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PPG Industries Inc. v. Local 470 International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

August 30, 2018




         Before the court are Motions for Summary Judgment [docs. 19, 25] filed, respectively, by defendant Local 470 Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers and plaintiff PPG Industries, Inc. Both motions are opposed and have been referred to the undersigned for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636.



         PPG Industries, Inc. (“PPG”) filed this suit on September 15, 2016, requesting that the court vacate a labor arbitration award made on June 20, 2016. Doc. 1. PPG was then the owner and operator of a chemical manufacturing plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Id. at 2. PPG and Local 470 Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (“the Union”), the collective bargaining unit representing employees at that facility, were parties to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) which established the terms and conditions of PPG employees' work at the Lake Charles complex. Id. at 2-3; see doc. 19, att. 5, pp. 203-44.

         The labor dispute arose from PPG's decision to use contract operators, rather than bargain unit members, to operate newly installed waste presses in 2015. For over twenty years prior to this decision, PPG had leased portable waste presses from a contractor, and used the contractor's employees to operate those presses, in order to handle waste disposal at the Lake Charles complex. Doc. 19, att. 5, pp. 15-16, 69. In early 2015, PPG informed the Union that it had decided to stop leasing the presses and instead purchase and install its own machines at the Lake Charles complex. Id. at 44-46, 88-90. The new waste presses went into operation on April 21, 2015, with contract employees operating the machines. Id. at 88-90. The Union asserts that it first became aware that the new presses were in operation on April 22, 2015. See Id. at 29-32.

         The Union filed a grievance on May 4, 2015, complaining of PPG's use of contract operators on the new waste presses.[1] Id. at 245. PPG answered the Union's grievance the same day, asserting that its decision to subcontract work on the new waste presses fell within its authority under Article V, Section 2 (“the Management Clause”) of the CBA.[2] Id. The Union appealed and PPG answered the Union's appeal with another assertion of its rights under the Management Clause. Id. at 246. On March 16, 2016, while the parties were preparing for arbitration, PPG also informed the Union that it considered the grievance untimely under Article XX, Section 2 of the CBA because it had not been presented within ten days of the “Date of Incident.” Id. at 166.

         Arbitrator Samuel J. Nicholas, Jr., heard the case on April 13, 2016, and issued his opinion two months later. Id. at 1-117; doc. 19, att. 4. He concluded that the grievance was timely under the CBA because it dealt with “an ongoing issue that still exists.” Doc. 19, att. 4, p. 10. He also found that PPG's actions did not violate the Management Clause as the Union had asserted. Id. at 10-11. Nevertheless, Nicholas continued, PPG should have created new bargaining unit positions to man the newly purchased waste presses rather than continuing to subcontract the work as it had done when it leased the presses, and its failure to do so violated Article VI, Section 3 of the CBA. Id. at 11-13. Nicholas therefore sustained the grievance, ordering PPG to discontinue the use of contract workers on the waste presses and to replace those workers with bargaining unit employees. Id. at 13-14.

         PPG seeks to vacate the arbitral award under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185; and the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq. Doc. 1. The record in this matter has been submitted, and PPG and the Union have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. In its motion for summary judgment, the Union also requests attorney's fees. Doc. 19, att. 1, pp. 9-10. Accordingly, the court now considers whether to vacate or affirm the arbitral award and then, if affirmation is recommended, the Union's request for attorney's fees.


         Legal Standards

         A. Summary Judgment

         A court should grant a motion for summary judgment when the movant shows “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The party moving for summary judgment is initially responsible for identifying portions of pleadings and discovery that show the lack of a genuine issue of material fact. Tubacex, Inc. v. M/V Risan, 45 F.3d 951, 954 (5th Cir. 1995). The court must deny the motion for summary judgment if the movant fails to meet this burden. Id.

         If the movant makes this showing, however, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511 (1986) (quotations omitted). This requires more than mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleadings. Instead, the nonmovant must submit “significant probative evidence” in support of his claim. State Farm Life Ins. Co. v. Gutterman, 896 F.2d 116, 118 (5th Cir. 1990). “If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 106 S.Ct. at 2511 (citations omitted).

         A court may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence in ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 120 S.Ct. 2097, 2110 (2000). The court is also required to view all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Clift v. Clift, 210 F.3d 268, 270 (5th Cir. 2000). Under this standard, a genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable trier of fact could render a verdict for the nonmoving party. Brumfield v. Hollins, 551 F.3d 322, 326 (5th Cir. 2008). On cross-motions for summary judgment, the court reviews each ...

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