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Marlene Herrera, et al v. Command Security Corp

December 20, 2012

MARLENE HERRERA, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COMMAND SECURITY CORP., DEFENDANT. CALIFORNIA SERVICE EMPLOYEES HEALTH & WELFARE TRUST FUND, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COMMAND SECURITY CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Edward M. Chen United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE (Docket No. 25 in C-12-4032)

In Case No. C-12-4032 EMC, Herrera v. Command Security Corp., Plaintiffs consist of a union (Service Employees International Union, United Service Workers West) and three individuals, who are members of the union as well employees of Defendant Command Security Corp., doing business as Aviation Safeguards (hereinafter "Aviation"). Plaintiffs have sued Aviation for violations of the Railway Labor Act ("RLA"). Currently pending before the Court is Aviation's motion to transfer venue from this District to the Central District of California. Having considered the parties' briefs and accompanying submissions, as well as the oral argument of counsel and the response to the order to show cause filed in the related case, California Service Employees Health & Welfare Trust Fund v. Command Security Corp., No. C-12-1079 EMC, the Court hereby GRANTS Aviation's motion.

I. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A. Related ERISA Action

Before taking into consideration the allegations raised in the instant case, the Court first takes note that the instant case is related to an earlier-filed case over which this Court also presides, California Service Employees Health & Welfare Trust Fund v. Command Security Corp., No. C-12-1079 EMC. The earlier-filed case is an ERISA case, in which an employee trust fund and its trustees charge Aviation with failing to pay, inter alia, contributions owed to the trust fund, including but not limited to the period starting in December 2011. See California Serv. Employees, No. C-12-1079 EMC (Docket No. 1) (Compl. ¶ 20). The plaintiffs in the ERISA case initiated that action in March 2012.

Subsequently, Aviation moved to transfer the ERISA case to the Central District of California. This Court denied the motion in July 2012. See California Serv. Employees, No. C-12-1079 EMC (Docket No. 38). In the order, the Court took into account Aviation's contention that there were multiple witnesses in the Central District who would provide testimony to support its position that, as of December 2011 (or thereabouts), it no longer had an obligation to pay contributions because, at or about that time, a majority of its employees (who work at the LAX airport) stated via petition that they no longer wanted to be represented by the union.*fn1 The Court, however, gave little weight to that argument, largely because there was an "ongoing dispute[] as to the [collective bargaining agreement's] validity," i.e., whether the union had actually been decertified, in which case Aviation's "obligation to the Trust Fund[] continue unabated until the issue is adjudicated." California Serv. Employees, No. C-12-1079 EMC (Docket No. 38) (Order at 10) (emphasis added). Thus, the decertification issue was not yet at issue in the ERISA case. The Court added that the ERISA case "would not be likely to require multiple witnesses outside this District" but rather "would likely involve judicially noticeable documents demonstrating that the union became decertified -- and hence the CBA no longer operable -- as of a certain date." California Serv. Employees, No. C-12-1079 EMC (Docket No. 38) (Order at 11-12).

B. Current Action

A few weeks after the Court denied the motion to transfer in the ERISA case, Plaintiffs filed the instant action. Approximately a month later, Plaintiffs moved to have their case related to the ERISA case. See California Serv. Employees, No. C-12-1079 EMC (Docket No. 44) (motion). Although Aviation opposed the motion to relate, highlighting that it would be moving to transfer the action to the Central District (as it had with the ERISA case), the Court granted the motion. See California Serv. Employees, No. C-12-1079 EMC (Docket No. 46) (order). Several weeks later, Aviation filed the currently pending motion.

C. Allegations in Current Action

In the operative complaint in the instant action, Plaintiffs allege as follows.

In or about October 2008, the Union and Aviation entered into a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"). Under the CBA, Aviation recognized the Union as the exclusive representative for Aviation's non-supervisory, non-clerical employees at, inter alia, the LAX airport. See FAC ¶¶ 14-16. The term of the CBA was subsequently negotiated to extend through November 30, 2012. See FAC ¶ 23.

In 2011, Aviation began to "circulat[e] pieces of paper to its employees entitled 'Petition to Remove Union as Representative.'" FAC ¶ 38 & Ex. 2; see also note 1, supra. Aviation encouraged its employees to sign the petition. See FAC ¶ 41.

Subsequently, in December 2011, Aviation sent a letter to the Union, stating that [o]ur Company has tried to work with [the] union concerning matters of concern to our employees in your LAX bargaining unit, but we have not received any cooperation from [the] union in this regard. Our employees are extremely unhappy with [the] union's lack of cooperation. I am informing [the] union by this communication that the Company has received a decertification petition signed by a majority of our employees in your LAX bargaining unit. Pursuant to that petition a majority of those bargaining unit employees no longer want to be represented by your union.

In accordance with that petition and our understanding that [the] union has not been and is not certified under the Railway Labor Act to represent any of our LAX employees, the Company is hereby withdrawing recognition from [the] union effective immediately, and as [of] December 30, 2011 at 12:01 AM the Company no longer recognizes the validity of your union's collective bargaining agreement for any purpose FAC, Ex. 3. According to Plaintiffs, Aviation "coerced certain of its employees to oppose [the Union]." FAC ¶ 49.

In or after February 2012, Aviation established terms for its LAX employees different from those contained in the CBA -- e.g., terms regarding wages, medical benefits, work rules, and so forth. See FAC ¶¶ 55-58; see also FAC ¶¶ 69-72.

Based on, inter alia, the above allegations, Plaintiffs have filed multiple claims against Aviation based on violations of the RLA -- e.g., changing employment terms without following certain procedures mandated by the RLA, failing to make every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements, interfering with employees' right to designate representatives of their own choosing, and refusing to participate in mediation with the National Mediation Board ("NMB"). Plaintiffs have also brought one claim based on a violation of state law (the California Labor Code).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard Title 28 U.S.C. ยง 1404(a) provides as follows: "For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought ...


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