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Re: Teamsters Local 945 Pension Fund v. Omni Waste Services

August 1, 2011

RE: TEAMSTERS LOCAL 945 PENSION FUND
v.
OMNI WASTE SERVICES, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jose L. Linares, United States District Judge

C H AM B ER S O F M A R TIN L U T HE R K IN G JR. JOSE L. LINARES FE D E R A L B U IL D IN G & U.S. C OU R T H O USE JU DG E 50 W A L N U T ST ., R O O M 5054 P.O . B ox 999 Newark, NJ 07101-0999 973-645-6042

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

LETTER OPINION

All Counsel of Record

Dear Counsel:

Plaintiff, Teamsters Local 945 Pension Fund, brings this action pursuant to the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 ("MPPAA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1381, et seq., seeking to collect interim withdrawal liability payments from Omni Waste Services, Inc. pending the outcome of arbitration. Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to compel Defendant to make interim withdrawal liability payments pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §§ 1381, 1399(c)(2). The Court has considered the submissions made in support of and in opposition to the instant motion. No oral argument was heard. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. Based on the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following relevant facts are undisputed. Plaintiff, Teamsters Local 945 Pension Fund (the "Local 945 Fund" or "Fund"), is a multiemployer pension plan within the meaning of Section 3(2) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1002(2). Defendant, Omni Waste Services, Inc., and Teamsters Local 945 (a labor organization which is not a party to this action) are signatories to a series of collective bargaining agreements which set forth the terms and conditions of employment for members of Local 945 employed by Defendant Omni. (Connaughton Cert., Exs. 1-2). The collective bargaining agreements required, inter alia, that Omni remit, on a monthly basis, pension contributions to the Local 945 Pension Fund on behalf of all Local 945 bargaining unit employees performing bargaining unit work at Omni's facility in Paterson, New Jersey from July 2004 through at least June 2009. (Connaughton Cert., Ex. 1 at 13-14; 25).

It is Plaintiff's position that although Defendant was previously obligated to contribute to the Local 945 Pension Fund under the terms of the relevant collective bargaining agreements,*fn1 as of August 2009, Defendant was no longer bound by such collective bargaining agreements and thus ceased to have an obligation to contribute to the Local 945 Pension Fund. By way of letter dated August 30, 2010, counsel for the Local 945 Pension Fund notified Defendant of its determination that Defendant had completely withdrawn from the Local 945 Pension Fund as a result of Omni's permanent cessation of obligation to remit pension contributions to the Fund. (Connaughton Cert., Ex. 3). In the same letter, the Fund advised Defendant of its calculation of Defendant's withdrawal liability ($826,441.00). (Id.). Omni has since refused to make withdrawal liability payments. (Harvey Aff., ¶ 7). On April 4, 2011, the Local 945 Pension Fund filed its Demand for Arbitration with the American Arbitration Association. (Compl., ¶ 17).

It is Omni's position that: (1) Omni has not withdrawn from the industry (but rather has merely reached an "impasse" in its negotiations with Local 945 workers) and therefore no interim payments, pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §§ 1381, 1399(c)(2), should be required, and (2) should the Court determine that interim payments are required, Omni will suffer irreparable damage because it will be forced out of business. (Juchniewicz Aff., ¶ 4); (Def. Opp'n Br. at 4-5).

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff seeks an order compelling Omni to make interim withdrawal liability payments. In conjunction with this application, Plaintiff seeks an award of reasonable attorney's fees and costs, accrued interest, and liquidated damages.

1. Interim Withdrawal Liability

"An employer withdraws from a multiemployer pension plan when the employer either permanently ceases to have an obligation to contribute under the plan or permanently ceases all covered operations under the plan." Galgay v. Beaverbrook Coal Co., 105 F.3d 137, 139 (3d Cir. 1997); 29 U.S.C. § 1383(a). "The employer is liable for its share of the plan's unfunded vested benefits as calculated at the time of withdrawal." Galgay, 105 F.3d at 139; 29 U.S.C. §§ 1381, 1383, 1391. "The plan sponsor has the responsibility of ...


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