I.A.M. National Pension Fund et al v. Listerhill Total Maintenance Center LLC
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that the 26 AMENDED MOTION to Intervene is DENIED as more fully set out in order. Signed by Judge C Lynwood Smith, Jr on 8/6/2015. (AHI)
2015 Aug-06 AM 11:46
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
I.A.M. NATIONAL PENSION
FUND, et al.,
MAINTENANCE CENTER, LLC,
Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-196-CLS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff I.A.M. National Pension Fund (“the Fund”) is a “joint labormanagement pension fund” that provides “pension, retirement and related benefits to
the eligible employees of employers who contribute to the Fund pursuant to various
collective bargaining agreements with affiliated local unions of the International
Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.”1 Plaintiffs Robert Roach, Jr.,
and Henry C. Eickelberg are Co-Chairmen of the Fund’s Board of Trustees.2
Plaintiffs filed this action on February 2, 2015, on behalf of the participants and
beneficiaries of the Fund, and against Listerhill Total Maintenance Center, LLC
Doc. no. 1 (Complaint) ¶ 3.
Id. ¶ 4.
Id. ¶ 5.
Listerhill employs individuals who are represented for collective bargaining
purposes by Lodge 1189 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace
Workers, District 75 (“the Union”).4 Listerhill and the Union entered into a collective
bargaining agreement, effective from February 11, 2009, to December 10, 2013,5by
which the parties agreed, among other things, that Listerhill would be bound by the
Fund’s Trust Agreement and Plan rules.6 The Trust Agreement requires all employers
to make contributions to the Fund for each hour worked by each employee
represented under the collective bargaining agreement.7 The collective bargaining
agreement was modified by a Side Letter Agreement and three attached Standard
Contract Language forms executed by Listerhill and the Union on April 23, 2012.
The Side Letter Agreement set forth new rates at which Listerhill was required to
make contributions to the Fund for three classifications of employees, retroactive to
February 11, 2009.8 That obligation was subsequently continued through the
expiration of the collective bargaining agreement on December 10, 2013.9
Listerhill failed to make the required contributions,10 so plaintiffs commenced
Id. ¶ 6.
Id. ¶ 7.
Id. ¶¶ 7-8.
Doc. no. 1 (Complaint) ¶¶ 7-9.
Id. ¶¶ 10-11.
Id. ¶ 14.
Id. ¶¶ 17-22.
this action, in which they assert a claim against Listerhill for violation of Section 515
of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §
1145.11 Plaintiffs ask to be reimbursed
for the delinquent contributions, interest on the delinquent contributions
at the rate of 18% per annum on the total amount of the contributions
from the date due until date paid, liquidated damages equal to the greater
of the interest or 20% of the contributions, and reasonable attorneys’
fees and costs of this action.12
The case currently is before the court on a motion to intervene filed by twentysix individual employees of Listerhill whose employment is governed by the terms
of the collective bargaining agreement, and who would be entitled to pension benefits
under the Plan (“Intervenors”).13 Intervenors seek to enter the case as plaintiffs, and
Id. ¶¶ 24-27. That statute states:
Every employer who is obligated to make contributions to a multiemployer
plan under the terms of the plan or under the terms of a collectively bargained
agreement shall, to the extent not inconsistent with law, make such contributions in
accordance with the terms and conditions of such plan or such agreement.
29 U.S.C. § 1145.
Doc. no. 1 (Complaint) ¶ 27. According to the complaint, the Trust Agreement provides
that “employers that fail to pay contributions are liable for liquidated damages in the amount of 20%
of the delinquent contributions and interest accrued on the delinquent contributions at the rate of
18% per annum from the date of the delinquency until the date payment is received.” Id. ¶ 9.
Doc. no. 26 (Amended Motion for Intervention). The Intervenors’ names are Steven
Peters, Robert Brewer, Chris Bailey, Terry Beecham, Ricky Brewer, Antony Bryant, Troy Butler,
Roy Cottles, Joseph Evers, Bill Gober, Mark Hendrix, Gregory Hennigan, Robert Ledlow, Danny
Looney, Kevin McCormack, Thomas Neyman, Robert Northrop, David Pennington, Terry Powell,
Dwight Rich, Willie Rich, Marcus Roden, Joseph Staggs, Barney Tidwell, Roger White, and
Michael Whitsett. See id. at 1.
to file a Complaint for Declaratory Relief requesting the court to “declare their rights
as to the correct contribution rate that the Defendant is obligated to pay on their
behalves under the Side Letter Agreement and Standard Contract Language forms
executed between the Union and Defendant.”14 The original plaintiffs do not oppose
the motion to intervene,15 but defendant does.
Defendant asserts that, even if the requirements for intervention under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 24 are satisfied, the motion to intervene should be denied
because Intervenors are barred by the collective bargaining agreement from asserting
a claim for declaratory judgment in this action. The collective bargaining agreement
states, in relevant part:
In order for a grievance to be eligible under this Article, any
grievances concerning the interpretation or application of this
Agreement shall be adjusted in the following manner. A grievance must
be presented in writing (in person, by electronic mail or fax), signed by
either the Grievant or his/her Union Representative within five (5)
working days of the occurrence out of which the grievance arose.
