the terms of several collective bargaining agreements. The complaint alleges that pursuant to "AFA's duty as the exclusive bargaining representative for Republic flight attendants, the AFA had a legal obligation to process grievances filed by Republic flight attendants." Complaint para. 17. This legal obligation stemmed from the existence of various collective bargaining agreements negotiated between the AFA and the Republic flight attendants. Complaint para. 8. Several paragraphs of the complaint describe provisions of the most recent collective bargaining agreement, negotiated in 1984, including the provision establishing grievance procedures. Complaint paras. 9-11.
It is apparent from the complaint itself that the Teamsters intends to sue the AFA for its failure to abide by its collective bargaining agreements with the flight attendants of the former Republic Airlines. In order for this Court to declare that the AFA was unjustly enriched by failing to fulfill its contractual obligations, the Court must define the scope of AFA's obligations by reviewing the applicable collective bargaining agreements. It has long been understood that a collective bargaining agreement is "an agreement creating relationships and interests under the federal common law of labor policy." Bowen v. U.S. Postal Service, 459 U.S. 212, 220, 74 L. Ed. 2d 402, 103 S. Ct. 588 (1983). See Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 211, 85 L. Ed. 2d 206, 105 S. Ct. 1904 (1985) (questions relating to substance of labor agreement must be resolved by reference to federal law). Through section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, federal district courts have jurisdiction over suits for a breach of a collective bargaining agreement. 29 U.S.C. § 185.
The Supreme Court has expressly stated that the "preemptive force of § 301 [of the LMRA] is so powerful as to displace entirely any state cause of action" for violation of a collective bargaining agreement. Franchise Tax Board, supra, 463 U.S. at 24.
Second, it is also apparent that this Court is confronted with applying federal principles governing the AFA's duty of fair representation.
This jurisdiction has recognized that a union breaches its duty of fair representation if grievances are processed in an arbitrary manner. See Parker v. Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co., 555 F. Supp. 1182, 1185 (D.D.C. 1983) (under duty of fair representation, employee entitled to nonarbitrary, nondiscriminatory and good faith response to grievances filed); see also Ruzicka v. General Motors Corp., 649 F.2d 1207, 1212 (6th Cir. 1981) (union liable for unfair representation where it arbitrarily fails to process employee grievance without compelling reason), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 982, 78 L. Ed. 2d 359, 104 S. Ct. 424 (1983).
Third, congressional intent to pre-empt suits for violation of collective bargaining agreements, including suits between labor organizations, is clear from the face of the jurisdictional provisions in section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). See Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, U.S. , 107 S. Ct. at 1546.
For these reasons, the Court concludes that plaintiff's cause of action is pre-empted. Federal rights are violated by the acts plaintiff alleges in its complaint: breach of collective bargaining agreements and breach of the duty of fair representation. Plaintiff appears to have "artfully pleaded" unjust enrichment in order to avoid necessary federal questions. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide the merits of this case.
Plaintiff argues that there is neither an issue of fair representation nor any interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement required in this case. It is evident that no contractual relationship of any sort existed between the AFA and the Teamsters. Plaintiff argues that it brings an action of unjust enrichment based upon "quasi-contract" or "contract-implied-at-law" theories.
Plaintiff further argues that there is no cause for the Court "to determine if anyone or a group of grievances were mishandled." Plaintiff's Reply at 2. Instead, plaintiff urges that the Court must merely determine whether the AFA received funds from its members but failed to process grievances.
The Court disagrees with plaintiff's characterization of this case. Although plaintiff demands relief under a state claim, the overriding issue presented is one covered by federal law: whether the AFA failed properly to discharge its grievance process as an exclusive bargaining representative under the Railway Labor Act. Moreover, the Teamsters' allegation of unjust enrichment reveals that it must not only show that it conferred a benefit upon the AFA, but that the AFA's retention of that benefit is unjustified, unfair and, in good conscience, the AFA must make restitution. See Bloomgarden, supra, 479 F.2d at 211.
