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GLEASON v. CHAIN SERV. RESTAURANT

April 25, 1969

James Gleason, Plaintiff,
v.
Chain Service Restaurant, Luncheonette & Soda Fountain Employees Union, Local 11 of Hotel & Restaurant Employees and Bartenders International Union, AFL-CIO, et al., Defendants


Herlands, District Judge


The opinion of the court was delivered by: HERLANDS

HERLANDS, District Judge.

This case illustrates the recurring problem of accommodating two conflicting policies: the policy that the courts should avoid interfering with the internal affairs of labor unions and the policy that the courts should protect certain fundamental rights of individual labor union members which the Congress has denominated collectively as the "Bill of Rights of Members of Labor Organizations". Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 ("LMRDA") § 101, 29 U.S.C. § 411 (1964).

 I.

 The issue is brought before the Court by plaintiff's application for a preliminary injunction (heard on January 9, 1969) whereby he seeks restoration pendente lite of his membership rights in Local 11, the defendant-union, under LMRDA §§ 101 and 102, 29 U.S.C. §§ 411 and 412 (1964).

 In view of the Court's disposition of the motion, it is not necessary to hold a hearing under Fed. R. Civ. P. 65 as requested by plaintiff.

 What The Complaint Charges

 In his complaint (filed December 3, 1968), plaintiff alleges that for approximately sixteen years until December 6, 1967 he was a member in good standing in the union and in the International Union with which it is affiliated. On December 6, 1967, plaintiff was expelled by the union from membership.

 Instead of pleading a short and plain statement of his claim, plaintiff sets forth a prolix recital of many facts assertedly evidencing a conspiracy between defendants Ferrara (president of the union) and Papalexis (a business agent of the union) and others, to deprive plaintiff of his freedom of speech as a union member, and ultimately to expel him from the union.

 The following facts do not constitute findings but are merely set out by way of background to further an understanding of the complaint and of the relief sought.

 Plaintiff alleges that in 1967 the Insurance Department of the State of New York conducted an inquiry into what were apparently unexplained depletions of the union welfare fund, and that late in 1966 and early in 1967, certain officers of the union conspired to bribe an official of the New York State Insurance Department. Because plaintiff, also a union officer, was not a party to this conspiracy but had knowledge of it, the individually named defendants repeatedly attempted to intimidate and silence the plaintiff and to destroy his influence and political support within the union.

 Plaintiff asserts that, starting in 1966 and until August 1967, defendant Ferrara shifted plaintiff's activities as business agent away from shops where plaintiff enjoyed political support.

 Plaintiff alleges that, on April 6, 1967, after attending a private meeting with defendants Ferrara and Papalexis, plaintiff was pistol whipped and blackjacked by three men under their control. Two weeks thereafter, plaintiff was advised by a "spokesman" for the individual defendants that he ought to resign his union office, but he refused.

 In August 1967, Ferrara relieved plaintiff of all of his duties as business agent and assigned him to clerical work. Along with this latter action, it is alleged that defendant Ferrara circulated leaflets announcing that plaintiff had been relieved of his responsibilities because of complaints then under investigation.

 On August 31, 1967, defendant Papalexis filed with the union written charges against plaintiff. (See Appendix A annexed to this opinion). [Appendix A omitted. - CCH.]

 On the same day, Arthur Russell, secretary-treasurer of the union mailed copies of the charges to plaintiff and informed him that a trial committee would give him ample notice of the date of the trial. *fn1"

 On September 29, 1967, plaintiff requested specifications of the charges filed against him.

 On October 4th, specifications were furnished; and the hearing was set down for October 16, 1967. (Complaint, Exh. A). (Appendix B annexed to this opinion sets out the specifications). [Appendix B omitted. - CCH.]

 Finding the specifications inadequate for preparation of any defense, plaintiff demanded a bill of particulars, but his request was denied.

 On October 16th, a hearing was conducted by a trial committee composed of five union members. Plaintiff was given an opportunity to cross-examine those witnesses who testified before the committee, and was afforded the opportunity to call his own witnesses. No transcript of the proceedings is before the Court on this motion. *fn2"

 Plaintiff alleges several irregularities in the hearing:

 a. The trial committee inquired into the authorship and distribution among members of defendant union of certain leaflets which contained accusations against the union leadership; testimony was given that a political ally of plaintiff was seen possessing a report of the McClellan Committee which had conducted an inquiry into the union welfare fund; a union member testified that he had heard plaintiff make political demands on President Ferrara for higher union office. Plaintiff claims that this testimony had no relevance to the charges filed against plaintiff and reflected the true motivation of his triers.

 b. Plaintiff was denied an opportunity to cross-examine some witnesses who apparently submitted letters, affidavits and/or oral complaints against plaintiff, but who were not present at the hearing before the trial committee.

 The trial committee found plaintiff guilty of the first eight charges, and of four out of the seven infractions specified under the ninth charge. It recommended expulsion of plaintiff from the union, and that he be barred forever from holding any union office.

 On October 19, 1967, the Executive Board of the union adopted the report of the trial committee and voted unanimously to expel plaintiff from union membership. *fn3"

 Plaintiff alleges that the union published and circulated a false and fraudulent handbill among members of the union entitled "Report of Gleason Trial" and "Statement On 'Mystery' Leaflet", with the intent of procuring the necessary membership ratification of his expulsion.

 The handbill (Exh. B annexed to the Complaint) [Exhibit B omitted. - CCH.] restates the findings of the trial committee as they were summarized in the minutes of the Executive Board meeting; mentions the fact that Gleason had charged various union officials with misappropriation of union funds and that he was intent on making "trouble" for Local 11; charges Gleason with operating a "kick-back racket" among the employees he represented as business agent *fn4" ; and charges Gleason with advocating affiliation with another union.

 On December 5, 1967, at a meeting of the general membership of Local 11, the membership voted to approve the report of the trial committee and the minutes of the Executive Board meeting of October 19, 1967, both of which had been read to the membership.

 Plaintiff was given an opportunity to speak at the membership meeting.

 By letter of December 6, 1967, plaintiff received official notice of his expulsion from defendant union. (Exh. C annexed to the Complaint). [Exhibit C omitted. - CCH.]

 Thereafter, plaintiff initiated an unsuccessful course of internal appeal, - first, to the New York City Joint Board of the International Union on December 19, 1967, and finally, on February 19, 1968, to the General President of the International Union.

 Plaintiff alleges that the Insurance Department of the State of New York has found a wrongful depletion in the union welfare fund in the sum of approximately $138,000; and has found defendant Papalexis and others responsible for portions of this depletion. Plaintiff further alleges that indictments have been returned against other Local 11 union officials for perjury in connection with the conspiracy to bribe an official of the Insurance Department.

 Relief Sought

 Plaintiff seeks the following relief:

 1. A declaration that the expulsion proceedings are null and void;

 2. Reinstatement in the union and restoration of his full membership rights;

 3. An injunction restraining and enjoining the union, its officers, agents, servants and employees, including defendants Ferrara and Papalexis, and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them, from attempting to carry out the punishment imposed on plaintiff;

 4. An injunction restraining defendants from interfering with or preventing the plaintiff's free exercise of his rights and privileges (within defendant union, its sister local unions, intermediate bodies and the International Union with which it is affiliated) to nominate candidates, to be nominated as a candidate for union office for which he is otherwise eligible, to vote in elections and referenda and to attend membership meetings;

 5. Compensatory damages in the sum of $220,000;

 6. Punitive damages in the sum of $50,000;

 7. Reasonable counsel fees, costs and disbursements; and

 8. Such other, further, and different relief as to this Court may ...


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