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Wegmans asks court to throw out lawsuit

Rochester Business Journal
April 26, 2013

A union tractor-trailer driver's complaint alleging collusion between an official of Wegmans Food Markets Inc. and members of his Teamsters local should be thrown out of court, a Wegmans attorney argues in court papers filed last week.
 
Christopher Camelio, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 118 steward, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in January against a member of a rival faction in the fractious Teamsters local. That rival is alleged to have secretly passed sensitive information to a Wegmans official that could hurt the union in contract negotiations with the supermarket chain.
 
The lawsuit came in the midst of an internal feud that had split the Teamsters local into warring factions for months. The schism prompted national Teamsters president James Hoffa to call off the local's election last year and to name a trustee to oversee Local 118 until a new election could be scheduled.
 
Imposed last April, the trusteeship remains. Hoffa informed Local 118 members in a September 2012 letter that because of the inability of the local's executive board to quell internal strife the trustee would remain in charge and an election would be postponed until an indefinite date in 2013.
 
In court papers, Camelio, a union steward who identifies himself as one of a score of similarly concerned Local 118 members, alleges extensive phone contacts between the Wegmans official designated by the supermarket chain as its primary contact with Local 118 and a Local 118 official. The brief cites the alleged contacts as evidence that the union official fed Wegmans information that would undermine the union's bargaining position in upcoming contract talks.
 
Camelio's suspicions are not in themselves sufficient evidence of any collusion, argued Wegmans attorney Michael Hausknecht of Nixon Peabody LLP in a motion filed April 1 to seek the dismissal of Camelio's complaint.
 
Hausknecht argues in the brief that because Camelio fails to state a valid cause of action under the Labor Management Relations Act, he should have taken his complaint to the National Labor Relations Board instead of to U.S. District Court in Rochester. Hausknecht contends that the district court lacks authority to rule on the alleged labor law violations cited in the Camelio complaint.
 
The Teamsters union also plans to file a brief seeking the lawsuit's dismissal, said Teamsters lawyer Robert Boreanaz of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria LLP in Buffalo. He expects to echo some of Hausknecht's contentions but will make additional arguments, Boreanaz said.
 
Camelio's lawyer, Scott DeLuca of Schrader, Israely & DeLuca LLP in Buffalo, said he is studying the Wegmans motion and has yet to file an answer. He has until May 6 to do so.
 
"Our pre-litigation research revealed that collusive conduct between an employer and union is clearly actionable," DeLuca wrote this week in an email. "This is precisely what Mr. Camelio's complaint alleges, and that is why we believe Wegmans' motion to dismiss is baseless and will be denied by the court."
 
Particulars of the internecine dispute that sparked Camelio's original complaint are not entirely clear. Each side accuses the other of financial impropriety.
 
In his January court complaint, Camelio describes an ongoing struggle for control of the local between forces aligned with former Local 118 president Eugene DeLorme and supporters of Local 118 business agent Christopher Markwitz, a current candidate for the local's presidency.
 
Local 118 business agent Christopher Toole, the official whom Camelio accuses of feeding damaging information to Wegmans, is a member of the Markwitz slate.
 
Markwitz and Toole did not respond to requests for comment. They previously declined to comment.
 
A posting on www.Markwitz2012.com, a website promoting Markwitz's candidacy for Local 118's presidency, dismisses Camelio's lawsuit as "retaliatory, misleading, politically motivated and destructive to our organization."

4/26/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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