There is little chance of deciding this equitable matter without first confirming that the AFA was duty-bound to process the grievances at issue and, in bad faith, it failed to fulfill this duty. Id. Thus, a review of the AFA's duty to process grievances implicates an analysis of the collective bargaining agreements involved, as well as the federal principles of fair representation. "Questions relating to what the parties to a labor agreement agreed, and what legal consequences were intended to flow from breaches of that agreement, must be resolved by reference to uniform federal law. . . ." Allis-Chalmers, supra, 471 U.S. at 211. As the Supreme Court further held in Allis-Chalmers,
. . . when resolution of a state-law claim is substantially dependent upon analysis of the terms of an agreement made between the parties in a labor contract, that claim must either be treated as a § 301 claim, see Avco Corp. v. Aero Lodge 735, 390 U.S. 557, [20 L. Ed. 2d 126, 88 S. Ct. 1235] (1968), or dismissed as pre-empted by federal labor-contract law.
Id. at 220.
The Court also rejects plaintiff's argument raising a "public policy" exception to the pre-emption doctrine.
Plaintiff cites to a series of cases where courts refused to pre-empt state law claims by employees who were victims of retaliatory discharge. See Garibaldi v. Lucky Food Stores, Inc., 726 F.2d 1367, 1373-74 (9th Cir. 1984) (California has established public policy interest in protecting employee discharged for reporting shipment of adulterated milk to health officials), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1099, 85 L. Ed. 2d 839, 105 S. Ct. 2319 (1986); Sutton v. Southwest Forest Industries, Inc., 643 F. Supp. 662, 665 (D. Kan. 1986) (state has strong public policy interest in protecting employee from retaliatory discharge, therefore, action not pre-empted by federal law). Plaintiff asserts that the District of Columbia has an interest in protecting parties from being victimized by unjust enrichment. In its briefs and at oral argument, however, plaintiff was unable to cite a single case articulating the relevant question of whether the District of Columbia has a public policy of protecting one labor union from unjust enrichment by another labor union. Nor is this "public policy" articulated in the D.C. Code. Since no District of Columbia policy is discernible by the Court, the public policy exception raised by plaintiff is inapplicable. Besides, the facts at bar are plainly distinguishable from situations where a "whistle-blower" is fired for revealing wrongdoing by an employer.
In sum, the Teamsters' state law claim of unjust enrichment is inextricably intertwined with an application of federal labor law principles. Therefore, the Court finds that it has jurisdiction over this matter. Accordingly, the Court denies plaintiff's motion to remand this matter to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
Upon deciding that this Court has jurisdiction over this matter, it is evident that the action should be dismissed for failure to state a claim under either federal or state law. Plaintiff has shown neither that the AFA owed any duty to the Teamsters with respect to grievance handling, nor that the AFA's processing of grievances violated applicable standards under the federal duty of fair representation. The AFA has never represented the Teamsters for the purposes of collective bargaining as that term is used in the Railway Labor Act. See Declaration of Clare Burt Gretz at para. 34. Plaintiff has failed to allege any violation of a contract duty owed to it.
Nor has the plaintiff made out a claim under the duty of fair representation. A labor union owes a duty of fair representation only to the members it represents. Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 177, 17 L. Ed. 2d 842, 87 S. Ct. 903 (1967) (as exclusive bargaining representative, union had statutory duty fairly to represent all member employees); see also Warehouse Union, Local 860 v. National Labor Relations Board, 209 U.S. App. D.C. 225, 652 F.2d 1022, 1024 (D.C. Cir. 1981); Baker v. Newspaper & Graphic Communications Union, 202 U.S. App. D.C. 156, 628 F.2d 156, 164 (D.C. Cir. 1980). As plaintiff has not filed this suit on behalf of the former Republic flight attendants, there is no claim for breach of the AFA's duty of fair representation.
Turning to plaintiff's state law claim, the Court finds that plaintiff also has failed to state a claim of unjust enrichment.
According to Williston, "three elements must be established in order that a plaintiff may establish a claim based on unjust enrichment." These elements are:
1. A benefit conferred upon the defendant by the plaintiff;
2. An appreciation or knowledge by the defendant of the benefit; and