Beier et al v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters et al

Filing 148

ORDER RE MOTIONS TO DISMISS SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT. Signed by Judge James Donato on 8/1/2022. (jdlc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 8/1/2022)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 KEVIN E. BYBEE, et al., Plaintiffs, 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Case No. 18-cv-06632-JD ORDER RE MOTIONS TO DISMISS SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT v. INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, et al., Defendants. 12 13 This is an action brought by United Airlines mechanics against their union, individual 14 union officers, and United Airlines and certain related entities. The Court previously granted in 15 part defendants’ motions to dismiss plaintiffs’ first amended complaint, and gave plaintiffs leave 16 to amend. Dkt. No. 73. 17 Since then, the parties have engaged in substantial filing excesses that have impeded the 18 fair and efficient administration of this litigation. Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint 19 consisting of 619 paragraphs and 111 pages of allegations, 10 legal claims, and 25 separate items 20 of proposed relief. Dkt. No. 86 (SAC). Defendants filed three separate motions to dismiss, Dkt. 21 Nos. 96, 97, 98, and did not coordinate their briefing in any way, despite the overlapping nature of 22 many of the union defendants’ and United defendants’ dismissal arguments. See Dkt. Nos. 97, 98. 23 This doubled the amount of briefing for many arguments, and imposed on the Court the 24 unnecessary burden of having to compare and cross-reference the parties’ respective briefs. 25 26 27 28 All of this made the resolution of the pending motions more challenging than necessary. The parties’ familiarity with the record is presumed, and the case is dismissed. DISCUSSION 1 United States District Court Northern District of California 2 3 DEFENDANTS STRIPLING’S AND MIRANDA’S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION 4 New defendants Paul Stripling and George Miranda seek dismissal for lack of personal I. 5 jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). Dkt. No. 96. The SAC alleges that 6 Stripling “is the principal officer of Local 781, located in Chicago, Illinois, the affiliated local 7 plaintiff Dill is a member of.” SAC ¶ 39. Miranda is alleged to be the “principal officer of Local 8 210, the affiliated local plaintiff Drumheller is a member of,” and to “maintain[] an office in New 9 York, New York to carry out his representational duties.” Id. ¶ 40. Stripling and Miranda state 10 that they are “principal officers of Local Union affiliates of the International Brotherhood of 11 Teamsters located in Illinois and New York respectively,” and that they “do not have sufficient 12 minimum contacts with the state of California for this Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over 13 them.” Dkt. No. 96 at 3. 14 “In opposition to a defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the 15 plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that jurisdiction is proper.” Boschetto v. Hansing, 539 16 F.3d 1011, 1015 (9th Cir. 2008). Where, as here, the Court has not called for an evidentiary 17 hearing, the plaintiff “need only make a prima facie showing” of personal jurisdiction. Id. 18 Uncontroverted allegations in the complaint must be taken as true, and “[c]onflicts between the 19 parties over statements contained in affidavits must be resolved in the plaintiff’s favor.” 20 Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004); Boschetto, 539 21 F.3d at 1015. The Court may not, however, “assume the truth of allegations in a pleading which 22 are contradicted by affidavit.” Mavrix Photo, Inc. v. Brand Techs., Inc., 647 F.3d 1218, 1223 (9th 23 Cir. 2011) (quotation omitted). 24 Personal jurisdiction can be general or specific. Zithromia Ltd. v. Gazeus Negocios de 25 Internet SA, No. 3:17-cv-06475-JD, 2018 WL 6340875, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 5, 2018) (citing 26 Helicopteros Nacionales de Columbia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414-15 (1984)). Plaintiffs here 27 allege specific jurisdiction only. Dkt. No. 104 at 6 (“Plaintiffs concede general jurisdiction is 28 inapplicable; however, specific jurisdiction is permitted”). To be subject to specific personal 2 1 jurisdiction, “(1) the non-resident defendant must purposefully direct his activities or consummate 2 some transaction with the forum or resident thereof; or perform some act by which he purposefully 3 avails himself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum, thereby invoking the benefits 4 and protections of its laws; (2) the claim must be one which arises out of or relates to the 5 defendant’s forum-related activities; and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction must comport with fair 6 play and substantial justice, i.e. it must be reasonable.” Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 802. To 7 establish purposeful direction, the defendant must “allegedly have (1) committed an intentional 8 act, (2) expressly aimed at the forum state, (3) causing harm that the defendant knows is likely to 9 be suffered in the forum state.” Id. at 803 (quotations omitted). United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Plaintiffs say that the federal statutes they have sued under provide for personal 11 jurisdiction so long as defendants have “sufficient contacts with the United States.” Dkt. No. 104 12 at 5. Stripling and Miranda did not argue otherwise, or even respond in any way, see Dkt. 13 No. 134, which settles the point against them. 14 Plaintiffs also say that personal jurisdiction exists even under California’s long-arm statute, 15 which is co-extensive with the limits of the Constitution’s due process clause, because Miranda 16 and Stripling “directed activities in and to California.” Dkt. No. 104 at 6. Specifically, plaintiffs 17 state -- with citations to the SAC and declarations submitted in support of plaintiffs’ opposition -- 18 that Miranda directed the resolution of Drumheller’s grievance in San Francisco, while Stripling 19 did the same for plaintiff Dill’s grievance. Id. at 3-4. In response, defendants argue only that 20 there are “no such allegation[s] in the SAC,” Dkt. No. 134 at 2-3, effectively conceding that the 21 substance of plaintiffs’ arguments could be enough to support personal jurisdiction over Stripling 22 and Miranda. Defendants also say that “[n]one of the grievances were ‘handled’ in California. 23 The grievances were reviewed by the IBT in Washington, D.C.” Id. at 3. But this is of no 24 moment because at this procedural stage, “[c]onflicts between the parties over statements 25 contained in affidavits must be resolved in the plaintiff’s favor.” Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 26 800; Boschetto, 539 F.3d at 1015; see also Mavrix Photo, 647 F.3d at 1223 (“we resolve factual 27 disputes in the plaintiff’s favor”). 28 3 1 On this record, plaintiffs have sufficiently made a prima facie showing of personal 2 jurisdiction, and the Court consequently denies Stripling’s and Miranda’s Rule 12(b)(2) motion for 3 dismissal. Plaintiffs’ motion for jurisdictional discovery, Dkt. No. 105, is terminated as moot. 4 II. UNION DEFENDANTS’ AND UNITED DEFENDANTS’ MOTIONS TO DISMISS 5 6 United States District Court Northern District of California 7 A. Counts I & II: Breach of Contract and Breach of Duty of Fair Representation Claims As discussed, the SAC is not easy to follow. Plaintiffs’ opposition briefs contained a much 8 more concise statement of facts, which was basically the same for plaintiffs’ respective 9 oppositions to the union defendants’ and United defendants’ motions to dismiss. See Dkt. No. 103 10 at 1-2; Dkt. No. 102 at 1-2. As clarified by these statements, the gravamen of plaintiffs’ claims 11 appears to be that: (1) the union defendants failed to safeguard plaintiffs’ and other union 12 members’ rights under LOA 05-03M (by, for example, not providing the membership with a 13 pension election vote once United began maintaining the Continental Airlines Retirement Plan 14 (CARP) in October 2010); (2) the union defendants mishandled and wrongfully refused to support 15 plaintiffs’ grievances on this issue; (3) when plaintiffs “then turned to United to complete the 16 grievance process,” United refused to be of help. Based on these facts, plaintiffs brought suit for 17 breach of contract against their employer (Count I), and for breach of the duty of fair 18 representation by the union (Count II). 19 Counts I and II are dismissed. “Airlines are governed by the Railway Labor Act,” Bautista 20 v. Pan American World Airlines, Inc., 828 F.2d 546, 549 n.2 (9th Cir. 1987), and the RLA 21 “endeavors to promote stability in labor-management relations by providing a comprehensive 22 framework for resolving labor disputes.” Beckington v. American Airlines, Inc., 926 F.3d 595, 23 598 (9th Cir. 2019) (quotations and citation omitted). A “fundamental component of the RLA’s 24 design is the right of employees ‘to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of 25 their own choosing’”; “[o]nce a union is chosen by a majority of the employees in a bargaining 26 unit, the union’s bargaining power is ‘exclusive.’” Id. at 599 (citations omitted). The flip side of 27 this exclusive bargaining authority is that the union has “a correlative duty inseparable from the 28 power of representation to represent fairly the interests of all bargaining-unit members during the 4 1 negotiation, administration, and enforcement of collective-bargaining agreements.” Id. at 600 2 (quotations and citations omitted; emphasis in original). This is the union’s duty of fair 3 representation (DFR), and the “Supreme Court has . . . held that employees have a ‘judicially 4 implied’ cause of action under the RLA against their union for breaching its duty of fair 5 representation.” Id. (quoting Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers v. Foust, 442 U.S. 42, 47 (1979)). “The 6 duty of fair representation extends to a union’s conduct in negotiating collective bargaining 7 agreements as well as in pursuing grievances on behalf of individual employees,” and a union 8 “breaches its duty when its conduct is ‘arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith.’” Bautista, 828 9 F.2d at 549 (citations omitted). United States District Court Northern District of California 10 In a “hybrid” suit brought against an employee’s employer and union, Kelly v. Burlington 11 Northern Railroad Co., 896 F.2d 1194, 1195 (9th Cir. 1990), the employee’s claims against the 12 employer and the union are “inextricably interdependent.” DelCostello v. Int’l Brotherhood of 13 Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 164 (1983). To the extent the breach of CBA claim is not “inextricably 14 interdependent” with the DFR claim, the Court would lack jurisdiction to hear it. See Debeikes v. 15 Hawaiian Airlines, Inc., No. 13-00504 ACK-RLP, 2015 WL 12781641, at *8 n.15 (D. Haw. Feb. 16 17, 2015), aff’d, 725 F. App’x. 499 (9th Cir. 2018) (unpublished). Hybrid suits brought under the 17 RLA are subject to a six-month limitations period, Kelly, 896 F.2d at 1197, and in such a case, the 18 Court “must first examine the claim against the union.” Bautista, 828 F.2d at 551-52. 19 Plaintiffs have alleged that the union breached its duty of fair representation both at the 20 negotiating table and in its handling of member grievances. See Bautista, 828 F.2d at 549. But it 21 is clear that both types of allegations are time-barred under the applicable 6-month statute of 22 limitations. Kelly, 896 F.2d at 1197. For the union’s alleged failure to safeguard its members’ 23 rights under LOA 05-03M, plaintiffs clearly state that they “learned of the abandonment of LOA 24 05-03M when a joint agreement proposal was revealed in August 2016.” Dkt. No. 103 at 2. For 25 plaintiffs’ grievance-related DFR claims, the Court previously found that plaintiffs’ allegations in 26 this regard “do not plausibly state a DFR claim.” Dkt. No. 73 at 5-6. That conclusion still holds, 27 and those claims are also time-barred, as plaintiffs acknowledge that “[t]he earliest plaintiffs 28 learned of the [grievance-related] fiduciary [sic] breaches was March 31, 2017, through the 5 1 Gleason memo.” Dkt. No. 103 at 3. Plaintiffs did not file this suit until October 31, 2018. Dkt. 2 No. 1. That is well past the six-month mark after August 2016 (for the alleged breach of DFR at 3 the bargaining table) as well as March 2017 (for the alleged breach of DFR in the handling of 4 member grievances). Although plaintiffs mention the longer “ERISA limitations period,” Dkt. 5 No. 103 at 3, our circuit held clearly in Kelly, 896 F.2d at 1197, that “the six-month limitations 6 period in § 10(b) [of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 160(b)] . . . also governs 7 hybrid suits brought under the RLA.” Plaintiffs’ other timeliness arguments, Dkt. No. 103 at 3-5, 8 are without merit, and point to the conclusion that plaintiffs’ DFR claims are time-barred, in 9 addition to the grievance-related DFR claim lacking merit for the reasons previously discussed, 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Dkt. No. 73 at 5-6. Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim against United is dismissed for multiple reasons. A 12 good argument can be made that the dismissal of the DFR claim against the union in itself 13 warrants dismissal of the contract claim against United. In Bautista, 828 F.2d at 551-52, the 14 circuit held that in hybrid suits like this one, if the “employee does not have a triable claim against 15 the union, then all that is left is his claim against the employer,” and “[i]n that event, Glover does 16 not apply and the RLA requires that the claim be heard before the Adjustment Board.” Additional 17 reasons support dismissal. To the extent plaintiffs suggest United “colluded” with the union in its 18 breach of the duty of fair representation, see Dkt. No. 102 at 6, such a claim is not cognizable. See 19 Beckington, 926 F.3d at 604 (“Nothing in the RLA’s text or framework supports an expansion of 20 that [DFR] doctrine to impose liability on an employer solely for its ‘collusion’ in a union’s 21 breach of duty.”). For plaintiffs’ claims that United independently engaged in breaches of “the 22 operative collective bargaining agreement,” SAC ¶ 454, the Court previously found that these 23 claims “seek ‘purely