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Bullock v. Dressel

August 21, 2007

JAMES C. BULLOCK, JAMES UMBENHAUR, CHARLES VOORHIES AND RICKEY WARD, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RICHARD DRESSEL, AND INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, LOCAL UNION 164, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis M. Cavanaugh, U.S.D.J.

Hon. Dennis M. Cavanaugh

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court upon motion by Richard Dressel, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ("IBEW") and Local Union 164 ("Local 164"), (collectively, "Defendants") for partial summary judgment and dismissal of supplemental state law claims of the Complaint filed by James Bullock, James Umbenhaur, Charles Voorhies and Rickey Ward (collectively "Plaintiffs"). No oral argument was heard pursuant to Rule 78 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. After carefully considering the submissions of the parties, and based upon the following, it is the finding of this Court that Defendants' motion for partial summary judgmentis denied.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On January 24, 2005, this Court granted Defendants' original motion for summary judgment as to all five causes of action in Plaintiff's Complaint. Count One alleges a violation of Section 101(a)(5) based upon Defendants' alleged refusal to refer Plaintiffs to jobs; Count Two alleges that Defendants' alleged refusal to refer Plaintiffs to jobs was discriminatory and constitutes a breach of the duty of fair representation, and; Counts Three, Four and Five allege claims of defamation.

Plaintiffs appealed this Court's decision to the Third Circuit. On appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed this Court's dismissal of Count One of Plaintiff's Complaint and reversed this Court's statute of limitations dismissal of Count Two of Plaintiff's Complaint. Counts Three Four and Five are likewise reinstated because this Court now has original jurisdiction over the claim in Count Two and supplemental jurisdiction over the state defamation claims of Counts Three, Four and Five.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs belong to the IBEW and work as traveling electricians. Traveling electricians commonly leave the geographical jurisdiction of their local IBEW unions in search of work in geographical areas operated by other IBEW unions. In 2001, Plaintiffs arrived in the jurisdiction of the Local Union, which has its offices in Paramus, New Jersey. Local 164 was a party to a collective bargaining agreement between the Hudson/Bergen/Essex Division of the Northern New Jersey Chapter, Inc., of the National Electrical Contractors Association. The collective bargaining agreement was effective from December 27, 1999, through May 31, 2003.

Local 164 maintains what is known as a "hiring hall" for electricians. Traveling electricians are required to seek employment through local IBEW hiring halls. It is common for members of a local union to seek work through IBEW local union hiring halls in jurisdictions where work is plentiful. The Local 164 hiring hall offers jobs to applicants for employment as they become available. The order by which jobs are offered is determined as set forth in the collective bargaining agreement. The first jobs are offered to "Group I" applicants which is limited to those electricians residing in the geographical jurisdiction of Local 164. Next, jobs are offered to Group II applicants which is made up of electricians residing outside the jurisdiction of Local 164 and includes traveling electricians like Plaintiffs. Jobs are next offered to Group III applicants who are usually less experienced electricians residing in the geographic jurisdiction of Local 164. Finally, jobs are offered to Group IV applicants which consists of the least experienced electricians. Applicants must be physically present in the hiring hall to receive a job offer.

Through Local 164's hiring hall, Plaintiffs obtained employment with Guzzo Electric and were dispatched to a job at Newark Liberty Airport in March, 2001. On June 5, 2001, Plaintiffs and approximately thirty other traveling electricians signed a letter (the "Rossa letter") addressed to Lawrence Rossa, an IBEW Vice President. The Rossa letter complained about late benefit payments and late payment of total pay on payday. (Giblin Cert., Exh. G).

Rossa forwarded a copy of the letter to Richard Dressel, the business manager of Local 164 responsible for the daily operation of the union. In response to the Rossa letter, Dressel sent a letter dated June 7, 2001 (the "Dressel letter") to the business managers of the local unions where the travelers who had signed the Rossa letter were members. Dressel wrote the following: the []actions [of these travelers] have now forced me to suspend the referral of ALL traveling Brothers of the IBEW for at least a one month period. It is unfortunate that other travelers will have to be [a]ffected by this. It is also unfortunate that several projects will go under-manned. I will not allow this situation to get out of hand whereby a few trouble makers are attempting to have the 'tail wag the dog'. Once the referral of travelers resume, they will also not be able to select their own jobs. See what happens when you try to be a nice guy? They will get referred to where I need them, and that's it.

Please do me a favor. Keep your problem members at home and deal with them. These 'Brothers' are not welcome here.

(Giblin Cert., Exh.H)

Defendants claim that referrals for traveling electricians were never suspended because Dressel never acted on his threat to do so. Plaintiffs dispute that assertion and say that the very small number of Group II traveler referrals from June 7, 2001 until approximately one month later ...


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