The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANLEY SPORKIN
Before this Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or, Alternatively, to Stay Plaintiff's Claim. The Court heard oral argument on this motion on July 1, 1993. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion will be denied.
Defendant, Pritchard Industries, is a building maintenance contractor headquartered in Maryland. Plaintiff, Local 82, represents some of Defendant's janitorial employees in the District of Columbia. The parties held contract negotiations in the fall and winter of 1992. The Union contends that this negotiation process resulted in an agreement that was memorialized in two parts. The first was a collective bargaining agreement for Pritchard's unionized janitors ("Collective Bargaining Agreement"). The second was a "Recognition Agreement" that provided a process by which Pritchard janitors in several non-union shops could select the Union as their collective bargaining agent.
Pritchard signed the document titled "Collective Bargaining Agreement," but refused to sign the document titled "Recognition Agreement."
On March 25, 1993, the Union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), based on Pritchard's refusal to sign the Recognition Agreement. On April 23, the Union filed the complaint in this action, seeking enforcement of the Recognition Agreement under Section 301(a) of the labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a).
Defendant contends that the NLRB has primary, if not exclusive, jurisdiction over disputes involving union representation. The instant case, however, involves a different question: whether the parties formed a binding contract. Although the Recognition Agreement, if found to be binding, may ultimately affect representation rights, the Union is not asking this Court to monitor implementation of that agreement. The Union is only asking for a ruling on the narrow issue of whether an agreement exists. The Court has jurisdiction over such disputes arising under § 301(a). Smith v. Evening News Ass'n, 371 U.S. 195, 197-98, 9 L. Ed. 2d 246, 83 S. Ct. 267 (1962) (holding that federal district courts have jurisdiction over violations of collective bargaining contracts, even if such violations are also unfair labor practices subject to NLRB jurisdiction).
Alternatively, Defendant contends that even if the Court does have jurisdiction in this matter, the Court should defer to the NLRB as a matter of policy because the Union is seeking the same relief in both forums. The NLRB action, including appeals, could take three or four years to complete. Such a delay would inflict hardship not only on Plaintiff, but also on the non-unionized employees, who could be forced to wait several years to select or reject the Union as their exclusive bargaining agent.
Furthermore, the NLRB could resolve the unfair labor practice issue without ever reaching the question of whether a contract exists. In that case, the NLRB action might not be dispositive. The Union could well find itself before this Court years from now, seeking a ruling on the same question it raises today.
Accordingly, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss will De denied. An appropriate Order accompanies this Memorandum.
United States District Court
ORDER - July 8, 1993, Filed
Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or, Alternatively, to Stay Plaintiff's Claim. Upon consideration of this motion and Plaintiff's opposition thereto, and after conducting a hearing on the motion on July 1, 1993, for the ...