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HILL v. WMATA

March 25, 2004.

JIMMIE W. HILL, et al.,
v.
WMATA, et al



The opinion of the court was delivered by: PAUL FRIEDMAN, District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the Court on defendants' motions to dismiss. Plaintiffs, an individual Metro Transit Police Officer employed by the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority ("WMATA" or "the Authority") and the Fraternal Order of Police/WMATA Police Labor Committee, sued WMATA and the incumbent union for the officers, Local 639 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, seeking a declaration that plaintiffs are entitled to a representational election. In the alternative, plaintiffs ask for a declaration that WMATA submit the plaintiffs' request to arbitration. This Court grants defendants' motions to dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND

  The following facts are taken from plaintiffs' complaint.*fn1

  Until February 2003, the Metro Transit Police Officers were represented by Teamsters Local 246. The officers were the largest unit within the Local. The current collective Page 2 bargaining agreement, negotiated between WMATA and Local 246, was executed on May 15, 2002, but was made effective retroactively from October 1, 1998, through September 30, 2004.

  Local 246 experienced financial difficulties, and the Teamsters imposed a trusteeship on the Local in August 2000. Though the financial situation of Local 246 improved somewhat under the trusteeship, in September 2002 the Teamsters proposed, and shortly thereafter the membership of the Local voted in favor of, a merger with Local 639. The merger took effect on February 1, 2003.

  On February 7, 2003, plaintiffs submitted a petition to WMATA for a representation election, which had the signatures of more than half the members of the bargaining unit. WMATA nevertheless recognized Local 639 as the unit's bargaining representative on February 19, 2003. On March 25, 2003, WMATA denied plaintiffs' petition for an election. WMATA invoked the contract-bar doctrine and argued that the election petition was untimely, in that it was presented more than ninety days prior to the expiry of the collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiffs filed a complaint in this Court against WMATA and Local 639 challenging the denial as an abuse of discretion. Plaintiffs also claim that their dispute over whether they are entitled to a representation election is a question "concerning representation," and as such should be submitted to arbitration.

  II. DISCUSSION

  WMATA is the creature of an interstate compact, codified at D.C. Code §§ 9-1101.01, et seq. Section 66 of the Compact, not the Federal Labor Relations Act or the National Labor Relations Act, governs WMATA's collective-bargaining relationship with its Page 3 employees and their representatives. See, e.g., Diven v. Amalgamated Transit Union & Local 689, 38 F.3d 598, 601 (D.C. Cir. 1994). Though neither the FLRA nor the NLRA is binding, the Compact incorporates the NLRA's definition of "employee," see Compact § 66(b), D.C. Code § 9-1107.01 (providing that WMATA "shall deal with and enter into written contracts with employees as defined in section 152 of title 29, United States Code . . ."), and WMATA has therefore consulted National Labor Relations Board precedent in determining its responsibilities under the Compact.

  It is in this context that the Court is presented with plaintiffs' complaint and defendants' motions to dismiss, both centering on the proper interpretation of Section 66(c) of the Compact. In relevant part, Section 66(c) states:
In case of any labor dispute involving the Authority and [its] employees where collective bargaining does not result in agreement, the Authority shall submit such dispute to arbitration. . . . The term "labor dispute" shall be broadly construed and shall include any controversy concerning wages, salaries, hours, working conditions, or benefits including health and welfare, sick leave, insurance or pension or retirement provisions but not limited thereto, and including any controversy concerning any differences or questions that may arise between the parties including but not limited to the making or maintaining of collective bargaining agreements, the terms to be included in such agreements, and the interpretation or application of such collective bargaining agreements and any grievance that may arise and questions concerning representation. Each party shall pay one-half of the expenses of such arbitration.
Compact § 66(c), D.C. Code § 9-1107.01. Page 4

  A. Standing

  WMATA and Local 639 moved to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint for lack of standing.*fn2 In the view of defendants, Section 66(c) provides for an arbitration process between only two parties: WMATA and the incumbent union. In support of this argument, defendants point out that the provision designating each party to pay half of the expenses of arbitration implies that there will be only two parties to an arbitration. Defendants are correct that the Compact contemplates a two-party arbitration process, but the Court is at a loss to see why the incumbent union should always be one of the parties — in other words, why an individual employee would be forbidden from invoking the grievance process. In fact, Section 66(c) might be thought to contemplate the involvement of individual employees, by providing for arbitration of disputes "involving the Authority and [its] employees."

  To be sure, there are signs pointing in the opposite direction. The Compact directs that in choosing the arbitration panel the "labor organization" shall play a key role, and it is clear that most disputes will see the organization as the representative of the employees. See Compact § 66(b), D.C. Code § 9-1107.01. Here, however, the interests of the individual employee plaintiff are at odds with those of the incumbent union, Local 639, and defendants would interpret the Compact to leave plaintiff with no avenue for his grievance. Certainly there Page 5 is no clear expression in the Compact that would preclude an individual employee from making a grievance. For these reasons, and in light of the fact that individual employees often have access to arbitration in grievance processes pursuant to collective bargaining agreements, this Court holds that plaintiff Hill has standing.

  Each of the plaintiffs raises identical claims in this action; indeed, each has filed the same documents in opposition to the motion to dismiss. It therefore is unnecessary to decide whether plaintiff Fraternal Order of Police has standing. See, e.g., Watt v. Energy Action Educ. Found., 454 U.S. 151, 160 (1981); UAW-Labor Empl. & Training Corp. v. Chao, 325 F.3d 360, 362 ...


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