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Teamsters Local Union No. 135 v. Sysco Indianapolis, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 9, 2018

TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 135, Plaintiff,
v.
SYSCO INDIANAPOLIS, LLC, Defendant.

          ENTRY ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

          This cause is before the Court on the Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 32) and the Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 35). The motions are fully briefed, and the Court, being duly advised, now GRANTS the Plaintiff's motion and DENIES the Defendant's motion for the reasons set forth below.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”). When the Court reviews cross-motions for summary judgment, as is the case here, “we construe all inferences in favor of the party against whom the motion under consideration is made.” Speciale v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield Ass'n, 538 F.3d 615, 621 (7th Cir. 2008) (quotation omitted). “‘[W]e look to the burden of proof that each party would bear on an issue of trial.'” Diaz v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 499 F.3d 640, 643 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Santaella v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 123 F.3d 456, 461 (7th Cir. 1997)). A party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must show what evidence it has that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., Inc., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and “a court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation and citation omitted).

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The background facts of record relevant to the Court's decision follow.[1] Additional facts appear in the Discussion section below.

         Teamsters Local Unit No. 135 (“Local 135”) represents certain Sysco employees working in Sysco's Indianapolis, Indiana facility. Sysco and Local 135 are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) with a duration of March 3, 2013, to March 3, 2018. The prior collective bargaining agreement between the parties required Sysco to participate in the Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund (“Central States Pension Fund”). During negotiation of the new CBA, Sysco's intent was to withdraw from the Central States Pension Fund and enroll bargaining unit employees in its own pension plan, the Sysco Corporation Retirement Plan (“Sysco's Pension Plan”). During the negotiations, Sysco identified a Supplemental Early Retirement Benefit (“SERB”) as a feature of Sysco's Pension Plan. The SERB was described as providing retiring bargaining unit employees with $500 per month in addition to their regular pensions with specific criteria required for receipt of the SERB. At the ratification meeting with bargaining unit employees to discuss the proposed CBA, Local 135 identified the SERB as a feature of Sysco's Pension Plan and described it and what it understood to be the specific criteria for its receipt to the bargaining unit employees. During a company-wide meeting, Sysco also explained the SERB in the same way to the bargaining unit employees.

         The bargaining unit employees voted to ratify the CBA, and it went into effect on March 3, 2013, at which point the bargaining unit employees were removed from the Central States Pension Fund and enrolled in Sysco's Pension Plan. “The SERB was one of the reasons that the Union agreed to removing [the] Central States [Pension Fund] from the collective bargaining agreement and replacing it with Sysco's Pension Plan. The SERB was also relied upon by the bargaining unit employees when they voted to ratify the [CBA].” Dkt. No. 34-1 at 2.

         A. The CBA's Grievance Procedure

         The CBA defines a grievance as “any controversy, complaint or dispute arising as to the interpretation or application of or the compliance with any provisions on [sic] this Agreement.” Dkt. No. 34-2 at 6. The CBA contains in its Article 9 a five-step procedure the parties must follow in the case of a grievance. See Dkt. No. 34-2 at 6-7. In step one, an employee must discuss the grievance with an immediate supervisor within ten workdays of the event that gave rise to the grievance and identify the matter as a grievance, and the supervisor must give a verbal reply within ten workdays of the discussion. At step two, if the grievance is not resolved at step one, the grievance must be written and presented to the supervisor within five workdays of having received a response in step one. The supervisor, employee, and shop steward must then meet to try to resolve the grievance. The supervisor must issue a written answer to the steward within ten workdays of the meeting. If not resolved, the grievance moves to step three, where the business agent appeals the grievance in writing to the branch manager within ten days of the steward having received an answer in step two. The branch manager and business agent must meet, and within ten workdays of that meeting, the branch manager must issue a written decision. If the grievance is not resolved, it moves to step four. Step four appears in the CBA, in relevant part, as follows:

If no satisfactory adjustment is reached in Step 3, the matter shall be referred to the Joint Grievance Committee which shall be a permanent Joint Grievance Committee established for the express purpose of adjudicating grievances that reach this step of the Grievance Procedures . . . .
. . .
The Joint Grievance Committee shall have jurisdiction over grievances involving the Union or its members and signatory companies or employers. It shall be the function of the Joint Grievance Committee to settle grievances of disputes, which cannot be settled between the Union and the Company or Employer in accordance with the terms of this Agreement.
Any decision reached by a majority of the members of the Joint Grievance Committee shall be final and binding on the parties. Should the Joint Grievance Committee fail to reach an agreement by majority action, it shall so certify to the parties.
Any decision reached by a majority of the members of the Joint Grievance Committee which is not referred to arbitration by either party within [ten] (10) calendar days from receipt of the written decision, shall be final and binding on the parties, unless either party elects to proceed to Step Five within ten (10) calendar days of ...

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