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Graphic Communication Union, Local 17-M v. Our Sunday Visitor Inc

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

August 10, 2018

GRAPHIC COMMUNICATIONS UNION, LOCAL 17-M, Plaintiff,
v.
OUR SUNDAY VISITOR, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.'s (“OSV”) Motion to Transfer Venue filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1404, 1406 (Filing No. 11). Plaintiff Graphic Communications Union, Local 17-M (the “Union”) initiated this action, asserting a claim to enforce an arbitration award for breach of contract arising out of an employment dispute between OSV and a Union member. One month after the case was filed, OSV filed its Motion to Transfer Venue, asking that this action be transferred to the Northern District of Indiana, Fort Wayne Division. For the following reasons, the Court grants the Motion to Transfer Venue.

         I. BACKGROUND

         OSV is an Indiana non-profit corporation with its principal place of business located in Huntington, Indiana. OSV has no other locations, branches, or offices in Indiana. OSV is engaged in commerce by selling newspapers as well as other materials and products. The Union is a labor organization within the meaning of Section 2(5) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 152(5), and Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185. The Union's main office is located in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Union is the exclusive collective bargaining representative for all production and maintenance employees of OSV.

         The Union and OSV are parties to a collective bargaining agreement covering OSV's production and maintenance employees in various job classifications at the Huntington facility. The collective bargaining agreement contains a contractual grievance and arbitration procedure, which culminates in a final resolution of grievances through binding arbitration.

         On December 10, 2015, OSV terminated the employment of Jennifer Pohler (“Pohler”) for violating attendance policies. Pohler is a bargaining unit employee. On December 15, 2015, the Union filed a contractual grievance protesting the discharge of Pohler who was employed at OSV's Huntington facility. Before the grievance reached arbitration, on January 22, 2016, the parties agreed to settle the grievance whereby Pohler would be reinstated on January 25, 2016, without back-pay from the date of discharge to the date of reinstatement. However, OSV backed out of the agreement and the grievance proceeded to arbitration.

         On December 9, 2016, an initial arbitration hearing was held in Indianapolis to resolve a procedural dispute regarding the timeliness of the Union's demand for arbitration and whether the grievance was arbitrable. The grievance was permitted to proceed to arbitration, so a hearing on the merits of the grievance was held on June 2, 2017, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The arbitration opinion and award was issued on September 21, 2017, wherein the arbitrator ruled in the Union's favor on the merits and held that the parties had reached a binding agreement to reinstate Pohler on January 25, 2016, without back-pay from the date of discharge to the date of reinstatement.

         The arbitration decision, however, did not specify whether Pohler was entitled to back-pay from January 25, 2016 through the date of her actual reinstatement following the arbitration decision. Because of this lack of clarity, on September 28, 2017, the Union asked the arbitrator to clarify this aspect of the decision. The arbitrator responded, explaining that his decision did not intend to prolong the denial of back-pay to the date of his decision, but rather, it should coincide with the date the parties agreed upon for Pohler's reinstatement.

         After the arbitration decision was issued, OSV reinstated Pohler but would not pay her any back-pay from January 25, 2016 through the date of her actual reinstatement. As a result, the Union filed this lawsuit on January 3, 2018, seeking to enforce the arbitration award and to obtain an order directing OSV to pay back-pay from January 25, 2016, through the date of Pohler's actual reinstatement (Filing No. 1).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “Congress enacted the federal change of venue statute, codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1404, to allow a district court to transfer an action filed in a proper, though not necessarily convenient, venue to a more convenient district.” Research Automation, Inc. v. Schrader-Bridgeport Int'l, Inc., 626 F.3d 973, 977 (7th Cir. 2010). In contrast, “[u]nder 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a), a district court may transfer a case brought in the wrong division or district if it is in the interest of justice to do so.” Hapaniewski v. Chicago Heights, 883 F.2d 576, 579 (7th Cir. 1989) (citation and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added).[1]

         A party may seek change of venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which states, “[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.”

         District courts have substantial deference when deciding Section 1404(a) motions to transfer venue. Research Automation, 626 F.3d at 976-77. “Section 1404(a) is intended to place discretion in the district court to adjudicate motions for transfer according to a case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.” Id. at 977 (quoting Stewart Organization, Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988)) (internal punctuation omitted). “The statute permits a flexible and individualized analysis and affords district courts the opportunity to look beyond a narrow or rigid set of considerations in their determinations.” Id. at 978 (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         Concerning the principle of convenience, courts generally consider the availability of and access to witnesses as well as the parties' access to and distance from resources in each forum. Courts also generally consider the location of the ...


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