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No federal jurisdiction over wage and benefit case

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//December 4, 2019

No federal jurisdiction over wage and benefit case

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//December 4, 2019

Where the former president of a Teamsters sued the union for unpaid wages and benefits, the claims did not fall under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, or LMRA, thus requiring the case to be remanded to General District Court.


Kenneth Chism served as president of the Teamsters Local 322 from 2011 to 2018. He sued the local in the General District Court of Henrico County, Virginia, seeking compensation for unpaid wages and benefits under the local’s policy manual. The local removed the case to this court, invoking federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The local argues that Chism’s claim falls under § 301 of the LMRA. Chism has moved to remand to state court.


A suit properly brought under § 301 must be a suit either for violation of a contract between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce or for violation of a contract between such labor organizations. Here, the local points to two documents: (1) the local’s bylaws and (2) the UPS contract.

First, the local argues that its executive board promulgated the policy manual pursuant to the local’s bylaws, which were “approved by the General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.” A local union’s “constitution and bylaws,” however, “merely constitute a contract between a local union and its members, and a suit predicated on such a contract . . . does not fall within . . . section 301.”

Second, the local asserts that the court has jurisdiction because the policy manual refers to the UPS contract. Chism, however, merely seeks to enforce his rights under the policy manual, which incorporates the UPS contract by reference. The policy manual—not the UPS contract—governed the relationship between Chism and the local during his employment. The UPS contract, therefore, does not form the basis of Chism’s claim.

Even if Chism’s claim arises out of the UPS contract, his claim still falls outside the scope of the LMRA. A claim requires interpreting a CBA when it is “substantially dependent on analysis of a collective-bargaining agreement.” To adjudicate Chism’s claim, a court need only look to the UPS contract to determine Chism’s entitlement to compensation for unused sick and personal leave and the amount of any compensation. In other words, this case requires nothing more than “a referral to the CBA for damages computation.” Accordingly, Chism’s claim does not substantially depend on analyzing the UPS contract.

Chism’s motion to remand granted.

Chism v. Teamsters Local 322, Case No. 19-cv-222, Nov. 4, 2019. EDVA at Richmond (Gibney). VLW 019-3-517. 5 pp.

VLW 019-3-517

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