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New Jersey Regional Council of Carpenters v. Ag Construction Corp.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 30, 2015

NEW JERSEY REGIONAL COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS; NEW JERSEY CARPENTERS FUNDS AND THE TRUSTEES THEREOF, Plaintiffs,
v.
AG CONSTRUCTION CORP., Defendant.

OPINION

KEVIN McNULTY, District Judge.

AG Construction Corp. contracted with a labor union to have unionized employees perform work on a construction project. The company and the union agreed that AG Construction would make contributions to union funds for various "fringe benefits." The union alleged that AG was delinquent in making these contributions, and commenced an arbitration proceeding. The arbitrator agreed that AG was delinquent, and entered a final award ordering AG to pay its outstanding contributions. The Arbitrator also ordered AG to pay interest, liquidated damages, attorneys' fees, and arbitration fees.

The union petitioned this court to confirm the arbitrator's award. For the most part, I have granted that unopposed motion, but I have modified the award. Because I am unable to determine how the award calculates interest and liquidated damages, I do not confirm that portion of the award. I will, however, entertain a motion to reconsider and amend the judgment within 14 days if there is anything the Union believes I have overlooked.

Background

AG Construction Corp. entered into a contract with a labor union called the New Jersey Regional Council of Carpenters ("Union"). Under the contract, AG would hire members of the Union to perform work on construction projects that AG was completing. (Agrmt., 1).[1] As part of the agreement, AG was required to make contributions to various union funds for "fringe benefits" (e.g., the Pension Fund, the Health Fund, the Annuity Fund, the Vacation Fund, and the Training and Educational Fund). (Agrmt., 1; CBA § XXXI, ¶ 4). The Union initiated an audit of the employer's records, and allegedly discovered that AG had not made some of the required contributions. (Award, 2).

The Union inititated an arbitration proceeding to recover the delinquent contributions. (Award, 2-3). The proceedings were conducted by Mr. J.J. Pierson, Esq., whom the CBA specifies as the "Permanent Arbitrator" to adjudicate disputes resolving from the CBA. (CBA, § XXVI). AG did not appear or otherwise defend itself in the arbitration. (Award, 1). The Arbitrator concluded that AG Construction Corp was delinquent on its contributions in two categories: "for the audit period January 2010 and June 30, 2013 in the amount of $306, 746.22, " and for "the payroll periods of December 30, 2013 through February 22, 2014 in the amount of $54, 903.63." (Award, 3). The "audit period January 2010 and June 30, 2013" perhaps refers to a date range, although this is not specified.

In addition to allowing the Union to recover delinquent contributions, the CBA allows the Union to recover interest, attorneys' fees, and costs. (CBA § XXVI, ¶ 2). Presumably pursuant to these provisions, the Arbitrator awarded some $188, 057.92 in interest, liquidated damages of $72, 330.00, attorneys' fees of $90, 412.50, and arbitration costs of $750.00. (Award, 3-4). In total, the arbitrator awarded the Union some $713, 200.27.

The union has petitioned this Court to confirm the Arbitrator's award. AG has not opposed the petition or otherwise appeared before this Court.

Discussion

Federal law gives the party to an arbitration one year from the date of the arbitrator's award to file a motion in district court to confirm the award. (9 U.S.C. § 9). Here, the arbitrator entered his award on April 30, 2014. (Award, 5). The Union petitioned this court to confirm the award on September 18, 2014. (Petition, 1). Thus, the petition is timely.

Standard of Review

The standard for a district court to vacate an arbitration award entirely is rather lofty. Federal law allows such an action only in rather egregious situations such as corruption, evident partiality, misconduct, or an award far exceeding the arbitrator's powers. 9 U.S.C. § 19(a)(1) through (4).[2]

A federal court may, however modify an arbitration award under several instances:

(a) Where there was an evident material miscalculation of figures or an evident material mistake in the description of any person, thing, ...

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