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Riggs v. Chugach Electric Association, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Alaska

June 23, 2015

Jim C. Riggs, Plaintiff,
v.
Chugach Electric Association, Inc., Defendant.

ORDER AND OPINION [Re: Motion at docket 11]

JOHN W. SEDWICK, Senior District Judge.

I. MOTION PRESENTED

Defendant Chugach Electric Association, Inc. ("Chugach") moves for summary judgment at docket 11. Chugach's motion is supported by a memorandum found at docket 12, to which are appended numerous exhibits, and by the Affidavit of Tyler Andrews, found at docket 13. An opposition from plaintiff Jim C. Riggs ("Riggs") is found at docket 21. The response includes the Affidavit of Jim C. Riggs. Chugach replies at docket 23. Oral argument has not been requested, and oral argument would not assist the court.

II. JURISDICTION AND BACKGROUND

Riggs was hired by Chugach in August of 2000. He worked at a power generation facility called the Beluga Power Plant ("BPP"). Riggs was a welding maintenance technician at BPP from 2006 until he was laid off in October of 2012. Chugach is a union employer. Many of its employees, including Riggs, are covered by a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") with Local Union 1547 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ("Local 1547").[1]

Riggs filed this case in state court, and Chugach timely removed it to this court. Riggs' complaint pleads two claims against Chugach: (1) Chugach breached the CBA; and (2) Chugach discriminated against Riggs on the basis of his age in violation of AS 18.80.220(a). Riggs suggests in his briefing that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. The suggestion is without merit. The first claim is indisputably based on an alleged violation of the CBA, so this court has jurisdiction pursuant to § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA").[2] Chugach argues that the second claim also falls within the ambit of § 301 of the LMRA; but even if the second claim is a purely state law claim as Riggs contends, this court has supplemental jurisdiction over it.[3]

BPP has been in operation for decades. In 2013, Chugach began operating a new power generation facility, the Southcentral Power Plant ("SPP"). Use of SPP reduced the operations conducted at BPP and also reduced the need for maintenance workers at BPP. Chugach and Local 1547 entered a letter of agreement ("LOA") prior to commencement of operations at SPP, which made the CBA (with modifications set out in the LOA) applicable to work at SPP. The LOA also provided a procedure for BPP employees to bid on upcoming jobs at SPP. Riggs did not bid for a job at SPP.

In the meantime, Riggs' health was deteriorating. Among other things, Riggs developed emphysema, which he attributes to many years of welding and concomitant exposure to hexavalent chromium fumes. As a result, in March 2012 Riggs began asking for training as a boiler operator, but training was not offered to him. Chugach gave notice of two boiler operator vacancies at BPP in April 2012. Riggs bid on one of the positions. His bid was evaluated pursuant to the applicable provisions of the CBA, and the bid committee found that neither Riggs nor two of the other applicants had the required qualifications. Riggs also bid on another boiler operator position at BPP in May 2012. As before, the CBA provisions were followed, and the bid committee found that Riggs and three other applicants lacked the qualifications required for the position. In June, Riggs was notified that he would not be assigned to a boiler operator position.

As work shifted to SPP, Chugach gave notice to five maintenance workers at BPP, including Riggs, that their positions were being eliminated. Riggs did not have the experience in other job positions which would have allowed him to secure work by "bumping" other employees. Thus, there was no work available for Riggs. Under the CBA, Riggs had the right for one year to bid for vacancies occurring at Chugach, but he did not do so.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[4] The materiality requirement ensures that "only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment."[5] Ultimately, "summary judgment will not lie if the... evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."[6] However, summary judgment is mandated under Rule 56(c) "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial."[7]

The moving party has the burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.[8] Where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, the moving party need not present evidence to show that summary judgment is warranted; it need only point out the lack of any genuine dispute as to material fact.[9] Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth evidence of specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.[10] All evidence presented by the non-movant must be believed for purposes of summary judgment, and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-movant.[11] However, the non-moving party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but must show that there is sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute to require a fact-finder to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.[12]

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Breach of ...


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