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Warner v. Chauffeurs

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

March 16, 2017

JOHN E. WARNER, Jr., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CHAUFFEURS, TEAMSTERS & HELPERS LOCAL UNION NO. 414, and SPEEDWAY REDIMIX, INC., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Chauffeurs, Teamsters & Helpers Local Union No. 414's (the “Union”) Motion to Dismiss or, alternatively, Stay Proceedings [ECF No. 11], filed on December 13, 2016. Plaintiffs John E. Warner, Jr., Rick Clay, Sam Early, Brian Goeglein, Mike Campbell, Brad Wilson, Ty Steury, and John Zimmerman (collectively “the Plaintiffs”) filed a Complaint [ECF No. 1] on October 19, 2016. The Union moves to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), asserting that the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Alternatively, the Union moves to stay proceedings in this Court pursuant to Colorado River abstention. On January 13, 2017, the Plaintiffs filed their Response [ECF No. 24] to the Motion. The Union's Reply [ECF No. 25] was entered September 8, 2016. This matter is now ripe for the Court's review.

         BACKGROUND

         The Union is the exclusive bargaining representative of Defendant Speedway Redimix Inc.'s (“Speedway”) truck drivers who are employed in Fort Wayne, and a charter member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. (Compl. ¶¶ 8, 12, ECF No. 1.) The Union and Speedway (collectively “the Defendants”) entered into a Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”), which governs the terms and conditions of the employment of the bargaining unit employees. (Id. ¶ 9.)

         At the beginning of 2015, Speedway employed the Plaintiffs as truck drivers. (Id. ¶ 10.) The Plaintiffs were dues-paying members of the Union. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 13.) Contemporaneous with their initial employment, the Plaintiffs “signed a Checkoff Authorization and Assignment Card . . ., which authorized [Speedway] to withhold union dues from the Plaintiffs' paychecks and to pay those dues to the Union.” (Id. ¶ 14.) Prior to March 2015, “the Plaintiffs noticed that they were losing overtime hours and jobs to the drivers of a separate company known as Speedway Construction Products, Inc. (“Construction Products”), which was being operated out of the same facility using the same dispatchers and hauling the same concrete to the same job sites.” (Id. ¶ 15.) The Plaintiffs complained to the Union that the Construction Products' drivers were getting work that the Plaintiffs and other Union members should have performed, but the Union “stated that there was nothing it could do” and refused to take action. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.)

         In March 2015, the Plaintiffs were offered and accepted employment with Construction Products because of “higher pay and better benefits with apparently better job security.” (Id. ¶¶ 18-20.) They resigned from Speedway with no intent to return as employees and also withdrew their membership with the Union, which “issued to each Plaintiff a withdrawal card.” (Id. ¶¶ 21-22, 24.) After starting with Construction Products, the Plaintiffs “became members of the International Association of Machinists, District Lodge 90, Local Lodge No. 2569.” (Id. ¶ 23.) In March, May, and July of 2015, “the Union filed a series of unfair labor practice charges against [Speedway] and Construction Products with the United States National Labor Relations Board” (“NLRB”) in which the Union alleged “that [Speedway] coerced the Plaintiffs into leaving the Union and [Speedway] to go work for Construction Products.” (Id. ¶¶ 26-27.)[1]

         Then, on October 1, 2015, “the Union, [Speedway], and Construction Products entered into a voluntary written Settlement Agreement, which required Construction Products to terminate the Plaintiffs' employment” and Speedway to rehire them, which they accordingly did. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30.) “Following October 1, 2015, Construction Products began hiring additional drivers off the street to replace the Plaintiffs. These new drivers joined the Machinists Union” and assumed the work that the Plaintiffs had been doing. (Id. ¶ 47.)

         Upon returning to work for Speedway, none of the Plaintiffs “asked to rejoin the Union” or “signed new Authorization Cards authorizing” Speedway to withhold dues from their paychecks, but Speedway did withhold from their paychecks and the Union collected them as dues. (Id. ¶¶ 31-35.) Speedway “relie[d] upon the Authorization Cards . . . signed . . . in March of 2015.” (Id. ¶ 36.) In February 2016, the Plaintiffs learned that the Union considered the “Plaintiffs to still be members of the Union, ” and so “submitted new letters of withdrawal” to the Union. (Id. ¶ 39.) Nevertheless, Speedway “continued to withhold money from the Plaintiffs' paychecks and to pay that money to the Union” for all Plaintiffs except Samuel Early and Bradley Wilson. (Id. ¶ 40.)

         In April 20, 2016, the Plaintiffs (except for Early and Wilson) “filed a grievance under the CBA” with the Union in response to the withholdings, but the “Union refused to investigate the grievances or to represent the Plaintiffs” and Speedway denied their claims. (Id. ¶¶ 41-44.) Also that spring, “the Plaintiffs saw an advertisement by Construction Products seeking to hire truck drivers, ” but, when the Plaintiffs submitted applications, “Construction Products informed the Plaintiffs that it could not hire them because the Union objected and would file more legal actions against Construction Products.” (Id. ¶¶ 48-50.)

         The Plaintiffs filed a two-count Complaint against the Defendants on October 19, 2016. Count I asserted a § 301 claim against Speedway for breach of the CBA. Count II asserted a breach of the duty of fair representation (“DFR”) claim against the Union for four separate reasons: “refusing to represent the Plaintiff in their grievances” against Speedway; “accepting and retaining dues money withheld by [Speedway] from the Plaintiffs' paychecks” without a legal right; “failing to take action to prevent Construction Products . . . from recognizing a different union as a representative of the Drivers of Construction Products, to pay those drivers higher benefits and wages, and by allowing those drivers to take work which” the Plaintiffs would otherwise have been “entitled under the seniority provisions of the CBA”; and “interfering with the Plaintiffs' ability to obtain work within their profession” and “threatening bad faith and frivolous legal actions against Construction Products in order to induce Construction Products not to hire the Plaintiffs.” (Id. ¶¶ 60-63.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint and not the merits of the suit. Gibson v. City of Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). The court presumes all well-pleaded allegations to be true, views them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and accepts as true all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the allegations. Whirlpool Fin. Corp. v. GN Holdings, Inc., 67 F.3d 605, 608 (7th Cir. 1995).

         The Supreme Court has articulated the following standard regarding factual allegations that are required to survive dismissal:

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the “grounds” of his “entitlement to relief” requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative ...

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