United States District Court, D. Minnesota
James Bigham, Robert Vranicar, Patrick Welty, John Quarnstrom, Michael Mitchell, Mike McCauley, Marcus Vitse, Dave Holzer, and Jim Bowman as Trustees of the Sheet M Workers' Local 10 Pension Fund, and Sheet M Workers Local 10 Pension Fund, Plaintiffs,
Genz-Ryan Plumbing & Heating Co., Defendant.
Benjamin D. Sandhal, Esq., Joseph D. Weiner, Esq., and
Michael G. Congiu, Esq., Littler Mendelson, PC, counsel for
Court, Esq., Carl S. Wosmek, Esq., and Christy E. Lawrie,
Esq., McGrann Shea Carnival Straughn & Lamb, Chtd,
counsel for Respondent.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Donovan W. Frank United States District Judge
arbitration, Plaintiffs filed suit seeking an order vacating
the arbitrator's order. Before the Court are the
parties' motions for summary judgment. (Doc. Nos. 38,
43.) For the reasons outlined below, the Court denies
Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment Vacating the
January 5, 2016 Arbitration Award and grants Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment.
Genz-Ryan Plumbing & Heating Company retained a
multi-employer bargaining association (“SMARCA”)
to negotiate with the Sheet M Workers' Local 10 Union
(the “Union”). Genz-Ryan, the Union, and SMARCA
signed a collective bargaining agreement that was in effect
from May 1, 2005 to April 30, 2008. (The “CBA.”)
As part of the CBA, Genz-Ryan was required to contribute to
the Union members' retirement fund. The retirement fund
was operated by trustees. Plaintiffs in this case are the
fund and trustees. (Generally, the “Fund, ” and
expired on April 30, 2008, unless it was extended through a
reopening process. If the agreement was reopened, then the
CBA would remain in effect until “conferences relating
thereto ha[d] been terminated by either party.” (Doc.
No. 41 (“Congiu Decl.”) ¶ 1, Ex. 1 at 27.)
On December 17, 2007 (five months before the agreement
expired), Genz-Ryan gave notice that it was revoking its
agreement with SMARCA to negotiate with the Union. Genz-Ryan
intended to negotiate its own separate contract with the
Union. Despite this, on January 2, 2008, the Union gave
notice reopening the CBA. After that, Genz-Ryan reiterated
its intent to negotiate a separate contract, but SMARCA and
the Union began negotiating a new collective bargaining
agreement without Genz-Ryan. SMARCA and the Union reached an
agreement on May 2, 2008; Genz-Ryan refused to join it.
the CBA expired on April 30, 2008, Genz-Ryan notified the
Fund that it would no longer be contributing to the
retirement fund. Because Genz-Ryan was exiting the fund,
Genz-Ryan faced a withdrawal liability for any unpaid vested
benefits. When Genz-Ryan asked in 2008, the Fund told
Genz-Ryan that it had no withdrawal liability.
March 2008, Genz-Ryan began negotiating with the Union for a
separate, non-SMARCA agreement. On June 25, 2008, Genz-Ryan
declared negotiations were at an impasse. The next day,
Genz-Ryan made its final offer. The parties met two more
times, but never resolved (or even discussed) the issues that
led to the impasse. (Doc. No. 40 at 9.) The last meeting was
on October 27, 2008. On October 28, 2008, the Union e-mailed
that it would rework the proposal and schedule another
meeting. (See Congiu Decl. ¶ 16, Ex. 16.)
Genz-Ryan never responded to the October 28, 2008 e-mail, nor
did the Union ever follow up with a new proposal.
14, 2008, the Union filed an NLRB charge against Genz-Ryan.
Based on the charge, the NLRB then filed a complaint against
Genz-Ryan alleging that Genz-Ryan had failed to abide by the
CBA during the negotiations after April 30, 2008. (Congiu
Decl. ¶ 1, Ex. 1 at 3 ¶ 10.) On November 18,
2008-mere weeks after the parties last met-an ALJ held a
hearing on the NLRB complaint. In that litigation, Genz-Ryan
argued that it was no longer bound by the CBA. The ALJ agreed
and found that the CBA terminated after April 30, 2008. The
union appealed, and the parties settled.
on July 23, 2008, the Fund and the Trustees filed a lawsuit
against Genz-Ryan in the District of Minnesota seeking to
recoup unpaid contributions for fringe benefits. Trustees
of the Sheet M Local No. 10 Control Bd. Trust Fund v.
Genz-Ryan Plumbing & Heating Co., Civ. No. 08-4752,
2009 WL 2171001 (D. Minn. July 17, 2009). Genz-Ryan argued
that it had no unpaid contributions because it had paid the
fringe benefits through April 30, 2008. The Fund and Trustee
argued that the CBA continued after April 30, 2008, because
the parties had reopened negotiations. Genz-Ryan argued,
however, that the negotiation conferences had ended at the
latest on October 27, 2008, which terminated the agreement.