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Lopez v. Bud of California

January 22, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Barry Ted Moskowitz United States District Judge


Currently pending before the Court are motions for summary judgment filed by Defendants Bud Antle, Inc. dba Bud of California ("Bud") and Teamsters Local 890 ("Local 890"). For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motions are GRANTED.

I. Factual Background

Plaintiffs Francisco Lopez and Jaime Quintero are former employees of Defendant Bud and former members of Defendant Local 890 whose employment was terminated on November 10, 2003 and June 10, 2004 respectively.*fn1 Plaintiff Lopez was terminated in November 2003 after he refused to transfer locations based on his low seniority. Instead, he insisted on remuneration for room and board in his new location, despite having the second lowest seniority and the fact that no other driver received room and board. Plaintiff Quintero was suspended for time card fraud in March 2004. In accordance with the collective bargaining agreement which governed Plaintiffs' employment, Plaintiffs' union, Local 890, filed grievances protesting Lopez's termination and Quintero's suspension.

While the union originally filed a grievance with respect to Lopez, it ultimately decided not to arbitrate the grievance. Lopez was informed that the union was no longer going to pursue his claim by February 2004. After the union filed a grievance protesting Quintero's suspension, Bud investigated the incident and decided to terminate Quintero's employment on June 10, 2004. After deciding to proceed to arbitration on Quintero's grievance, the union ultimately entered into a settlement agreement with Bud in December 2004. The agreement provided for Quintero's reinstatement, without any loss of seniority, but without backpay for the period of his suspension. Quintero refused to return to work as provided for in the settlement agreement and so he was terminated in late December 2004.

Unhappy with the results the union achieved, Plaintiffs filed the instant lawsuit in October 2004 in California Superior Court. While the complaint is extremely lacking in detail, Plaintiffs apparently allege claims of wrongful termination and breach of contract. Once served with the complaint in September 2005, Defendant Bud promptly removed the case to this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 on the ground that Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (29 U.S.C. § 185) completely pre-empts any state law claims sounding in contract or tort brought by an aggrieved union member against his former employer and union representatives.

Pursuant to an order of Magistrate Judge Major, all discovery, other than expert discovery, was to be complete by July 14, 2006. Defendants filed the instant motions for summary judgment on July 10 and 11, 2006.

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates that "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c))); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A fact is material when, under the governing substantive law, it could affect the outcome of the case. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Freeman v. Arpaio,125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997). A dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

A party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Although the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof on a matter at trial, the moving party need only demonstrate to the Court that there is insufficient evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Id. at 325. The moving party can satisfy this burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to establish an essential element of the nonmoving party's case on which the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial. See Id. at 322-23. "Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

Once the moving party establishes the absence of genuine issues of material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth facts showing that a genuine issue of disputed fact remains. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 314. The nonmoving party cannot rest on the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but must "go beyond the pleadings and by his own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324 (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c))). When making this determination, the court must view all inferences drawn from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Fontana v. Haskin, 262 F.3d 871, 876 (9th Cir. 2001). The court must not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations in evaluating a motion for summary judgment. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

III. Discussion

Plaintiffs' claims, though ostensibly brought under state law, are governed by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a), because they are founded on rights conferred by a collective bargaining agreement and require its interpretation. See Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 394 (1987). The only claim available to Plaintiffs under this law is a "hybrid" action whereby a plaintiff: (1) alleges that his employer breached the collective bargaining agreement governing his employment relationship; and (2) alleges that his union breached its duty of fair representation. See DelCostello v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 163-65 (1983). The suit against the employer rests on Section 301, while the suit against the union is implied under the scheme of the National Labor Relations Act. Id. at 164. To prevail against either Defendant, Plaintiffs must demonstrate a breach by both Defendants. Id. at 164-65.

Thus Plaintiffs' complaint is recharacterized by this Court as a claim that Defendant Bud breached the collective bargaining agreement in terminating their employment and that Defendant Teamsters breached its duty to fairly represent them with respect to the termination of their employment ...

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