Summit Sheet Metal, LLC v. Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, Local Union No. 44
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry)Signed by Honorable A. Richard Caputo on 8/26/13. (jam)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
SUMMIT SHEET METAL, LLC,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:CV-13-1623
SHEET METAL WORKERS’
LOCAL UNION NO. 44,
Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Summit Sheet Metal, LLC’s (“Summit”) Motion
to Remand this Action to State Court. (Doc. 4.) Because § 301 of the Labor Management
Relations Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 185(a), provides subject matter jurisdiction over this
action, Summit’s motion to remand will be denied.
As alleged in its Complaint, Summit and Defendant Sheet Metal Workers’
International Association, Local Union No. 44 (“Local 44") are parties to a collective
bargaining agreement (the “CBA”). (Doc. 1, Ex. A, ¶ 3.) Summit claims that the CBA
expired on April 30, 2013. (Id. at ¶ 9.) Under the terms of the CBA, Summit alleges that if
it did not intend to renew the letter of assent to the agreement, it was required to notify
Local 44 in writing at least thirty (30) days prior to the termination date. (Id. at ¶ 4.) Summit
provided such written notification to Local 44. (Id. at ¶ 5.) Local 44, however, responded
that it had no intention of terminating the CBA. (Id. at ¶ 6.)
As a result, on or about April 30, 2013, Summit filed a Complaint for Declaratory
Judgment in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Among other
relief, Summit seeks “declaratory relief, enforcing the terms of the collective bargaining
agreement and permitting the Plaintiff not to renew the collective bargaining agreement.”
On June 17, 2013, Local 44 removed the action to this Court. (Doc. 1.) Local 44
contends that federal subject matter jurisdiction over this action exists pursuant to § 301(a)
of the LMRA because Summit seeks a judgment interpreting the rights of the parties under
a collective bargaining agreement. (Id. at ¶ 5.)
On July 16, 2013, Summit filed the instant motion to remand the action to the Court
of Common Pleas of Luzerne County. (Doc. 4.) Local 44 filed a brief in opposition on July
23, 2013 (Doc. 7), and Summit filed a reply brief in further support of its motion on August
1, 2013. (Doc. 8.) Thus, the motion to remand is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.
28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) requires an action to be remanded if “it appears that the district
court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.” On a motion to remand, the removing party bears
the burden of establishing the propriety of removal. See Boyer v. Snap-On Tools Corp., 913
F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 1085, 111 S. Ct. 959, 112 L. Ed. 2d
1046 (1991). Furthermore, “removal statutes are to be strictly construed against removal
and all doubts resolved in favor of remand.” Id. In determining whether remand based on
improper removal is appropriate, the Court “must focus on the plaintiff's complaint at the
time the petition for removal was filed,” and assume all factual allegations therein are true.
Steel Valley Auth. v. Union Switch & Signal Div. Am. Standard, Inc., 809 F.2d 1006, 1010
(3d Cir. 1987)
Summit argues that remand is necessitated in this case because the action does not
present federal questions or issues of federal law and does not involve diversity of
citizenship. In opposition, however, Local 44 insists that federal subject matter jurisdiction
exists pursuant to Section 301(a) of the LMRA.
Section 301(a) provides:
Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization
representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this
chapter, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any
district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without
respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the
29 U.S.C. § 185(a). The United States Supreme Court has stated that “[b]y its terms, this
provision confers federal subject matter jurisdiction only over ‘[s]uits for violation of
contracts.’” Textron Lycoming Reciprocating Engine Div. v. United Auto. Workers, 523 653,
656, 118 S. Ct. 1626, 140 L. Ed. 2d 863 (1998) (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 185(a)). “‘Suits for
violation of contracts’ under § 301(a) are not suits that claim a contract is invalid, but suits
that claim a contract has been violated.” Id. at 657, 118 S. Ct. 1626. Thus, the Court
emphasized that § 301(a) refers to suits “filed because a contract has been violated.” Id.
(emphasis in original).
“Section 301 governs claims founded directly on rights created by collectivebargaining agreements, and also claims ‘substantially dependent on analysis of a collectivebargaining agreement.’” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 394, 107 S. Ct. 2425, 96
L. Ed. 2d 318 (1987) (quoting Electrical Workers v. Hechler, 481 U.S. 851, 859, n.3, 107 S.
Ct. 2161, 95 L. Ed. 2d 791 (1987)). As a result, if § 301 applies to a claim in the complaint,
removal is proper. Briones v. Bon Secours Health Sys., 69 F. App’x 530, 534 (3d Cir. 2003)
(court must look at the well-pleaded complaint and determine whether the plaintiff pleads
an action that requires the interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement); see, e.g.,
Tomalski v. Armstrong World Indus., Inc., No. 12-cv-140, 2012 WL 1018845, at *1-2 (W.D.
Pa. Mar. 26, 2012) (removal proper pursuant to § 301); Caserta Corp. v. Int’l Union of
Painters & Allied Trades, Local 57, No. 09-539, 2009 WL 1783526, at *3 (W.D. Pa. June
23, 2009) (same).
Here, Summit’s Complaint for Declaratory Judgment filed in state court requests
court interpretation of the CBA. As stated in the Complaint for Declaratory Judgment:
This Court has the authority to interpret the terms of the agreement and to
require the Defendant to honor the [sic] its terms, thereby permitting the
Plaintiff to a [sic] refuse the renewal of the collective bargaining agreement
between the parties.
(Doc. 1, Ex. A, ¶ 11 (emphasis added).) Based on its well-pleaded allegations, Summit
claims that it terminated the CBA and requests that it not be required to renew the CBA.
Resolving whether the CBA was properly terminated and whether Summit was obligated
to renew the agreement requires analysis and interpretation of the CBA. See Caserta Corp.,
2009 WL 1783526, at *3 (“To ascertain if the plaintiff's termination of the CBA was proper,
a Court would have to analyze the CBA.”). Furthermore, Summit was accused in this case
of violating the CBA by attempting to terminate the agreement, which Local 44 contends
was in contravention of Articles XV and X of the CBA. By seeking declaratory relief from
this alleged violation, this is a suit “for violation of contracts” within the meaning of § 301.
See J.W. Peters, Inc. v. Bridge, Structural & Reinforcing Iron Workers, Local Union 1, 398
F.3d 967, 973 (7th Cir. 2005) (finding the plaintiff’s request for declaratory relief to be a suit
“for violation of contracts” in a case where the plaintiff was accused of violating the terms
of the collective bargaining agreement by attempting to terminate the parties’ relationship
without providing proper notice). Thus, Local 44 properly removed the action to this Court
pursuant to § 301 of the LMRA.
For the above stated reasons, Summit’s motion to remand will be denied.
An appropriate order follows.
August 26, 2013
/s/ A. Richard Caputo
A. Richard Caputo
United States District Judge
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