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Ryals v. ILA Local 1771

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

July 16, 2014

Cary Ryals, Plaintiff,
ILA Local 1771 (Clerks & Checkers), South Carolina Stevedores Association, Ceres Marine Terminals, APM Terminals, Ports America Stevedoring Contract Company, and SSA-Cooper Stevedoring Company, Defendants

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For Cary Ryals, Plaintiff: Veronica Glover Small, LEAD ATTORNEY, Family Legal Services, Charleston, SC.

For ILA Local 1771 Clerks & Checkers, Defendant: Peter Wilborn, LEAD ATTORNEY, Derfner Altman and Wilborn, Charleston, SC; Laurence M Goodman, Willig Williams and Davidson, Philadelphia, PA.

For South Carolina Stevedores Association, SSA-Cooper Stevedoring Company, Ports America Stevedoring Contract Company, APM Terminals, Ceres Marine Terminals, Defendants: Benjamin P Glass, LEAD ATTORNEY, Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak and Stewart, Charleston, SC.

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This matter is before the court upon two motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The first motion was brought by Defendant ILA Local 1771 (Clerks and Checkers) (" Union" or " Local 1771" ), and the second motion was brought by Defendants South Carolina Stevedores Association (" SCSA" ), Ceres Marine Terminals, APM Terminals, Ports America Stevedoring Contract Company, and SSA/Cooper Stevedoring Company (collectively, " Employers" ). For the reasons that follow, the court grants both motions.


The following facts are drawn from plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff Cary Ryals is a member of the International Longshoreman's Association and its local organization, Local 1771. Plaintiff has been a member in good standing since 1998. Local 1771 operates an exclusive hiring hall through which individuals may obtain employment as clerks and checkers for the Employers. The Employers are members of the SCSA, an organization that represents Employers in all employment and labor matters within the Port of Charleston. Employees are hired based on seniority, which is determined by the number of hours an employee works during a contract year. The hiring system adopted by the Union and the Employers is governed by the Charleston Clerks and Checkers Seniority Plan (" Seniority Plan" or " Plan" ). The Seniority Plan incorporates rules adopted by both the Union and the Employers regarding how employees are hired and how Union members are offered and assigned employment (respectively, " the Charleston Hiring Rules," and " the Calling Rules" ). The Plan is a product of the collective bargaining relationship between the SCSA and Local 1771. The Plan's operation is governed by a board consisting of two representatives of the Employers and two representatives from the Union (" the Seniority Board" or " the Board" ). " The Board's decisions are final and binding, with a failure to agree being subject to adjustment pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement." Compl. Ex. B at 1.

In 2007, the federal government mandated that all port longshore employees obtain a Transportation Workers Identification Credential card (" TWIC" ). Plaintiff applied for a TWIC card in March 2008, but his request was denied. In October 2008, plaintiff was arrested on a felony offense of assault and battery with intent to kill. Although plaintiff's application for a TWIC card had been denied, he was able to work as a union employee, notwithstanding his felony arrest.

On May 27, 2009, plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident and was severely assaulted by a fellow union member. As a

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result of the accident and assault, plaintiff was out of work from May 2009 through August 2010. Plaintiff received accident and sick pay benefits pursuant to section 7(A)(1) of the Seniority Plan [1] from May 31, 2009, through May 23, 2010.

On or about June 2, 2009, plaintiff informed the dispatcher that he was " marked off" until further notice in accordance with sections 1 and 3 of the Calling Rules.[2] Plaintiff believed that he would suffer no Union discipline until such time as he informed the Union to put him back on the calling roster. From 2009 until on or before January 28, 2013, plaintiff spoke with his Union representative on several occasions concerning the outstanding criminal charge and the impact it was having on his ability to work. He was informed by his Union representative that he could return to work as soon as he obtained a TWIC card.

Around November 2010, plaintiff again applied for a TWIC card; however, his application was denied as a result of the pending felony charge. Because he was denied security clearance, plaintiff was available for work but unable to work. On or about January 28, 2013, plaintiff's felony charge was resolved and he was allowed to obtain a TWIC card on July 17, 2013. Thereafter, plaintiff reported to the Union hall and requested that he be returned to the " call tape" for job assignment. Compl. ¶ 27.

On July 18, 2013, plaintiff contacted the dispatcher to find out why he had not been called for work. At that time, he was informed that he could not work until he was HAZMAT recertified and that he would have to wait for notice from the SCSA for HAZMAT recertification dates. When plaintiff called the president of Local 1771 to schedule his HAZMAT recertification, plaintiff was informed that he would have to have his Union privileges reinstated.

On July 19, 2013, plaintiff wrote the SCSA to request a reinstatement hearing. A hearing was held before the Seniority Board on August 1, 2013. On August 20, 2013, plaintiff sent an email to Local 1771 in an effort to clarify his absence from the Union call list. On August 26, 2013, plaintiff was notified by the Seniority Board that his seniority with the Union had ceased and would not be reinstated due to a violation of section 7(C)(4) of the Seniority Plan, which provides for termination for failure to make oneself available on a daily basis.

On August 28, 2013, plaintiff requested a detailed definition of the facts outlining when he was not available to work and the basis for the Seniority Board's decision. On September 5, 2013, plaintiff received an email from the Seniority Board informing him that his seniority had been broken because he did not make himself available for work over a four-year period of time. Plaintiff emailed the Union and the SCSA to request a detailed list of times that he was not available for work, as well as a reconsideration of the decision based upon erroneous information regarding his unavailability. On September 10, 2013, plaintiff again emailed both the Union and the

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SCSA to notify them of his appeal of the decision not to reinstate him for employment.

On September 18, 2013, plaintiff received an email from the Seniority Board informing him that it was incumbent upon plaintiff to document his credited work hours. On September 27, 2013, plaintiff emailed the Seniority Board requesting a rehearing on his seniority classification termination, which request was denied by the Seniority Board by email dated October 1, 2013. On November 4, 2013, plaintiff, through his attorney, again requested reconsideration of his seniority. On November 18, 2013, plaintiff's attorney received a response from the attorney for the Seniority Board informing plaintiff that the matter was being investigated. On February 11, 2014, plaintiff received a decision denying his request for reinstatement of his seniority classification.

Plaintiff filed the instant action on February 20, 2014, asserting that Employers and the Union have violated provisions of both the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (" the LMRDA" ) and the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (" the LMRA" ). Plaintiff contends that his seniority was wrongfully terminated without notice or a hearing, and that Employers and Local 1771 violated the LMRDA and LMRA by failing to comply with the terms of the Seniority Plan.

On April 9, 2014, the Union and Employers filed separate motions to dismiss the complaint. Plaintiff responded to both motions on April 28, 2014. These matters have been ...

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