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Cathy Follo and Greg Tarantino v. Laborers International Union of North America

September 15, 2011

CATHY FOLLO AND GREG TARANTINO,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
LABORERS INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA, AFL-CIO, LOCAL UNION 137, LABORERS' INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA, AFL-CIO, EXECUTIVE BOARD, LOCAL UNION 137, LABORERS' INTERNATIONAL : UNION OF NORTH AMERICA, AFL- CIO, AND ROBERT LIGUORI, BUSINESS MANAGER, LOCAL UNION 137, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Dennis M. Cavanaugh

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

DENNIS M. CAVANAUGH, U.S. District Judge

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion to remand this action to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) and for fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). No oral argument was heard pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' motion to remand to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County is granted and Plaintiffs' motion for fees is denied.

FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Cathy Follo and Greg Tarantino ("Plaintiffs") are employed as Pari-Mutuels for New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority ("NJSEA") at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Pl. Mem. Supp. Mot. Remand 2, Aug. 24, 2011, ECF No. 8). Plaintiffs are members of Local Union 137, Laborers' International Union of North America, AFL-CIO, ("Defendant Union 137"), a local chapter of Laborers' International Union of North America ("LiUNA Defendant"), an international labor organization. Id. Defendant Union 137 has been the exclusive bargaining representative of employees at the Meadowlands Racetrack since its opening in 1976. Id.

On or about July 15, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint and proposed Order to Show Cause in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County. This complaint arises out of Defendant Union 137's alleged failure to present a proposed collective bargaining agreement to union membership for an informed vote, thereby denying the members their ratification rights.*fn1 (Pl.'s Complaint 22, Jul. 20, 2011, ECF No. 8-4). Plaintiffs further alleged that such failure breached the local and international constitutions, the Union's duty of fair representation, and the Union's fiduciary duty to its membership as its collective bargaining agent. (Pl. Compl. 24).

In addition, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Union charged excessive or discriminatory fees, constituting a violation of the Union Constitution as well as an Unfair Labor Practice under 29 U.S.C. Sec. 158 and 159. (Pl. Complaint 26).

On July 28, 2011, Plaintiffs and Defendants appeared before the Honorable Maurice Gallipoli in New Jersey Superior Court regarding Plaintiffs' request for temporary restraints associated with their complaint. (Pl.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Remand 7, Aug. 24, 2011, ECF No. 8). Following the hearing, Judge Gallipoli granted an Order to Show Cause with Interim Restraints, temporarily restraining and enjoining Defendant Union 137 from acting on any proposed contract pending the return date of the Order, set for August 31, 2011. Id.

On August 2, 2011, Defendant LiUNA filed a timely Notice of Removal of the instant case from the Superior Court to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. (Def.'s Notice Removal, Aug. 2, 2011, ECF No. 1). As the specified grounds for removal, Defendant provided "29 U.S.C. § 185 - Violation of Collective Bargaining Agreement." Id. On August 8, 2011, Honorable Faith Hochberg of the United States District Court of New Jersey issued a Standing Order Requiring Submission of Information Regarding Removal. (Order, Aug. 8, 2011, ECF No. 3). Defendant thereafter filed a Motion for Dissolution of Injunctive Relief. (Defs.' Mot. Dissolution, Aug. 24, 2011, ECF No. 7) On the same day, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand the case to State Court. (Pls.' Mot. Remand, Aug. 24, 2011, ECF No. 8). These motions now come before this court on an Order to Reassign. (Ord. Reassign., Aug. 26, 2011, ECF No. 12).

Defendants assert that removal is proper on the grounds of federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1331. ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, law or treaties of the United States."). Defendants provide two separate grounds for removal. First, Defendants allege that Plaintiffs' claims of breach of the Union Constitutions are cognizable under Section 301, and are thereby completely pre-empted by Section 301. (Heineman Letter Setting Forth Defs.' Position on Mot. Remand 8, Aug. 25, 2011, ECF No. 13). Second, Defendants assert that Plaintiffs' allegations of breach of fiduciary duty and breach of duty of fair representation arise from Defendant's status as exclusive representative of the employees under the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"), and therefore arise under federal law. Id. at 4.

Plaintiffs argue that removal was improper because the claims have not been completely pre-empted by Federal law, nor do they independently raise questions of federal law. (Pls.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Remand 14, Aug. 24, 2011, ECF No. 8) Plaintiffs maintain that this case should be remanded as Defendants have failed to fulfill their heavy burden in demonstrating that removal was proper. Id.

Upon consideration, this court finds that removal was improper and hereby remands this case to the Superior Court of New ...


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