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Steamfitters Local Union No. 602 v. Aleut Facilities Support Services, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

July 6, 2016

Steamfitters Local Union No, 602 of the United Association of Journeymen, and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States & Canada, AFL-CIO, Plaintiff,
v.
Aleut Facilities Support Services, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Liam O'Grady United Slates District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff Steamfitters Local Union No. 602 ("Local 602" or "the Union"). Dkt. No. 17. Defendant Aleut Facilities Support Services, LLC ("Aleut") terminated one of the Union's members, Stuart Bonham. Local 602 alleges that it went through the proper grievance procedures set out in the collective bargaining agreement it had entered into with Aleut. Ultimately, a Grievance Committee voted to reinstate Mr. Bonham and awarded him lost wages. Aleut has refused to honor the Grievance Committee's decision and Local 602 now seeks to enforce the decision in this action. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds good cause to GRANT the Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. Background

         A. The Collective Bargaining Agreement and Grievance Procedure

         On December 13, 2013, Aleut and Local 602 entered into a collective bargaining agreement (the "Agreement"). Pursuant to this Agreement, Aleut recognized Local 602 as the sole and exclusive collective bargaining agent for all full-time and part-time employees employed by Aleut to perform maintenance; repairs, and alterations to facilities at the Ft. Belvoir Military Base in Fairfax County, Virginia. Article 13 of the Agreement contains a four step Grievance Procedure the parties must follow in the case of "any dispute between an employee or the Union and [Aleut], over the application or interpretation of any provision of the agreement."

         At Step 1, an employee, or a designated Union representative, can present a grievance to the employee's immediate supervisor within four workdays after the event giving rise to the grievance took place. The immediate supervisor then has four days to respond orally to the employee or Union representative. If the grievance is not settled, the employee may proceed to Step 2.

         At Step 2, the employee or Union representative must submit a complaint in writing to the Project Manager within three workdays of receiving the Step 1 response from the immediate supervisor. The Project Manager then has five workdays to respond in writing. If the employee is unhappy with the Project Manager's response, he may appeal to Step 3 within five workdays of receiving the response. At Step 3, the complaint is appealed to the Vice President of Programs. The Vice President must render a decision on the appeal within ten workdays.

         At Step 4, the Union can appeal the Vice President's decision to a Grievance Committee. To do so, within ten workdays from receiving the Vice President's decision, the Union must inform the Project Manager of the appeal in writing and include the names of two individuals that the Union appoints to be members of the Grievance Committee. Within three workdays, the Project Manager must notify the Union in writing of the two individuals Aleut is appointing to the Grievance Committee. The four appointed members must meet within five workdays and select a fifth impartial Grievance Committee member. The Grievance Committee must then meet and render a decision on the dispute within ten days. If the four appointed members cannot agree on a fifth impartial member then the dispute is subject to arbitration.

         Article 14 of the Agreement outlines specific arbitration procedures, including when a party may seek arbitration. Article 14 provides:

Any grievance which has not been settled pursuant to steps 1 or 2 of the Grievance Procedure, and which involves the interpretation or application of this Agreement, may be referred to arbitration by written notice from the grieving party to the other within ten calendar (10) days after the Step 2 decision or ten (10) calendar days after the Step 2 decision was due. If the grieving party fails to submit a written notice to the other party demanding arbitration within either ten (10) calendar days after the other party has rendered its Step 2 decision or ten (10) days after the Step 2 decision was due, such grievance, and the position taken by the grieving party, shall be deemed to have been waived.

         B. Termination of Stuart Bonham and Resulting Grievance Procedures

         On June 25, 2015, Aleut terminated Stuart Bonham. On July 1, 2015, Bonham initiated a grievance, claiming that Aleut did not have just cause to terminate him. The parties then proceeded through the grievance procedure set forth in Article 13, with the parties agreeing to consolidate Steps 2 and 3. On July 8, 2015, Aleut denied the Union's grievance at Step 3. The Union then appealed to Step 4 by letter dated July 20, 2015. The Union identified Chris Madello and Bruce Best as its representatives to serve on the Grievance Committee. By email on July 23, 2016, Aleut identified Damian Guerin and Ken Nachbar as its representative to serve on the Grievance Committee.

         Shortly thereafter, the Grievance Committee selected Shelton Evans as the fifth impartial member of the Grievance Committee and all of the parties signed a consulting agreement with Mr. Evans. On September 1, 2015, the Grievance Committee met to consider Mr. Bonham's termination. At some point just before this meeting began, Aleut's representatives refused to participate and left. Aleut says that its representatives refused to participate because they disagreed with Local 602 about whether the decision of the Grievance Committee was final and binding on the parties and whether the decision could be submitted to arbitration if the Committee could not reach a joint and unanimous decision. Before leaving, the Aleut representatives rescinded the consulting agreement with Mr. Evans. Thereafter, the Grievance Committee, with only the two Union representatives and Mr. Evans participating, ruled to reinstate Mr. Bonham and awarded him lost wages.

         On September 18, 2015, Aleut notified Local 602 that it would not recognize the Grievance Committee's decision. Aleut has continually refused to reinstate Mr. Bonham or to give him the awarded lost wages. Consequently, Local 602 filed this action on December ...


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