Pennsylvania Glazier Fights Triple Legal Battles

Marrero Glass and Metal Inc. (MGM), a Pennsylvania-based glazing and metal company, is involved in three related lawsuits, one against J.E. Berkowitz (JEB), a second against the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council No. 21 (DC 21) and a third suit in which MGM is a defendant in a suit by DC 21.

MGM is a minority-owned, family operated business.

Marrero Glass and Metal vs. J.E. Berkowitz

On June 6, 2017, MGM filed a complaint against JEB, an architectural glass fabricator based in New Jersey, alleging breach of contract, fraud and other counts in regard to project bids won by MGM in June 2015. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court District of New Jersey.

Arthur Berkowitz, executive vice president of JEB, tells USGNN.com™, “The claims are completely false, unfounded and actually defamatory.”

According to the complaint, JEB agreed to provide glass to MGM for the Rowan University College of Engineering, Rowan University School of Business and Villanova University football field stadium projects.

MGM alleges that JEB did not inform MGM that its company was being sold nor that its plant would be shut down for several weeks during the projects, which allegedly affected the company’s ability to provide ordered glass on time.

“On over twenty occasions, JEB failed to timely deliver material to the Rowan jobs,” says the complaint.

According to the complaint, MGM was terminated from two of the projects for failing to install materials on time.

MGM alleges that JEB has a tight-knit relationship with MGM’s competitors and prioritized those companies.

MGM requested a trial by jury.

JEB entered a motion to dismiss the complaint on August 14, 2017.

According to the motion, the breach of contract count must be dismissed because “the delivery date on each order was explicitly an estimate and because each order was governed by written terms and conditions that disclaim damages for delays and all other consequential damages.”

The motion also argues that MGM failed to provide evidence to back its allegations.

“Marerro has not made any factual allegations whatsoever to justify its belief that Berkowitz has ‘tight knit’ relationships with Marerro’s competitors and that it intentionally tried to sabotage Marerro,” JEB says in court documents.

According to the court docket, that motion was administratively terminated on August 16, 2017 because JEB did not submit a letter of compliance. JEB entered the requested letter on August 17, 2017. A second motion to dismiss has not yet been entered, according to court filings.

Marrero Glass and Metal vs. International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council No. 21 (DC 21)

On June 20, 2017, MGM filed a complaint against DC 21, several of its subsidiary funds and the Architectural Glass and Metal Association (AGMA) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. DC 21 is accused of tortious and intentional interference with contractual relations, civil conspiracy, and two other counts.

According to the complaint, DC 21 “has systematically used its position to intimidate, harass, and interfere with a family operated and minority owned glazing and metal company, in order to favor non-minority owned businesses who are part of a ‘good old boys’ network via membership in AGMA.”

MGM has a collective bargaining agreement with DC 21. The three jobs that were subcontracted to MGM in 2015, the same jobs mentioned in the complaint against JEB, required project labor through an agreement with DC 21 and required MGM to hire its labor through the union.

MGM alleges that DC 21 intentionally provided MGM with unskilled and untrained labor while providing appropriate labor to non-minority companies and AGMA members.

Exhibits provided by MGM show an email exchange with AGMA from December 2015 about becoming a member. MGM was told its membership was not discussed during AGMA’s December meeting because other topics came up, but would be discussed at the January 2016 meeting. MGM alleges that AGMA told MGM on several occasions that they were not taking on new members.

As a result, MGM says it has been treated as an “outsider” by DC 21.

According to the complaint, DC 21 “colluded with J.E. Berkowitz…to refuse to supply MGM with material in a timely manner.”

MGM also alleges that DC 21 directed its members to harass MGM through threatening photographs and by sending a man to MGM’s place of business, which resulted in a visit from police to remove the man from the premises.

MGM requested a trial by jury.

Several of DC 21’s subsidiary funds filed a stipulation to dismiss the complaint. The claims against them were dismissed on July 28, 2017.

On August 14, 2017, AGMA filed a motion to dismiss alleging that MGM failed to state a claim. According to AGMA’s motion, an exhibit email discussing MGM’s membership did not show a denial of MGM’s application.

“However, even if it was, this does not arise to purposeful action intended to cause harm to the three contracts pled by MGM,” says the complaint.

