A group of unionized workers laid off by an Indianapolis engine plant who brought an action for breach of the collective-bargaining agreement didn’t provide enough factual content in their complaint to allow it to proceed in court, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
Forty-three plaintiffs brought the original action under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act after Navistar laid them off and did not rehire them as work became available. Instead, the company subcontracted their work to nonunion plants. Judge Sarah Evans Barker in the Southern District of Indiana dismissed the complaint because of a lack of factual content to plead a plausible claim for breach of the duty of fair representation.
A successful Section 301 claim requires a breach of contract by an employer and a breach by the plaintiff’s union of its duty of fair representation. This is required so that the plaintiff first seeks to address the complaint through the grievance process set up by the union.
The plaintiffs here allege that they filed grievances challenging Navistar’s subcontracting work, but the union intentionally failed to process the grievances in breach of its duty of fair representation. After the District Court dismissed the complaint, only 29 plaintiffs proceeded on appeal.
“The plaintiffs offer nothing to support their claim of bad faith apart from conclusory labels — that the unnamed union officials acted ‘invidiously’ when they failed to process the grievances, or simply that the union’s actions were ‘intentional, willful, wanton, and malicious.’ They supply no factual detail to support these conclusory allegations, such as (for example) offering facts that suggest a motive for the union’s alleged failure to deal with the grievances,” Judge Diane Sykes wrote in Robert Yeftich, et al. v. Navistar Inc. and Indianapolis Casting Corp., 12-2964.
“Nor do the plaintiffs offer plausible allegations of arbitrariness. The plaintiffs generally allege an arbitrary failure to act on their grievances … but factual detail in support of this otherwise conclusory allegation is entirely missing,” she continued.
Judge John D. Tinder recused himself and did not participate in the decision on appeal, which was resolved by a quorum of the panel, the opinion notes.