to vindicate a right or duty created by the CBA itself’ and . . . ‘require 24 construing the collective bargaining agreement,’” and are consequently “preempted by the 25 Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. §§ 151 et seq.” Dkt. No. 73 at 6-7 (citing Alaska Airlines 26 Inc. v. Schurke, 898 F.3d 904, 920-21 (9th Cir. 2018)). That conclusion holds. Plaintiffs’ SAC 27 continues to lack plausible, non-conclusory allegations that plaintiffs’ “employer and their union 28 ‘acted in concert to discriminate against them, such that arbitration before a panel of employer and 6 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 union representatives would be absolutely futile.’” Dkt. No. 73 at 6 (quoting Beckington, 926 2 F.3d at 606-07). 3 B. 4 Plaintiffs’ third cause of action alleges that RLA § 184 “imposes a duty to not only create Count III: Violation of Statutory Due Process (RLA § 184) 5 the specialized boards of adjustment but also a duty to permit access and a role in the grievance 6 process for all parties, including represented employees.” SAC ¶ 514. 7 Count III is dismissed. To the extent plaintiffs are again challenging the union’s failure to 8 support plaintiffs’ grievances, that is a repeat of their DFR claim, and it fails for the same reasons 9 discussed above. See Dkt. No. 103 at 10-11 (responding to defendants’ arguments by saying, 10 “[t]his would amount to a breach of the duty of fair representation,” and “this is [breach] of [the 11 union’s] duty of fair representation”) (quotations omitted). 12 In addition, in the absence of controlling authority that is on point, the Court declines 13 plaintiffs’ request to “imply a private right of action” against the union and United to enforce 14 plaintiffs’ alleged right under RLA § 184 to proceed to arbitration over the union’s objections. 15 See Dkt. No. 103 at 10; Dkt. No. 102 at 8. 16 C. Count IV: Violation of Fiduciary Duty (LMRDA § 501) 17 This claim is alleged against individual union officers Hoffa, Finn, Griswold, Stripling, 18 and Miranda for breach of fiduciary duty under LMRDA § 501, 29 U.S.C. § 501. SAC ¶¶ 523-24. 19 For this claim, plaintiffs essentially re-allege the union’s alleged failures to honor its DFR, and 20 attempt to hang liability for these failures on the individual union officers. See, e.g., id. ¶ 528 21 (individual union officer defendants breached their fiduciary duties “[b]y failing to take steps to 22 put an end to the self-dealing involved over healthcare benefits and pension participation, [and] by 23 the continued disregard for the rank and file[’]s rights and best interests”); ¶ 529 (individual union 24 officer defendants “unreasonably fail[ed] to enforce all agreements entered into between the 25 employer and their members”); ¶ 536 (“Hoffa and the principal officer defendants permitted 26 United to strip plaintiffs of their rights under LOA 05-03M”). But it is settled law that union 27 officers cannot be held personally liable for union actions, and “[w]here the union has inflicted the 28 injury it alone must pay.” Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining Co., 370 U.S. 238, 249 (1962); see also 7 1 Peterson v. Kennedy, 771 F.2d 1244, 1257 (9th Cir. 1985) (noting with approval other courts that 2 “have read Atkinson to prohibit claims, both state and federal, tort and otherwise, against 3 individuals who are employees of or acting as agents or representatives of their unions”). United States District Court Northern District of California 4 The Court previously dismissed the claims against defendant Hoffa because they were too 5 vague to pass muster under Rule 8 and Rule 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 73 at 7. Plaintiffs have added 6 allegations that specifically name Hoffa, but they remain deficient. They allege, for example, that 7 “Hoffa allowed the national office to receive things of value from United, including but not 8 limited to payments of $1.5M on June 6, 2020, exactly six months and one day after the 9 ratification of the joint agreement and in light of preventing any additional grievances to be filed 10 regarding bargaining, negotiating, or enforcing of contracts, these payments by United were 11 intended to and directly benefitted the Teamsters and their officials and employees instead of the 12 represented employees/rank and file.” SAC ¶ 533. While allegations like these have a veneer of 13 specificity (by, for example, mentioning the specific date and amount of a payment), the substance 14 of what plaintiffs are trying to allege (that the payment was improper and that Hoffa breached his 15 legal duties by “allow[ing] the national office to receive” it) relies on unwarranted deductions of 16 fact and unreasonable inferences, which the Court need not accept. In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 17 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008). 18 Plaintiffs’ allegations do not allow the Court to “draw the reasonable inference that the 19 [individual union] defendant[s] [are] liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 20 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Count III 21 is dismissed. 22 D. Counts V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, and X: ERISA Claims 23 Counts V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, and X are dismissed. Plaintiffs have again alleged a slew of 24 Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) claims against various defendants. These 25 claims are peripheral at best to plaintiffs’ main case, and the allegations for them underscore that 26 plaintiffs’ real complaint is that they were not enrolled in CARP as of October 1, 2010, see, e.g., 27 SAC ¶ 581, which is the same issue at the heart of plaintiffs’ DFR claim against the union. In any 28 event, the ERISA claims fail for the same reason they were previously dismissed: they ultimately 8 1 turn on CBA interpretations, in which case the RLA-mandated boards are the exclusive system for 2 dispute resolution. Dkt. No. 73 at 7-8 (citing Long v. Flying Tiger Line, Inc. Fixed Pension Plan 3 for Pilots, 994 F.2d 692, 693-94 (9th Cir. 1993)). United States District Court Northern District of California 4 The SAC again expressly alleges that “LOA 05-03M mandated plaintiffs and the class 5 were eligible to be covered by CARP” as of October 1, 2010, ¶ 616, making clear that plaintiffs’ 6 eligibility for enrollment in CARP is a matter of CBA interpretation. Although couched in ERISA 7 terms, each of Counts V through X ultimately take issue with plaintiffs’ failure to be enrolled in 8 CARP as of October 2010. For example, Count V challenges the administrative committee 9 defendants’ “failure to conduct [an] adequate investigation into if plaintiffs and the class should be 10 participants in CARP.” SAC ¶ 555. Count VI asserts that the administrative committee 11 defendants allowed “parties in interest to dictate who would participate in CARP.” Id. ¶ 566. 12 Count VII alleges that United and UAH breached their fiduciary duties under ERISA by 13 “refus[ing] to accept plaintiffs and the class as having met the definition of plan participant under 14 the definitions provided in CARP as of October 1, 2010,” and “by failing to cover plaintiffs and 15 the class on October 1, 2010.” Id. ¶ 581. Count VIII alleges that the “union defendants conspired 16 with the United defendants to violate the latter’s fiduciary duties by preventing the plaintiffs and 17 the class from becoming participants in CARP on or about October 1, 2010.” Id. ¶ 594. Count IX 18 vaguely asserts that United, UAH, and the administrative committee defendants failed to take 19 steps “as were necessary to ensure that participants’ interests were loyally and prudently served.” 20 Id. ¶ 606. And Count X squarely asserts that “ERISA’s coverage requirements were violated 21 because sUA mechanics were improperly excluded from CARP.” Id. ¶ 614. 22 These allegations all rest on plaintiffs’ assertion that they should have been enrolled in 23 CARP as of October 2010, and that is an issue that cannot be determined without looking to the 24 parties’ collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiffs’ argument that their “ERISA claims are 25 independent of the collective bargaining agreement,” Dkt. No. 103 at 14, simply is not accurate. 26 Instead, the claims are deficient for the exact same reasons as the Court noted in its prior motion to 27 dismiss order. Dkt. No. 73 at 7-8. 28 9 CONCLUSION 1 2 3 order, the Court advised plaintiffs that they were “not likely to be given any further opportunities 4 to amend.” Dkt. No. 73 at 8. And although plaintiffs were not permitted to add any new claims or 5 defendants without leave, when plaintiffs requested leave to add defendants and a new claim, the 6 Court granted it over the objection of defendants. Dkt. No. 85. The result was a meandering 7 second amended complaint that largely repeated the shortcomings of the first amended complaint. 8 The Court’s discretion to deny further amendment is particularly broad where, as here, the Court 9 has already granted plaintiff leave to amend. Chodos v. West Publishing Co., Inc., 292 F.3d 992, 10 11 United States District Court Northern District of California The SAC is dismissed. The Court declines to grant further leave to amend. In its last 12 13 14 1003 (9th Cir. 2002). Plaintiffs’ discovery dispute letter, Dkt. No. 137, is terminated as moot. The SAC is dismissed with prejudice, and judgment will be entered for defendants. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: August 1, 2022 15 16 JAMES DONATO United States District Judge 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 10

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