On August 16, 2017, DC 21 filed a motion to dismiss alleging that MGM failed to state a claim.

According to the motion, “The statement ‘because of Mr. Marrero’s Puerto Rican background MGM has always been treated as an “outsider” by [DC 21]’ is devoid of any fact alleging whom (among an organization of thousands of members and dozens of employees) engaged in any discernable action or at what period of time it may have taken place.”

The motions to dismiss by AGMA and DC 21 have not yet been decided by the judge.

International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council No. 21 (DC 21) vs. Marrero Glass and Metal

On June 20, 2017, DC 21 filed a complaint against MGM in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The complaint also includes Jaime “Jim” Marrero Sr., the owner of MGM, and Metro Glass and Metal (Metro), a company owned by Marrero’s son.

According to the complaint, Metro signed a collective bargaining agreement with DC 21 on November 5, 2012 which required Metro to make payments and be available for requested audits.

DC 21 alleges that Metro last made a timely payment on December 30, 2015 and represented to DC 21 that it had ceased all operation. Then, on January 14, 2016, MGM signed a collective bargaining agreement with DC 21.

“Using the same tools, machinery, and transportation utilized by [Metro] during its operation, performing the same type of work for an identical customer base, [MGM] began to employ members of [DC 21] and submitting contribution reports to the plaintiff funds for work performed by those members,” says the complaint.

According to DC 21, an independent auditor contacted both Metro and MGM in writing on January 5, 2017 to schedule an audit. DC 21 alleges that Metro and MGM both refused to comply with all audit requests, and that MGM became delinquent in its payments.

According to the complaint, MGM owes DC 21 approximately $110,968 and has given no notice of its desire to end the collective bargaining agreement.

The first count of the complaint accuses Metro of continuing operation while maintaining an “alter ego company, [MGM], for the purpose of evading its obligation under its collective bargaining agreement with [DC 21].”

Both Metro and MGM face counts of continuing obligations to plaintiff funds.

The complaint includes counts against Marrero as being personally liable as the alleged owner of both Metro and MGM.

On August 2, 2017, MGM filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, or as an alternative, to consolidate the two complaints involving MGM and DC 21. That motion was denied on August 15, 2017.

Marrero Glass and Metal Amends Complaint Against DC 21

On July 21, 2017, MGM amended its original complaint against DC 21 to include Metro and Marrero. The amended complaint also mirrored the parties included by DC 21 in its complaint.

The amended complaint was in response to DC 21’s complaint against MGM.

According to the amended complaint, Metro is a non-union glass fabrication company owned by Marrero’s son, while MGM is a signatory to a collective bargaining agreement with DC 21.

The amended complaint distinguishes between MGM, Metro and Marrero as separate entities.

According to the amended complaint, “Adding to their campaign of harassment, [DC 21] filed suit against MGM a day after this lawsuit was filed, in retaliation for MGM exercising its legal rights. In their lawsuit, [DC 21] seeks to recover money owed base on the shoddy labor it provided MGM on the Rowan jobs. Without a basis, the suit also names Jaime Marrero individually, even though his company MGM is the signatory to the [collective bargaining agreement], not his as an individual.”

Martin Milz, the attorney for DC 21, tells USGNN.com™ that, “I cannot comment on the substance of these cases, except for my clients’ strong belief that the only legitimate cause of action in any of these matters is the six-figure delinquency owed to the DC 21 Benefit Funds. The allegations leveled by Mr. Marrero and his companies are factually and legally baseless and nothing more than a smokescreen to distract from the legitimate debt owed to the Benefit Funds.”

A. Jordan Rushie, the attorney for MGM, Metro and Marrero, also tells USGNN.com™: “MGM is a proud minority owned, family operated business. Unfortunately, as recently reported by NPR*, white supremacy runs rampant in the Philadelphia construction trades. MGM has been a victim of it. However, MGM is willing to take a stand and combat years of racial harassment and bigotry. We believe the allegations in our complaint against [DC 21], JE Berkowitz, and AGMA will be proved at trial, and that a jury of our peers will hold certain actors responsible. Racism and bigotry have absolutely no place in America, and that is something we are willing to fight for.”

*Editor’s note: The article Rushie shared with USGNN.com™ is from PlanPhilly.com.

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