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Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen International Union Local 33 Benefit Funds v. America's Marble Source Inc.

argued: August 6, 1991.

BRICKLAYERS AND ALLIED CRAFTSMEN INTERNATIONAL UNION LOCAL 33 BENEFIT FUNDS, APPELLANT
v.
AMERICA'S MARBLE SOURCE, INC., D/B/A AMERIMAR; COASTAL MANAGEMENT COMPANY, INC.; BALLY'S HOTEL AND CASINO, APPELLEES



ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY; D.C. CIVIL NO. 90-01890.

Before: Mansmann and Alito, Circuit Judges and Diamond, District Judge*fn*

Author: Alito

Opinion OF THE COURT

ALITO, Circuit Judge :

The Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen International Union Local 33 Benefit Funds ("Benefit Funds") appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissing their complaint, which asserted claims under the New Jersey Construction Workers' Fringe Benefit Security Act (the "Fringe Benefit Act"), N.J. STAT. ANN.

§ 34:11A-1 - 34:11A-12. The district court held that the Fringe Benefit Act was preempted by Section 514(a) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1144(a). Because we agree that the Fringe Benefit Act is preempted by ERISA, we will affirm.

I.

The Benefit Funds are three jointly administered, multi-employer, employee benefit trusts and plans established to provide benefits to employees of employers who have entered into collective bargaining agreements with Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen International Union Local 33. A Board of Trustees representing both the employers and Local 33 administers the Benefit Funds in accordance with ERISA.

Pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, members of Local 33 were employed by America's Marble Source, Inc. ("Amerimar") to help construct a hotel tower at Bally's Hotel and Casino ("Bally's") in Atlantic City. Amerimar was a subcontractor on the project. The construction of the tower was overseen by the prime contractor, Coastal Management Company, Inc. ("Coastal"). The plaintiff alleges that the collective bargaining agreement between Amerimar and Local 33 required Amerimar to contribute to the Benefit Funds and that Amerimar failed to make these contributions. The Benefit Funds claim that the delinquent contributions total $29,147.00.

To recover the contributions, the Benefit Funds filed suit against Amerimar, Bally's, and Coastal in the Superior Court of New Jersey. The complaint relied on the Fringe Benefit Act,*fn1 which provides that upon notice from a fringe benefit fund that a contractor or subcontractor is delinquent in fund contributions required by a collective bargaining agreement, the owner of the construction project or the prime contractor on the project must withhold monies owing to the allegedly delinquent party and pay them to the fund. N.J. STAT. ANN. § 34:11A-5(a). If the allegedly delinquent party does not submit a timely notice contesting liability, the manager or prime contractor must make payment to the fund even though no judgment against the allegedly delinquent party has been entered. Id. at § 34:11A-5(d). If the allegedly delinquent party contests liability, however, the owner or prime contractor must await judgment or the consent of the parties before making payment. Id. The complaint alleged that Bally's and Coastal had been advised of Amerimar's delinquencies but had failed to remit the required contributions.

Bally's and Coastal removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and moved to dismiss the complaint, alleging that the Fringe Benefit Act was preempted by ERISA § 514(a). The district court granted the motion and dismissed the complaint.*fn2 This appeal followed.

II.

A. "ERISA is a comprehensive statute designed to promote the interests of employees and their beneficiaries in employee benefit plans. . . . The statute imposes participation, funding, and vesting requirements on pension plans. . . . It also sets various uniform standards, including rules concerning reporting, disclosure, and fiduciary responsibility, for both pension and welfare plans." Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, 463 U.S. 85, 90-91 (1983) (citations omitted).

ERISA provides a cause of action and remedies for an employer's failure to fulfill its obligations to make pension or welfare fund contributions pursuant to a plan or collective bargaining agreement. ERISA § 502(a)(3), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3), has always authorized civil suits to enforce the terms of a plan,*fn3 and suits to enforce terms requiring the payment of contributions have been brought under this provision. See, e.g., Bugher v. Feightner, 722 F.2d 1356 (7th Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 822 (1984). In 1980, Congress added ERISA § 515, 29 U.S.C. § 1145, which provides that "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 ...


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