describing first four elements); Sedima, S.P.R.L. v. Imrex Co., Inc., 473 U.S. 479, 496–497, 105 S.Ct. 3275, 87 L.Ed.2d 346 (1985) (describing first four elements and [i]n addition, the plaintiff only has standing if, and can only recover to the extent that, he has been injured in his business or property by the conduct constituting the violation.”). Defendants allege that Plaintiffs fails to state a claim on three of the RICO elements, including: (1) pattern, (2) of racketeering activity (known as predicate acts), and (3) injury to plaintiffs' business or...

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    ...conduct must involve 'wrongful use' of force, fear, or threats to obtain property." United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of Am. v. Building & Const. Trades Dept., 911 F. Supp. 2d 1118, 1129 (E.D. Wash. 2012) (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 1951(b)(2)). Stated another way, a defendant "is not guilty of ......
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    ...improprieties occurred with union funds and directly injured solely the union."); United Bhd. Of Carpenters and Joiners of Am. v. Bldg. and Constr. Trades Dep't, 911 F.Supp.2d 1118, 1124-26 (E.D. Wash. 2012)(finding standing lacking where damaged property did not belong to any named plainti......
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    ...are not essential elements of this claim. Id. at 133435. United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of Am. v. Bldg. & Constr. Trades Dep't, 911 F.Supp.2d 1118, 1137 (E.D. Wash. 2012), aff'd, 770 F.3d 834 (9th Cir. 2014) (alterations in Bldg. & Constr. Trades). The definition of “embezzlement” enco......
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3 books & journal articles
  • EMPLOYMENT LAW VIOLATIONS
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review No. 58-3, July 2021
    • July 1, 2021
    ...v. Durnin, 632 F.2d 1297, 1300 (5th Cir. 1980))); United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of Am. v. Bldg. & Constr. Trade Dep’t, 911 F. Supp. 2d 1118, 1137 (E.D. Wash. 2012) (f‌inding fraudulent intent is element of 29 U.S.C. § 501 (c)), aff’d sub nom., 770 F.3d 834 (9th Cir. 2014); see ......
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    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review No. 60-3, July 2023
    • July 1, 2023
    ...States v. Durnin, 632 F.2d 1297, 1300 (5th Cir. 1980))); United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of Am. v. Bldg. & Constr. Trade Dep’t, 911 F. Supp. 2d 1118, 1137 (E.D. Wash. 2012) (f‌inding fraudulent intent is element of § 501(c)), aff’d sub nom ., 770 F.3d 834 (9th Cir. 2014); see United Sta......
  • Employment Law Violations
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review No. 59-3, July 2022
    • July 1, 2022
    ...States v. Durnin, 632 F.2d 1297, 1300 (5th Cir. 1980))); United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of Am. v. Bldg. & Constr. Trade Dep’t, 911 F. Supp. 2d 1118, 1137 (E.D. Wash. 2012) (finding fraudulent intent is element of 29 U.S.C. § 501(c)), aff’d sub nom ., 770 F.3d 834 (9th Cir. 2014); ......

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