Case Caption: Delia Anderson v. American Federation of TeachersCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2016-0047Date: 08/03/2017Author: Cabret, Maria M. Citation: Summary:

In an action the parties and the Superior Court treated as charging, in substance, that a teachers' union breached the duty of fair representation of the plaintiff regarding a grievance, the plaintiff failed to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact that would preclude summary judgment. Pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169 labor organizations that negotiate with employers over employee grievances owe a duty of fair representation to the employees that they represent. But this duty only applies with respect to a labor organization's interactions with "employers," a term defined by the NLRA to exclude "any State or political subdivision thereof." Consequently, when a labor organization advocates on behalf of an employee of a state government, or one employed by a political subdivision of such a government, the NLRA does not govern the organization's actions. The Virgin Islands Public Employee Labor Relations Act (PELRA), 24 V.I.C. §§ 361-383, has been interpreted to impose a duty of fair representation on labor organizations that negotiate on behalf of employees of the Virgin Islands government and its agencies. However, a claim against a union for breach of its duty of fair representation imposes a heavy burden on employees that challenge union conduct to show that the union's conduct was ‘arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith.'" On summary judgment the Superior Court correctly determined that the union in this case discharged its summary judgment burden when it introduced evidence that it promptly addressed plaintiff grievance in a nondiscriminatory manner. Plaintiff then failed to carry her summary judgment burden because she did not introduce more than a scintilla of proof to rebut that evidence. The arguments presented, including those based on portions of plaintiff's deposition, do not create a genuine issue of material fact concerning whether the union's actions were arbitrary, discriminatory, or taken in bad faith. The unrebutted evidence adduced by the union summary judgment motion and plaintiff's response, demonstrates that her suit is nothing more than a claim that the union did not correspond with her to her liking. However, a claim for breach of a union's duty of fair representation cannot be sustained solely on a union's alleged failure to keep a grievant informed of the status of the grievance. Like conclusory allegations in a complaint or an answer, conclusory allegations in an affidavit are also insufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion. The Superior Court's August 10, 2016 judgment is affirmed.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion