United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before the Court upon Defendants Brotherhood of
Amalgamated Trades Local Union 514's and Joshua
Gottlieb's motion to dismiss. ECF No. 12. The Court
decides the matter on the papers without need for oral
argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); L. Civ. R. 78.1(b). For the
reasons set forth below, the motion is
motions to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all plausible
allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in the
plaintiff's favor. See Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007).
case is about a labor dispute between Plaintiff Ritz Hotels
Services, LLC (“Ritz”) and Defendants Brotherhood
of Amalgamated Trades Local Union 514 (“Local
514”) and its president, Joshua Gottlieb
(“Gottlieb”) (together, the “Union”).
An employer, Ritz provides commercial laundry services.
Compl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 1. Local 514 is a labor union
representing workers. Id. ¶ 4. Gottlieb is
Local 514's president. Id. ¶ 5.
August 2018, the Union began organizing Ritz's employees
at Ritz's business to join Local 514. Id. ¶
8. On September 11, 2018, the Union filed a petition with the
National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) seeking
to represent Ritz employees. Id. ¶ 9. On
September 24, 2018, the Union withdrew the petition.
Id. ¶ 10.
about September 21, 2018, the Union began an informational
campaign informing Ritz hotel customers that “[Ritz]
has committed numerous unfair labor practices in response to
unionization efforts by their employees.” Union's
Aff., Ex. B at I, ECF No. 14; Compl. ¶ 14. The Union
publicized the labor dispute in handing out a flyer to Ritz
customers and inflating a rat balloon. Union's Aff., Ex.
B at 2; Compl. ¶ 17. The flyer contained language that
read, “Ritz Hotel Services has committed numerous
unfair labor practices against their hardworking
employees!” Ibid. The flyer also contained a
statement urging hotel guests to tell their hotel management
they would stop doing business with them until Ritz resolved
the labor dispute. Union's Aff., Ex. B at 2; Compl.
¶ 16. On October 4, 2018, the Union published the flyer
on Facebook.com. Compl. ¶ 18. During protests, the Union
inflated rat balloons in front of Ritz hotel customers and
put up signs reading, “Ritz laundry is unfair to
labor!” Id. ¶ 19. On October 19, 2018,
Ritz lost one of its customers. Compl. ¶¶ 20, 39,
46. Ten days later, Ritz filed this action.
and during the Union's organizing campaign, between
September and December 2018, the Union filed unfair labor
practice charges with the NLRB. Id. ¶ 12;
Union's Aff., Ex. A (“NLRB
Charges”). Ritz resolved the matter when the NLRB
approved both withdrawing the charges in December 2018 and
entered a settlement agreement the following month. Pl.'s
Cert. of Counsel, Ex. A at 2 (NLRB Withdrawal of Charges),
Ex. B at 4-6 (NLRB Decision Approving Settlement), 8-9
(“Settlement Agreement”), ECF No. 15-2. The
Settlement Agreement contained a “non-admissions
clause” which read in full: “By entering into
this Settlement Agreement, [Ritz] does not admit that it has
violated the [NLRA].” Id., Ex. B at 9.
filed this action while the NLRB Charges remained pending
before the NLRB. The claims alleged in the Complaint fall
into two categories. Counts I through IV contain claims of
defamation, defamation per se, false light invasion of
privacy, and trade libel. Compl. ¶¶ 22-41. Counts V
through VII contain contains allegations grounded in tortious
interference with contract, contractual relations, and
prospective economic advantage. Id. ¶¶
42-67. The Union's motion to dismiss followed. ECF No.
the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). Questions of subject matter
jurisdiction may be raised at any time in the litigation.
Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 506
(2006). When analyzing a factual attack motion to dismiss for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the court may look
beyond the pleadings. Normally, in analyzing Rule 12(b)(1)
factual attacks, “no presumptive truthfulness attaches
to plaintiff's allegations.” Int'l
Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers v. Nw.
Airlines, Inc., 673 F.2d 700, 711 (3d Cir. 1982)
(citation omitted). But “[i]f the defendant raises no
challenge to the facts alleged in the pleadings, the court
may rule on the motion by accepting the allegations as
true.” Gould Elecs. Inc. v. United States, 220
F.3d 169, 177 (3d Cir. 2000), modified by Simon v. United
States, 341 F.3d 193 (3d Cir. 2003) (discussing
Int'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace
Workers, 673 F.2d at 711).
Union seeks dismissal of all claims on two main fronts.
First, Union argues Sections 7 and 8 of the NLRA preempts
Ritz's claims based on established labor law preemption
doctrine set forth in San Diego Building Trades Council
v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 245 (1959)
(“Garmon” preemption). Union's Br.
3, 7, ECF No. 13. Union further contends that, under the
NLRA, Ritz cannot escape preemption on the defamation claims
because it cannot show how the Union acted with malice when
publishing the alleged defamatory statements. Id. at
7-11. And Union argues Garmon preemption compels
dismissing the tortious interference claims because Ritz
failed pleading that the Union used violence or threats of
violence during its labor protest. Id. at 11-12.
Ritz disagrees, arguing the NLRA and Garmon affords
the Union's conduct no protection because the Union made
“knowingly false statements” in its published
flyer, which caused one customer to terminate its contract
with Ritz. Pl.'s Opp'n Br. 8-12, ECF No. 15.
preemption “protects the exclusive jurisdiction of the
NLRB over unfair labor practice proceedings; accordingly, if
a cause of action implicates protected concerted activity
under section 7 of the NLRA or conduct that would be
prohibited as an unfair labor practice under section 8 of the
NRLA, the cause of action is preempted.” Voilas v.
General Motors Corp.,170 F.3d 367, 378 (3d Cir. 1999);
Garmon, 359 U.S. at 242-44; see Int'l
Longshoremen's Ass'n v. Davis, 476 U.S. 380, 395
(1986) (explaining the word “arguably” as used in