The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jerome B. Simandle
This case arises out of a vote on a two year extension of a Collective Bargaining Agreement governing the relationship between Heinz North American Pennsauken ("Heinz") and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local Number 56 ("Local 56" or "Union"). Plaintiff Alfonso Green Wiggins alleges that the Defendants -- his union and his employer -- violated his rights under Sections 101(a)(1), 101(a)(2) and 501 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 411(a)(1), 411(a)(2) and 501. The matter is before the Court upon the motions for summary judgment by Defendant Local #56 and Defendants Heinz North America and William H. McNeece, plant manager.*fn1 Plaintiff's Complaint suffers from procedural and substantive defects and, therefore, the Court will grant the summary judgment motions.
The facts giving rise to this action are largely undisputed. Heinz and Local 56 entered into a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") on October 27, 1999 for a five-year period beginning on September 12, 1999. On or about December 20, 2001, the Union held a meeting to discuss a two year extension to the CBA. Notice of the meeting, posted at several locations at the Heinz plant, invited "All Local 56 Members" to attend. (Def. Ex. C.) The notice advised that a "meeting" would be held on December 20, 2001, at 9:00 A.M., "to discuss the plant reorganization." (Id.) At the meeting, union members were asked to vote, by a show of hands, whether they were in favor of the proposed extension. A majority of those present voted in favor of the proposal, and the CBA extension was approved.
Plaintiff did not attend the meeting and, thus, did not vote on the proposal. Plaintiff admits that he was never physically denied access to the plant at the time the meeting was held, but maintains that he never received adequate notice. He(Pl. Dep. Tr. 16:10-17.) Without filing an internal grievance, as required by the Union bylaws, Plaintiff filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board on May 17, 2002, alleging violations of Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act and Title I, Section 101(a)(1). (Def. Exs. E, F.) The NLRB issued a decision on July 25, 2002 denying Plaintiff's charges. (Def. Ex. G.) Plaintiff appealed that decision, and on October 31, 2002, his appeal was denied. (Def. Ex. H.)
Plaintiff filed this action on August 9, 2004, asserting claims under §§ 101(a)(1), 101(a)(2) and 501 of the LMRDA, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief prohibiting Defendants from implementing the two year contract extension and from holding ratification votes at the Heinz plant in the future.*fn2
Defendants subsequently moved for summary judgment.*fn3
II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD OF REVIEW
Summary judgment is appropriate when the materials of record "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."*fn4 Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In deciding whether there is a disputed issue of material fact, the court must view the evidence in favor of the non-moving party by extending any reasonable favorable inference to that party; in other words, "the nonmoving party's evidence 'is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [that party's] favor.'" Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The threshold inquiry is whether there are "any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party."*fn5 Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 250; Brewer v. Quaker State Oil Refining Corp., 72 F.3d 326, 329-30 (3d Cir. 1995) (citation omitted).
A. Sections 101(a)(1) And 101(a)(2)
1. Statute Of Limitations
There is no dispute that the applicable statute of limitations governing Plaintiff's claims under §§ 101(a)(1) and 101(a)(2) of Title I of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 is two years. See Reed v. United Transportation Union, 488 U.S. 319 (1989) (requiring state general or residual personal injury statutes be applied to suits under § 101(a)(2)); George v. Local Union No. 639, 100 F.3d 1008, 1013 (D.C.Cir. 1996) (extending holding in Reed to claims under 101(a)(1)); N.J.S.A. 2A:14-2(a) ("Every action at law for an injury to the person caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of any person within this State shall be commenced within 2 years next after the cause of any such action shall have accrued . . . ."). The disagreement among the parties pertains to when Plaintiff's cause of action accrued for purposes of calculating the limitations period. Plaintiff argues that the period should run from the date that his NLRB appeal was denied, October 31, 2002. Defendants disagree, contending that the period should run from, at the latest, the date Plaintiff filed his charge with the NLRB, May 17, 2002. This Court agrees with Defendants that Plaintiff's Complaint is untimely.
As already noted, it is undisputed that the Union convened plant employees at a meeting on December 20, 2001 to discuss the two-year extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Plaintiff did not attend that meeting. On May 17, 2002, Plaintiff filed a charge with the NLRB asserting a claim arising out of the same facts alleged here. Obviously, then, Plaintiff was aware of the facts giving rise to this cause of action by May 17th at the latest. The present Complaint, however, was filed on August 9, 2004, well over two years after that date. Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims under 101(a)(1) and 101(a)(2) are untimely under the applicable statute of limitations. See Burd v. New Jersey Tel. Co., 149 N.J. Super. 20, 30 (App. Div. 1977) ...