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Unite Here International Union v. Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 12, 2017

UNITE HERE INTERNATIONAL UNION, Plaintiff,
v.
SHINGLE SPRINGS BAND OF MIWOK INDIANS, Defendant.

          ORDER

          TROY L. NUNLEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a lawsuit seeking to compel arbitration of a dispute about labor organizing at a casino. The matter is before the Court on Petitioner UNITE HERE International Union's (“the Union”) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and to Strike Affirmative Defenses. (ECF No. 20.) Defendant Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians (“the Tribe”) opposes the motion. (ECF No. 21.) For the reasons set forth below, the Union's motion is hereby GRANTED.

         I. Background

         The Tribe owns and operates the Red Hawk Casino. The Union is a labor organization. The Tribe and the Union entered into a memorandum of agreement (“the MOA”) that establishes procedures for organizing casino employees into a collective bargaining unit represented by the Union. (Pet. to Compel Arbitration (“Pet.”), ECF No. 2 at ¶ 15; Resp. to Pet., ECF No. 18 at ¶ 15; see also ECF No. 2 Ex. A (the MOA).) The Union believes the Tribe violated the MOA when it fired two employees, allegedly for supporting the Union. (ECF No. 20 at 1:23-25.)

         Two provisions of the MOA are relevant here. First, Section 5(a) of the MOA requires the Tribe to remain neutral regarding its employees' decisions about union representation. (ECF No. 2 Ex. A at 4.) Specifically, Section 5(a) states:

The Tribe shall advise Bargaining Unit Employees that it is neutral to their selection of the Union as their exclusive representative, if any, and shall not directly or indirectly state or imply opposition to the selection by Bargaining Unit Employees of the Union as their exclusive representative, if any, and shall so instruct all appropriate Managers.

(ECF No. 2 Ex. A at 4.) Second, Section 10 of the MOA provides a dispute resolution framework for disagreements between the Tribe and the Union “over the interpretation or application of” the MOA. (ECF No. 2 Ex. A at 7.) Specifically, Section 10 states in relevant part:

The Parties agree that any disputes over the interpretation or application of this Agreement shall be submitted first to mediation arranged through a mutually agreeable mediator . . . . If after a minimum of 30 business days after submission of the dispute to a mediator, a mutually satisfactory resolution is not produced by mediation, or if after a maximum of 15 business days a mutually agreeable mediator is not chosen after impasse over any dispute, then either the Tribe or the Union may submit the dispute(s) to expedited and binding arbitration . . . . The arbitrator shall not modify, add to or subtract from this Agreement.

(ECF No. 2 Ex. A at 7.) Section 10 also carves out an exception, specifying that it shall not be used to “resolve any issues that are unresolved during the negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement.” (ECF No. 2 Ex. A at 7.)

         The Union believes the Tribe breached Section 5(a) when the Tribe discharged two employees, allegedly for their Union ties. (ECF No. 20 at 1:23-25.) The Tribe contends the MOA does not apply to employee termination decisions. (ECF No. 21 at 1:10-14.) The parties mediated the dispute, but could not reach a resolution. (ECF No. 2 at ¶ 23; ECF No. 18 at ¶ 23.) The Tribe refuses to arbitrate, maintaining that employee termination decisions are not within the scope of Section 5(a).

         The Union initiated this lawsuit by filing a petition to compel arbitration pursuant to § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 185. (ECF No. 2.) The Union now seeks judgment on the pleadings and a court order compelling arbitration.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A motion for judgment on the pleadings “challenges the legal sufficiency of the opposing party's pleadings.” WestlandsWater Dist. v. U.S., Dep't of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation,805 F.Supp. 1503, 1506 (E.D. Cal. 1992). “Judgment on the pleadings is proper when the moving party clearly establishes on the face of the pleadings that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th ...


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