Grievances which are not presented in this manner within the specified
time limit are not eligible for consideration under this Article, and
cannot be presented or considered at a later date. In order to receive
consideration under and be subject to the terms of this Article, a
grievance must specify the provision of this Agreement alleged to be
breached and the specifics of the alleged infraction. It is the intent of
both parties that grievances shall be handled in the manner provided in
this Article and strictly within the time limits specified in each step of
Doc. no. 26, Exhibit 1 (proposed Complaint for Declaratory Relief), at ¶ 28.
See doc. no. 27 (Plaintiffs’ Response to Amended Motion for Intervention).
this grievance procedure. However, time limits may be extended in any
step of this grievance procedure by mutual written consent.16
Defendant asserts that the Intervenors’ proposed declaratory judgment claim
is based upon an interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement and the Side
Letter Agreement and Standard Contract Language forms attached thereto. As such,
defendant contends that Intervenors are required to submit the claim to arbitration
through the grievance process outlined in the collective bargaining agreement, and
they cannot “circumvent this procedure by intervening in a case pending in federal
court.”17 See Darden v. U.S. Steel Corp., 830 F.2d 1116, 1120 (11th Cir. 1987)
(holding that, “‘[w]hen employees asserting an arbitrable grievance have not
attempted to utilize the dispute resolution machinery available to them under the
agreement, their independent suit against the employer must be dismissed’”)
(alteration in original) (citations omitted).
Intervenors dispute that their proposed declaratory judgment complaint raises
a grievable issue under the collective bargaining agreement. They first point to the
section of the collective bargaining agreement defining the agreement’s “general
purpose” as including “to record the terms of agreement between the parties arrived
at through collective bargaining in respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of
Doc. no. 28-1 (Collective Bargaining Agreement), at 14, Art. 17 (emphasis supplied).
Doc. no. 28, at 2.
employment, and other expressed conditions contained herein.”18 That argument is
not persuasive. While Intervenors’ proposed complaint does not raise any issue of
pay, wages, or hours of employment, it does address another condition of
employment, i.e., Listerhill’s obligation to make contributions to the Fund on its
employees’ behalf. That condition is stated in Article 21 of the collective bargaining
agreement, as well as in the Side Letter Agreement and Standard Contract Language
forms that have been expressly incorporated into the collective bargaining
Intervenors also assert that, because plaintiffs are not parties to the collective
bargaining agreement, the “key document” is the Fund’s Trust Agreement, not the
collective bargaining agreement.20 And, because the Trust Agreement does not
require arbitration of claims pursuant to a grievance procedure, the Intervenors’
claims should not be barred for failure to submit their claims to arbitration. That
argument misses the point. Both the Trust Agreement and the collective bargaining
Doc. no. 28-1, at 2, Art. 1 (emphasis supplied).
See id. (“It is the intent of the Parties that this Agreement, including the Side Letter
Agreements that are dated as of the date of this Agreement, and attached to this Agreement,
constitute the entire Collective Bargaining Agreement of the Parties.”) (emphasis supplied). See also
id. at 18, Art. 21, Sec. 1 (“The Company agrees to contribute a pension factor of $0.40 per hour paid
as worked up to a maximum of 2080 hours per calendar year to the I.A.M. National Pension Fund
on behalf of the employees represented by the Union who have a seniority date of 02/09/06 or
greater, and who have completed their probationary period . . . .”).
Doc. no. 31, at 4.
agreement require Listerhill to make certain contributions to the Fund. Plaintiffs (the
Fund and members of its Board of Trustees) are pursuing their claims against
Listerhill under the Trust Agreement, because they are parties to that agreement. But
Intervenors (individual employees of Listerhill) are pursuing their claims under the
collective bargaining agreement, because they are parties to that agreement.21 As
such, the present plaintiffs’ claims must be pursued in accordance with the Trust
Agreement, and the Intervenors’ claims must be pursued in accordance with the
collective bargaining agreement. Because the collective bargaining agreement
requires all covered employees to first submit their claims to arbitration through the
grievance procedure specified in the agreement, Intervenors cannot file a claim in this
court without first pursuing arbitration.
Moreover, the collective bargaining
agreement did not distinguish between damages claims and declaratory claims when
stating that all claims should be pursued through the grievance procedure.
Additionally, Intervenors assert that defendant has not previously contested the
ability of this court to interpret the collective bargaining agreement and Side Letter
Agreement. That argument also misses the point. Defendant did not object when
plaintiffs asked this court to interpret those agreements. But plaintiffs are not parties
See doc. no. 26-1 ¶ 7 (“The Defendant was a signatory to and bound by a collective
bargaining agreement with the Union effective February 11, 2009 through December 10, 2013 (“The
CBA”). The CBA obligates the Defendant Listerhill to make regular contributions to the fund on
behalf of the Petitioners and other similarly situated, for all hours of work covered by the CBA.”).
to the collective bargaining agreement, and they consequently are not bound by that
agreement’s grievance procedure. Intervenors are parties to the collective bargaining
agreement, and they are bound by the grievance procedure. Defendant did not waive
the right to contest this court’s ability to interpret the collective bargaining agreement
in connection with a claim asserted by the employees whose union is a party to the
In light of the foregoing, the motion to intervene is DENIED.
DONE this 6th day of August, 2015.
United States District Judge
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