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Sheet Metal Workers' International Assoc., Local Union No. 115 v. Alliance Mechanical Corp

November 7, 2011

SHEET METAL WORKERS' INTERNATIONAL ASSOC., LOCAL UNION NO. 115, PETITIONER,
v.
ALLIANCE MECHANICAL CORP.,
RESPONDENT. AND RELATED CROSS-PETITION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert N. Block United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER THEREON

This is an action to enforce an arbitration award arising under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185. On February 5, 2010, the parties consented to this Court's jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

The underlying facts are undisputed. Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, Local Union No. 105 (hereinafter the "Union") and Alliance Mechanical Corporation ("Alliance") were parties for several years to a series of collective bargaining agreements ("CBAs"), the most recent of which expired on June 30, 2009.

That agreement (hereinafter the "Expired Agreement") contained an "interest arbitration" clause that required the parties to submit any dispute in negotiations over a successor agreement to binding arbitration. The Union brought the matter to the National Joint Adjustment Board ("NJAB"), which held an arbitration hearing in September of 2009 and issued an award on September 10, 2009 (the "Award").*fn1

The parties' dispute arose out of the following section of the Award: In issuing this order, it is not the intention of the NJAB to impose any non-mandatory subject of bargaining over the objections of the Employer [Alliance]. To the extent that the Employer objects to any provision in the agreement that is determined to be a non-mandatory subject by the National Labor Relations Board or a court, such provision shall be deleted.

The parties agreed that this section of the Award permitted Alliance to exclude from the Agreement provisions that were included in the Expired Agreement, but which constituted non-mandatory subjects. However, they disagreed about which provisions addressed non-mandatory subjects. In accordance with the Court's scheduling conference order, the parties engaged in a process to narrow the issues in dispute. This process culminated in the filing of cross-motions for summary judgment in the form of a Joint Stipulation, in which the parties set forth their respective positions with respect to the provisions from the Expired Agreement that still remained in dispute.

On December 21, 2010, the Court issued its opinion and order ruling on the cross-motions. The Court ruled in the Union's favor with respect to five of the six remaining provisions in dispute, finding that those provisions were mandatory subjects of bargaining that consequently could not be excluded from the new agreement. The Court ruled in Alliance's favor with respect to one of the six provisions remaining in dispute, which the Court found was a non-mandatory subject of bargaining. On July 27, 2011, the Court entered a Judgment confirming the September 10, 2009 arbitration award of the NJAB and ordering a new binding collective bargaining agreement.

Now pending before the Court and ready for decision is the Union's motion for attorney fees and Alliance's cross-motion for attorney fees.

For the reasons that follow, the Court (a) grants in part and denies in part the Union's motion for attorney fees, and (b) denies Alliance's cross-motion for attorney fees.

DISCUSSION

I. Federal law governs the award of attorney fees in this case.

LMRA § 301 does not expressly authorize the award of attorney fees. See United Food & Commercial Workers v. Marval Poultry Co., 876 F.2d 346, 350 (4th Cir. 1989). However, Article X, § 6 of the parties' Residential Addenda to Standard Form Union Agreement ("SFUA") executed July 1, 2005 contains an attorney fee provision that states as follows:

In the event of noncompliance within thirty (30) calendar days following the mailing of a decision of a Local Joint Adjustment Board, Panel or the National Joint Adjustment Board, a local party may enforce the award by any means including proceedings in a court of competent jurisdiction in accord with applicable state and federal law. If the party seeking to enforce the award prevails in litigation, such party shall be entitled to its costs and attorneys fees in addition to such other relief as is directed by the courts. Any party that unsuccessfully challenges the validity of an award in a legal proceeding shall also be liable for the costs and attorneys fees of the opposing parties in the legal proceedings.

Both parties seek fees pursuant to this CBA provision. The Union urges the application of federal law, while Alliance urges the application of California Civil Code ยง 1717. Thus, the first question presented is whether federal ...


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