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Teamsters-Employers Local 945 v. Waste Management of New Jersey

June 2, 2011

TEAMSTERS-EMPLOYERS LOCAL 945
PENSION FUND, AND
TRUSTEES OF TEAMSTERS-EMPLOYERS LOCAL 945 PENSION FUND, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
WASTE MANAGEMENT OF NEW JERSEY, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Faith S.Hochberg

NOT FOR PUBLICATION CLOSED

OPINION & ORDER

HOCHBERG, District Judge:

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78.

BACKGROUND*fn1

Plaintiff Teamsters-Employers Local 945 Pension Fund (the "Fund") is a Taft-Hartley trust fund established and maintained pursuant to the Labor Management Relations Act. The Fund provides retirement and related benefits to eligible participants and beneficiaries. The Plaintiff Trustees of the Fund are equally selected by Teamsters Local Union No. 945 and contributing employers.

According to the Complaint, Defendant Waste Management of New Jersey, Inc. entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the Union which was effective from July 1, 2004 through June 30, 2009 (the "2004 CBA"). Under the 2004 CBA, Waste Management was required to contribute to the Fund on behalf of some of its employees.

The Fund has determined that Waste Management incurred partial withdrawal liability in the principal amount of $26,637,834.

On June 2, 2010, Waste Management received a notice of this liability and a demand for payment issued by the Fund. On July 30, 2010, Waste Management submitted a request for review of the partial withdrawal liability pursuant to Section 4219(b)(2)(A) of ERISA. The Fund responded on November 24, 2010.

Under Section 4221(a)(1) of ERISA, either the employer or the plan sponsor may initiate arbitration within a period of 60 days following the earlier of the date of notification to the employer of the plan sponsor's response to the review request or 120 days after the date of the employer's request for review.

On November 29, 2010, Waste Management sent a letter to the Fund seeking to initiate arbitration pursuant to the regulations promulgated by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (the "PBGC"). On December 8, 2010, counsel for the Fund suggested that the parties agree to "conduct an arbitration between them over the Partial Withdrawal Liability in accordance with the [American Arbitration Association] Rules."*fn2 Counsel for Waste Management accepted this suggestion in an e-mail dated December 10, 2010.

On December 14, 2010, Waste Management -- in an e-mail sent to Claire Connelly, an Assistant Supervisor at the AAA -- filed a demand for arbitration with the AAA. In an e-mail dated December 17, 2010, Connelly advised Waste Management that the administrative fee for the arbitration would be $8,250. Connelly's e-mail further advised that "'the administrative fee of the AAA is based upon the amount in dispute as disclosed when the claim is filed and is due and payable at that time. Accordingly, upon receipt of payment for the filing fee, the AAA will proceed with administration of this matter.'"*fn3

The Complaint alleges that the AAA received the required fee from Waste Management on February 3, 2011. Plaintiffs contend that this payment occurred eleven days after the deadline for initiating arbitration under Section 422(a)(1) of ERISA.

On the basis of this allegedly late initiation of arbitration, Plaintiffs assert claims under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 ...


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