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Tessema v. United Steel

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 17, 2014

TADIOS TESSEMA, INDIVIDUALLY, and as the former UNIT CHAIR of the FRIAS TRANSPORTATION BARGAINING UNIT, LOCAL 711A, UNITED STEEL, PAPER AND FORESTRY, RUBBER, MANUFACTURING, ENERGY, ALLIED INDUSTRIAL AND SERVICE WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STEEL, PAPER AND FORESTRY, RUBBER, MANUFACTURING, ENERGY, ALLIED INDUSTRIAL AND SERVICE WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION; LEO W. GERARD; ROBERT LaVENTURE; MANUEL ARMENTA; CHRIS YOUNGMARK; ACE CAB, INC.; UNION CAB CO.; VEGAS-WESTERN CAB, INC.; A-N.L
v.
CAB CO.; VIRGIN VALLEY CAB COMPANY, INC.; FRIAS TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT, DOES I-X and ROES XI-XX, Defendants.

ORDER (DOC. ## 31, 37, 47)

ANDREW P. GORDON, District Judge.

Before me are a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 31) filed by defendants A-N.L.V. Cab Co., Ace Cab Inc., Frias Transportation Management, Union Cab Co., Vegas-Western Cab, Inc., and Virgin Valley Cab Company Inc.; a Motion to Expedite (Doc. # 37) filed by plaintiff Tadios Tessema; and a Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. # 47) filed by Defendant United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Worker's International Union. Each of these motions focuses on the interpretation of NRS 614.170. Plaintiff's interpretation would render that statute preempted by federal law. A more narrow and non-preempted interpretation of that statute would be fatal to Plaintiff's claims. Therefore, I grant the Defendants' motions to dismiss and for partial judgment on the pleadings, and deny Plaintiff's motion for an expedited evidentiary hearing on the statutory interpretation issue.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Tadios Tessema was an employee of defendant A-N.L.V. Cab Co. and a member of defendant United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Worker's International Union (the "Union"). In April 2012, Tessema was elected the Unit Chair of the Frias Transportation Bargaining Unit (the "Unit"), which represented the Union members employed by defendants A-N.L.V. Cab Co., Ace Cab Inc., Frias Transportation Management, Union Cab Co., Vegas-Western Cab, Inc., and Virgin Valley Cab Company Inc. (the "Employer Defendants").

The Unit and the Employer Defendants had been operating under a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") for a number of years. In anticipation of the expiration of the CBA, a Negotiating Committee was formed to negotiate a new CBA. The committee consisted of Tessema as the Unit Chair, three other Unit members, representatives of the Employer Defendants, and Union representatives. On October 11, 2012, the Employer Defendants submitted their first "last, best and final offer, " which was rejected by the Union members at an October 16, 2012 meeting for ratification.

Subsequently, the Union replaced its representative on the Negotiating Committee, removed all officers of the Unit's local chapter, and appointed another representative as Administrator over the local chapter. Negotiations for a new CBA continued, culminating in a second "last, best and final offer" on March 8, 2013. Despite his statements to the contrary, the Union representative did not submit this offer to the Negotiating Committee or to the Unit's general membership for ratification. This second "last, best and final offer" became the basis for the new CBA executed on March 11, 2013.

On March 26, 2013, the Union removed Tessema from his position as Unit Chair, allegedly because he spoke to the press about the Union's failure to submit the Employer Defendants' offer to the members for ratification, and conducted meetings with Unit bargaining members about ratification and decertification. On March 27, 2013, Tessema and several hundred others participated in a wildcat strike to protest the passage of the CBA without ratification. A-N.L.V Cab Co. terminated Tessema for his participation in the unauthorized strike. Following an administrative action, Tessema filed this lawsuit against the Union and the Employer Defendants for violations of NRS 614.170, § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), and §§ 101(a)(2) and 1010(a)(5) of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA").

The Employer Defendants now seek dismissal of, and the Union seeks judgment on, Tessema's first two claims arising under NRS 614.170. Tessema requests an evidentiary hearing on the proper construction of that statute. No evidentiary hearing is needed to construe NRS 614.170; therefore, I deny Tessema's motion for an expedited evidentiary hearing. Additionally, Tessema's interpretation of NRS 614.170 would result in preemption of that statute by federal labor laws. And under a more narrow construction of NRS 614.170, Tessema's claims fail. Therefore, I grant the Defendants' motions.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

A court may dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In assessing a 12(b)(6) motion, I must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint; however, legal conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). A complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations; however, those allegations must be "more than labels and conclusions" and must "rise above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. When the claims in a complaint have not crossed the line from conceivable to plausible, the complaint must be dismissed. Id.

Additionally, "because the motions are functionally identical, the same standard of review applicable to a Rule 12(b) motion applies to its Rule 12(c) analog." Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 1989). "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 Cir.1989).

B. Analysis

I first address Tessema's Motion to Expedite. Although the motion is entitled "Motion for Expedited Declaratory Relief" and specifically requests "expedited adjudication of the claims for declaratory relief, " at oral argument Tessema represented the motion as a request for an evidentiary hearing on the interpretation of NRS 614.170. All of the parties admit that the proposed CBA was not submitted for ratification. Thus, there is no dispute of material fact that requires the submittal of evidence or determinations of credibility to resolve this issue. Statutory construction is a question of law. No evidentiary hearing is needed to determine the meaning of NRS 614.170. See, e.g., Townzen v. Craven, 444 F.2d 315, 316 (9th Cir. 1971) (court did not err in denying evidentiary hearing when issue presented was a question of law properly resolved by the district court). Moreover, fully construing NRS 614.170 is not needed in this case because, ...


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