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Davis Wire Corp. v. Teamsters Local Union No 117

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

May 8, 2015

DAVIS WIRE CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION NO 117, Defendant

          For Davis Wire Corporation, Plaintiff: Douglas Edward Smith, Jennifer S Pirozzi, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Ryan Paul Hammond, Breanne M. Sheetz, LITTLER MENDELSON (WA), SEATTLE, WA; Harry R Stang, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, BRYAN CAVE (CA), SANTA MONICA, CA.

         For Teamsters Local Union No 117, Defendant: Christie J Fix, Clifford Freed, FRANK FREED SUBIT & THOMAS, SEATTLE, WA; Spencer Nathan Thal, TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION NO 117, TUKWILA, WA.

         ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         Marsha J. Pechman, United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant Teamsters Local Union No. 117's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 37.) Having reviewed the motion, Plaintiff Davis Wire Corporation's response, (Dkt. No. 43), and the related record, the Court hereby GRANTS Defendant's motion.

         Background

         Plaintiff Davis Wire Corporation operates a plant in Kent, Washington for the manufacture of wire for agriculture, construction and utilities, among other things. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2) (Complaint (" Compl." ) ¶ 3.) Defendant Teamsters Local Union No. 117 represents a group of employees who perform work at the plant. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2) (Compl. ¶ 5).

         Plaintiff and Defendant are signatories to successive collective bargaining agreements (" CBAs" ). (Dkt. No. 1 at 2) (Compl. ¶ 6.); (Dkt. No. 26 at 2) (Answer (" Ans." ) ¶ 6.) The most recent CBA is the September 1, 2012 through August 31, 2016 agreement (the " 2012-2016 Agreement" ) which covers work performed by union members for Plaintiff at its Kent, Washington plant. (Id.) The prior CBA between the parties had effective dates from December 1, 2008 through November 30, 2011. (Dkt. No. 1 at 3) (Compl. ¶ 8.); (Dkt. No. 26 at 2) (Ans. ¶ 8.)

         Section 21.7 of the 2012-2016 Agreement provides " [w]hen the nature of a work assignment prevents an employee from being relieved of duty for a meal period, it is agreed that the employee shall have an on-duty meal period. The on-duty meal period shall be counted as time worked." (Dkt. No. 39-1 at 13) (Declaration of Spencer Nathan Thal in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (" Thal Decl." ), Ex. A.) The language of Section 21.7 was identical in the CBA immediately preceding the 2012-2016 Agreement. (Dkt. No. 1 at 3) (Compl. ¶ 8); (Dkt. No. 26 at 2) (Ans. ¶ 8.)

         In 2011, before the 2008-2011 CBA expired, the parties engaged in negotiations for a new agreement. (Dkt. No. 1 at 3) (Compl. ¶ 9); (Dkt. No. 26 at 2) (Ans. ¶ 9.) Negotiations between the parties broke down in the spring and summer of 2012. (Dkt. No. 39 at 2) (Thal Decl. ¶ 6.); (Dkt. No. 43 at 4.) The 2012-2016 Agreement was executed by Plaintiff in October 2012 and by Defendant in November 2012. (Dkt. No 39 at 2) (Thal Decl. ¶ 7); (Dkt. No. 1 at 3) (Comp. ¶ 9.)

         In early 2012, Defendant informed Dmitri Iglitzin, an attorney, that workers at Plaintiff's Kent plant " believed they were not getting the rest or meal period breaks to which they were entitled under law." (Dkt. No. 38 at 2) (Declaration of Dmitri Iglitzin (" Iglitzin Decl." ) in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, ¶ 3); (Dkt. No. 43 at 7.) Mr. Iglitzin advised Defendant of his opinion that Plaintiff's practices deprived the workers of the meal and rest breaks they were entitled to under Washington law, among other things. (Dkt. No. 38 at 2) (Iglitzin Decl. ¶ 5.) He also agreed to represent the workers in a suit against Plaintiff. (Id. at 3) (Iglitzin Decl. ¶ 7.)

         On or about April 30, 2012, Robert Bruner and Cecil Markley, two employees of Plaintiff who are members of the union and are covered by the 2012-2016 Agreement, filed a class action lawsuit (the " Bruner lawsuit" ) against Plaintiff in King County Superior Court. (Dkt. No. 1 at 3) (Compl ¶ 11); (Dkt. No. 26 at 2) (Ans. ¶ 11.) Defendant was not a party to the lawsuit. (Id.) Among other things, plaintiffs in the Bruner lawsuit alleged that Plaintiff violated Washington law by failing to provide " plaintiffs and class members with thirty-minute meal periods . . ." (Dkt. No. 38-2 at 7) (" Third Amended Complaint" ¶ 8.2.)

         In April 2012, Defendant agreed to advance expenses Mr. Iglitzin's firm was likely to incur in the Bruner lawsuit, subject to reimbursement from any award of costs the plaintiffs might receive. (Dkt. No. 39 at 3) (Thal Decl. ¶ 9.) The agreement was not reduced to writing at that time. (Id.) The parties dispute whether Defendant agreed to pay litigation costs or both litigation costs and attorney's fees. (Dkt. No. 1 at 3) (Compl. ¶ 12); (Dkt. No. 26 at 2-3) (Ans. ¶ 12.) The parties also dispute whether Defendant subsequently agreed, in writing, to pay all litigation costs associated with the Bruner lawsuit, i.e. after the 2012-2016 Agreement was executed. (Dkt. No. 38 at 3) (Iglitzin Decl. ¶ 8); (Dkt. No. 43 at 8.)

         On January 9, 2015, following a six-week bench trial, King County Superior Court Judge Dean Lum found that Plaintiff's meal break practices violated the Washington Industrial Welfare Act, RCW 49.12 and WAC 296-126-092. (Dkt. No. 38 at 6) (Iglitzin Decl. ¶ 20); (Dkt. No. 43 at 6.) The total judgment for the class in the Bruner lawsuit, including backpay and prejudgment interest, was $794,126.95. (Dkt. No. 38 at 6) (Iglitzin Decl. ¶ 20.)

         On June 24, 2013, Plaintiff filed an unfair labor practice (" ULP" ) charge with the National Labor Relations Board (" NLRB" ), alleging Defendant violated Section 8(b)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (" NLRA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 158(b)(3), by funding the Bruner lawsuit without disclosing this fact to Plaintiff. (Dkt. No. 15-1 at 3) (" Charge Against Labor Organization or its Agents." ) The N.L.R.B. investigated the charge and dismissed it on January 22, 2014, finding ...


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