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McNutt v. Local 878 Int'l Brothers of Teamsters

November 15, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James M. Moody United States District Judge


Pending is Defendant Local 878 International Brothers of Teamsters's Motion for Summary Judgment. The Plaintiff has responded. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED.

I. Facts

On August 6, 2003, Plaintiff filed his complaint pro se against both RBX Corporation and Local 878 International Brothers of Teamsters's (hereinafter "Defendant" and "Local 878") alleging a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 et seq. for discrimination based on his race, African American, because of his termination as an employee of RBX Corporation on February 10, 2003 and for breach of the duty of fair representation. (Complaint, para. 1, 8, & 9). Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination against Local 878 on July 30, 2003 and received a notice of right to sue Local 878 from the EEOC dated August 6, 2003.

Plaintiff worked as a production employee for RBX Corporation at the company's Colt, Arkansas manufacturing plant. RBX manufactured rubber products at the Colt plant. Plaintiff was first hired on January 20, 1978 and worked continuously at the plant until his termination from employment on February 10, 2003. When Plaintiff was first hired, the Colt plant was owned by Halstead Industries of Wynn, Arkansas. In November 1994, Halstead Industries sold the plant to Rubatex Corporation which subsequently changed its name to RBX Corporation (hereinafter RBX). RBX filed for bankruptcy on February 24, 2004, and closed its plant on or about April 2, 2004. The Colt plant and equipment were auctioned off on May 21, 2004.

For many years, the production and maintenance employees at RBX were covered by a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") negotiated between Local 878 and RBX. The CBA established wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment for these employees. Relevant articles and clauses of the CBA include the following:

Article 2 of the CBA states that the employer recognizes the union as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent for the purpose of collective bargaining with respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment and other conditions of employment relating only to the employees in the bargaining unit. It further states that "The employer and Union agree that there will be no discrimination, interference, restraint or coercion by either party against employees because of membership or non-membership in the Union or because of race, color, creed, age, sex or national origin."

Article 3 of the CBA is the management rights clause. (Ex. 3, p. 2-3). The management rights clause states that except to the extent expressly abridged by specific provisions of the CBA, the employer solely and exclusively reserves and retains all of its rights to manage and operate its business. (Art. 3, section 1, p. 2). The enumerated rights retained by the company include the right to transfer, promote and demote, layoff, terminate or otherwise relieve employees from duty for lack of work or other reasons consistent with efficient operations; to discharge employees for just cause; to determine methods of work measurement and to establish standards of performance including the right to introduce new or improved production methods or facilities; and to do any other act or take any other measures which the Employer determines to be necessary for the orderly, efficient and profitable operations of its business provided that this section will not be used to discriminate against the Union and its members and that this section will not in any way interfere with the employee's rights under the terms of the CBA. (Ex.3, art. 3, sect. 2, p. 2). In article 3, section 3 of the CBA, the union agrees that it will cooperate with the efforts of the employer to maintain or improve the efficiency and production of the employees and the quality of its products.

Article 11 of the CBA discusses plant rules, discipline and discharge of employees. (Ex. 3, p. 16-17). Article 11, section 4 of the CBA provides that an employee who has completed his or her probationary period may only be discharged for just cause and/or for violation of the plant rules. Before discharge, one written warning must be given to the employee except for certain reasons not applicable to this case. (Ex. 3, p. 17). Article 11, section 5 provides that either the union or the employee may file a grievance as provided in article 12 of the CBA.

Article 12 of the CBA is the grievance procedure. (Ex. 3, p. 17-19). Article 12 provides for a number of progressive steps in processing a grievance with one step being arbitration of the grievance before the Piedmont Grievance Panel should either the union or the company decide to submit the grievance to the Piedmont Panel to obtain a decision on the grievance.

On August 9, 1999, Plaintiff became a rubber extrusion line operator. Plaintiff was demoted from the line operator position by RBX to a packer within three months because RBX contended Plaintiff's job performance was poor. (Ex. 1, para. 11). Plaintiff filed a grievance dated November 1, 1999 protesting the demotion and requesting that he again be made a line operator. (Ex. 4 & 5). Carlton Collins processed his grievance to the Piedmont Grievance Panel. (Ex. 6 & 7). The panel issued a majority decision denying the grievance. Under the terms of the CBA, the union may not process the grievance beyond the Piedmont Grievance Panel level unless the panel deadlocks or is unable to issue a decision. (Ex. 3, p. 18-19).

Carlton Collins, an assistant business agent of Local 878, represented Plaintiff on this grievance. Collins is African American.

In approximately 2001, Plaintiff bid back into a line operator position. On December 3, 2002, Plaintiff was given a first warning by RBX for creating excessive scrap. (Ex. 1 & 8). Plaintiff filed a grievance protesting this discipline on December 6, 2002. (Ex. 9). On January 28, 2003, Plaintiff received a second warning for creating excessive scrap. (Ex. 1 & 10).

Henry Adams, African American chief union steward, called Carlton Collins informing him that a second warning for poor job performance was issued to Plaintiff. Collins was out of town; but he called Tracy Webster, a human resources manager of RBX, and requested that the company take no action against Plaintiff until he had an opportunity to return and speak with him. (Ex. 1, para. 13). As an offer of settlement of the issue, Webster agreed to remove any warnings from Plaintiff's personnel file and ...

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