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International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District Lodge 166, AFLCIO v. Griffin

December 22, 2008

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS, DISTRICT LODGE 166, AFLCIO, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MICHAEL GRIFFIN, ADMINISTRATOR OF NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case arises out of a labor dispute. Plaintiffs International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District Lodge 166 and Local Lodge 2061, AFL-CIO (collectively "Plaintiffs"), are the collective bargaining representatives for a group of workers who are employed by non-party United Space Alliance, LLC ("Space Alliance"). Pursuant to a service contract, Space Alliance provides employees to work at the John F. Kennedy Space Center for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ("NASA").*fn1

Since 1983, the relationship between Plaintiffs and Space Alliance has been governed by a series of collective bargaining agreements, one of which expired on June 1, 2007. At that time, Plaintiffs hoped to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement that would increase hourly wages to match the rates paid to workers employed by another non-party company called United Launch Alliance, LLC ("Launch Alliance"). The negotiations between Plaintiffs and Space Alliance failed to yield such an agreement and the employees represented by Plaintiffs went on strike.

Plaintiffs blame NASA for their failed negotiations and have brought suit against Michael Griffin, in his official capacity as Administrator of National Aeronautics and Space Administration ("NASA"). Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges that an unspecified person working for NASA told an unspecified person working for Space Alliance that NASA would refuse to reimburse increased labor costs if Space Alliance agreed to higher wages in a new collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiffs characterize this statement as a threat, and Plaintiffs' Complaint seeks certain declaratory relief and an injunction against any future "threats."

NASA has filed a [12] Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint for failure to state a claim, which Plaintiffs have opposed. NASA has also filed a Reply. After thoroughly reviewing the parties' submissions, applicable case law, statutory and regulatory authority, and the record of the case as a whole, the Court shall GRANT Defendant's [12] Motion to Dismiss, for the reasons that follow.

I. BACKGROUND

Space Alliance has a service contract with NASA to provide mechanical and technical personnel for NASA's manned space launches at the Kennedy Space Center.*fn2 Compl. ¶ 15. Plaintiffs are the exclusive bargaining representatives for these employees. Id. ¶ 17. Since 1983, Plaintiffs and Space Alliance have negotiated a series of collective bargaining agreements with respect to wages and other conditions of employment. Id. In mid-2007, Plaintiffs and Space Alliance commenced negotiations for a new agreement, and Plaintiffs hoped the new agreement would include increased hourly wages. Id. ¶¶ 18, 19.

After failing to reach an agreement, Plaintiffs initiated a strike against Space Alliance beginning June 14, 2007.*fn3 Id. ¶ 20. At the heart of Plaintiffs' Complaint is that, during this period, NASA "exerted direct pressure on Space Alliance that [] distorted the collective bargaining process between [Plaintiffs] and Space Alliance." Id. ¶ 21. In particular, Plaintiffs allege that "NASA has made statements that have exerted and continue to exert coercive pressure on Space Alliance to insist on wage rates below the level at which it would be willing to settle for in the absence of such coercive pressure." Id.

Plaintiffs' Complaint describes a single instance of such "statements." On May 14, 2007, Samuel Haddad, NASA's Regional Labor Advisor at the Kennedy Space Center, met with Johnny Walker, the Directing Business Representative of District 166. Id. ¶¶ 22-23. Plaintiffs allege that Haddad was "[a]cting as an agent of [D]efendant and representative of the agency" when he stated that "NASA would not increase [the amount of money paid to Space Alliance for services rendered] under any circumstances, [and] that NASA would not reimburse Space Alliance for any increase in employees' wages or benefits that the employer may negotiate with [P]laintiffs . . . ." Id. ¶ 23. According to Plaintiffs, this "threat" was inconsistent with NASA's obligation to remain neutral in the labor dispute between Space Alliance and Plaintiffs. Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiffs' submissions to the Court fail to explain how this "threat" could have exerted any pressure on Space Alliance when it was made to a representative of Plaintiffs and not Space Alliance.

In any event, Plaintiffs further allege that Haddad's threat reflected NASA's "position," and that throughout the collective bargaining agreement negotiations, Space Alliance made references to "customer issues," which Plaintiffs allege to have been the pressure exerted by NASA. Id. ¶ 25. On information and belief, Plaintiffs also assert that NASA has developed "a recurring pattern and practice" to obstruct "efforts of service contractors to obtain lawful reimbursement or allowances for labor expenses." Id. ¶ 26.

As a result of the foregoing, Plaintiffs seek (1) a declaration that NASA has violated the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act of 1965, 41 U.S.C. §§ 351-38, and the implementing regulations thereto, (2) a declaration that NASA cannot seek to obtain a wage variance pursuant to 41 U.S.C. § 353(c) (apparently because Plaintiffs fear that such a proceeding would result in lower wages), and (3) an injunction that enjoins NASA from threatening Space Alliance during future collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Id. ¶ 31 & Compl. at 11.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain "'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and must accept as true all reasonable factual inferences drawn from well-pleaded factual allegations.

In re United Mine Workers of Am. Employee Benefit Plans Litig., 854 F. Supp. 914, 915 (D.D.C. 1994). While the court must construe the Complaint in the plaintiff's favor, it "need not accept inferences drawn by the plaintiff[] if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint." Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). Moreover, the court is not bound to accept the legal conclusions of the non-moving party. See Taylor v. FDIC, 132 F.3d 753, 762 (D.C. Cir. 1997). The court is limited to considering facts alleged in the complaint, any documents attached to or incorporated in the complaint, matters of which the court may take judicial notice, and matters of public ...


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