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Unite Here Local 30 v. Omni Hotels Management Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. California

November 18, 2019

UNITE HERE LOCAL 30, Petitioner,


          Hon. Michael M. Anello United States District Judge.

         On May 3, 2019, Unite Here Local 30 (“Petitioner”) filed a petition to compel arbitration (“Petition”) against Omni Hotels Management Corporation d/b/a Omni La Costa Resort & Spa (“Respondent”). Doc. No. 1.[1] Respondent moves to dismiss the Petition, arguing there is no basis to compel arbitration under the parties' collective bargaining agreement (“Agreement”) and, alternatively, Petitioner fails to state a plausible claim for violation of the Agreement. Doc. No. 11 at 8, 10. Petitioner responded in opposition to the motion, and Respondent replied. Doc. Nos. 12, 21. Additionally, Petitioner moves for summary judgment and attorneys' fees. Doc. No. 13. Respondent opposed the motion, and Petitioner replied. Doc. Nos. 20, 22. The Court found the matters suitable for determination on the papers and without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78(b) and Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1. Doc. No. 23. As explained in further detail in footnote 5, infra, the Court disposes of the Petition, the motion to dismiss, and the motion for summary judgment in a single order. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Petitioner's Petition to compel arbitration and DENIES Petitioner's motion for attorneys' fees.

         I. Background[2]

         Petitioner is a labor organization as defined in the Labor-Management Relations Act (LMRA) and has its principal place of business in California. Petition ¶ 2; see also 29 U.S.C. § 152(5) (defining “labor organization”). Respondent is incorporated and has its principal place of business in California. Petition ¶ 2. Petitioner represents various employees of Respondent as their “sole bargaining agent.” Agreement § 1(a).

         Petitioner and Respondent signed the Agreement on May 14, 2018, but the Agreement became effective from January 1, 2017, through December 31, 2019.[3]Petition ¶ 6; Agreement p. 1. Petitioner alleges the Agreement requires Respondent to arbitrate all claims. Petition ¶ 9. The Agreement provides a “grievance procedure” if a conflict arises between the parties. See Agreement § 27. As a preliminary matter, the Agreement states “[e]mployees are encouraged to first bring any type of dispute, disagreement, or concern to the employee's supervisor or manager, or the Employer's Human Resources Department, regardless of whether the employee believes this Agreement to have been violated.” Id. at § 27(a) (emphasis added).[4] Under the Agreement, “grievance is defined as a dispute between the parties as to the interpretation or application of any provision(s) of this Agreement that arises after this Agreement is signed and before it terminates.” Id. at § 27(b) (emphasis added). When a grievance arises, both parties are obligated to share relevant information pertaining to the grievance. Id. at § 27(c). Failure to do so bars the evidence's use at mediation or arbitration. Id. The grievance procedure requires the following:

(d) All grievances must be submitted to the Employer's Human Resources Director or his or her designee within fourteen (14) calendar days of the employee or Union having known, or should have known, of the occurrence. The Employer has fourteen (14) calendar days in which to respond to said grievance in writing. The parties may schedule a grievance hearing at any mutually acceptable time after the Union files the grievance and prior to the Union's deadline for moving the grievance to the next step. Regardless, if a settlement of this grievance is not reached at the grievance hearing or following the Employer's response, the Union has fourteen (14) calendar days from receipt of the Employer response to request mediation or file a Notice of Intent to Arbitrate. Failure of the Union to request mediation or to present a Notice of Intent to Arbitrate within fourteen (14) days of receipt of the Employer response shall disallow any further action on the grievance unless the time period is waived by the Union and the Employer in writing.
(e) In the event the matter cannot be amicably adjusted, if agreed to by the Union and the Employer, it may be submitted to mediation before an unpaid representative designated by Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (“FMCS”). A mediation shall convene within fourteen (14) days after receipt of notice given in writing by either party to the FMCS that mediation is necessary. Prior to the mediation the parties shall designate whether the mediator's opinion is to be final and binding. In the event there is no agreement between the parties regarding the binding or non-binding nature of the mediator's opinion, either party may proceed to subsection 27(f) below or the parties may nevertheless by mutual agreement continue with the procedures set forth in this paragraph (e). The mediator shall provide an oral opinion upon completion of the mediation.
In the event that the parties have not designated the mediator's opinion as final and binding, or the parties do not agree to the mediation process either party may submit the issue in dispute to an impartial arbitrator by filing a Notice of Intent to Arbitrate with the FMCS. If the aggrieved party fails to notify the other of its intent to pursue said grievance to arbitration within fourteen (14) calendar days after the mediation, or within fourteen (14) days after the request for mediation is refused the grievance shall be considered abandoned.
(f) If arbitration is resorted to, the arbitrator shall be selected by requesting a list of seven (7) arbitrators from the FMCS, all of whom shall be located in California or Nevada and members of the National Academy of Arbitrators. The parties shall alternate striking names from the list, with the Union making the first strike. The decision of the arbitrator shall be final and binding upon both parties. Any expenses of the arbitrator shall be borne equally by both parties. During the period that any matter is before mediation or is in the course of arbitration, as the case may be, there shall be no stoppage of work or other economic action taken by one party against the other.
(g) The arbitrator or mediator shall only have the authority to grant awards for grievances and shall have no authority to add to, alter, delete, modify or change the terms or provisions of this Agreement. The decision of the arbitrator shall be final and binding upon the parties.

Id. § 27(d)-(g) (emphasis added).

         In addition to Section 27, the Agreement provides additional arbitration language in the section titled “401(k) and pension plans.” Id. § 29. The pertinent subsection states the following:

(b) Within six-months of ratification of this Agreement, the parties shall meet to establish a new variable rate multiemployer pension plan based on the following guiding principles:
• Recognizing that pension plans have an inherent risk of unfunded liability, the plan shall be established and operated in a manner that seeks to avoid such Employer liability.
• The Employer shall contribute to the pension plan in the same amounts as set forth in subsection 29(a) for all employees hired after ratification.
• Each employee hired prior to ratification shall be given a choice whether to participate in the pension plan or to continue in the Labor Union 40l(k) Plan. Such choice shall be made (i) within thirty (30) days of ratification, or (ii) within thirty (30) days of the pension plan being established, provided that if an employee chooses to participate in the pension plan, he/she may not choose to return to receiving Employer contributions to the 401 (k).
• The Union shall have twenty-four (24) months to obtain agreement from another employer to join the new pension plan. If no other employer agrees to participate, the parties shall re-open this section of the Agreement and bargain a different provision.
• Until the new pension plan is established, the Employer's pension plan contributions (which shall be the same amounts as set forth in subsection 29(a)) shall be placed in an escrow account, with ...

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