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ROBINS v. SCHONFELD

April 29, 1971

Harold Robins, Plaintiff
v.
Frank Schonfeld et al., Defendants


Levet, D. J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEVET

LEVET, D. J.:

Plaintiff, Harold Robins ("Robins"), instituted this action under Titles I, IV and VI of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, 29 USC §§ 401 et seq. Jurisdiction is conferred upon this court by §§ 102, 401 and 609 of the Act, 29 USC §§ 412, 481 and 529.

 Plaintiff contended that certain disciplinary action taken by defendant, Local Union 892, International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades ("Local 892") and defendant, District Council No. 9, International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades ("District Council 9") suspending Robins from certain membership rights, to win the right to attend or vote or to speak at the local union meetings, the right to take the floor at any local meeting, and the right to be a candidate in any local election, was illegal. The complaint in its prayer for relief sought to declare the aforesaid actions of the defendants to be null and void, to enjoin the defendants from attempting to enforce the said punishment or discipline and to restrain the defendants from interfering with plaintiff's rights to participate in union affairs, as well as seeking an award of damages and other relief.

 After the institution of this action and a motion by plaintiff for preliminary injunctive relief, the defendants entered into a stipulation on May 7, 1963, restoring plaintiff to his membership in the said union subject to certain conditions relative to the Court of Appeals decision in Salzhandler v. Caputo, 316 F.2d 445 (2nd Cir. 1963).

 By reason of the restoration to membership of plaintiff any equitable relief sought is now moot. Consequently, the sole issues in this case are (1) whether defendants are liable to plaintiff, and (2) if so, what are the damages which have been proved in this action.

 Plaintiff claims compensatory damages in the sum of $100,000 and punitive damages in a like sum. Defendants dispute both liability and damages.

 After hearing the testimony of the parties, examining the exhibits, the pleadings and the Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law submitted by counsel, this court makes the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law:

 Findings of Fact

 1. Defendant District Council 9 is a labor organization and a representative of employees for collective bargaining and maintains its principal office within the jurisdiction of this court; it is an unincorporated association to which are affiliated several subordinate bodies known as local unions, one of which is Local 892, also a defendant herein. (Pretrial Order, *fn2" par. 3(a)(1).)

 2. The local unions, composed of painters and affiliated with District Council 9, have a combined membership of about 6,000; these members are represented for collective bargaining purposes by District Council 9 and are governed by collective bargaining agreements entered into between District Council 9 and various employers. The materials used by these members in their work as painters subject to the collective bargaining agreements are imported in large part from outside New York State and to some degree from foreign countries. It is thus apparent that the industry in which District Council 9 is engaged as a labor organization is one affecting commerce (10-12). *fn3"

 3. Robins has been a painter since 1946 and a member of Local 892 since 1947 (12, 35-36).

 4. Defendant Giunta was president of Local 892 at all times material to this action and for a period running from 1951 or 1952 to approximately 1964 (PTO, par. 3(a)(2); 206, 229).

 5. Certain elections were conducted by Local 892, administered by the officers thereof, on June 5, 1961 and on June 19, 1961. In one of these two elections Robins was a candidate for Local 892's nomination for Secretary-Treasurer of District Council 9, running in opposition to the incumbent Secretary-Treasurer (who was also a member of Local 892 and a candidate for its nomination). In the other, Robins ran as a candidate for the presidency of Local 892 in opposition to Giunta, the incumbent president (PTO, par. 3(a)(4); 12-14, 16).

 6. Following the June 5, 1961 election, Robins protested by letter addressed to Giunta, that violations of fair electoral procedure had occurred in the June 5 election and, in the same letter asked that with regard to the June 19 election the procedures be changed in certain ways so as to prevent a repetition of the same violations. These violations complained of related to such matters as electioneering in the voting room, election booths that were not properly curtained off, the handling of marked ballots by a local union officer prior to their being deposited in the ballot box, and similar matters. (PTO, par. 3(a)(5); PX 2; *fn4" 76-81.)

 7. Robins' letter protesting violations committed in the June 5, election was handed by Robins to Local 892's secretary prior to the June 19 election, but Giunta, as president, directed the secretary not to put it in the minutes (15).

 8. After the second election Robins again protested by letter to Giunta that violations of fair electoral procedure had occurred; he carried this protest to the District Council and to the parent International's General Executive Board. He also raised the question at membership meetings of Local 892 and proposed a correction for the abuses in election procedures (PTO, par. 3(a) (5); 17).

 9. Giunta thereafter threatened Robins that unless he, Robins, stopped criticizing the electoral procedure and Giunta, Giunta would file charges against Robins (214-216).

 10. On June 21, 1962, a year after the elections had been conducted, Giunta filed charges against Robins under the disciplinary procedure provided by the Brotherhood's Constitution (PX 13, §§ 267, 270), complaining of Robins' criticisms at membership meetings of Local 892. By filing the charges, Giunta initiated the District Council's disciplinary proceedings against Robins (PTO, par. 3(a)(6); 89; PX 1).

 11. The president of District Council 9 appointed a trial committee of five persons, one of whom held a stewardship to which he had been appointed by Giunta, to try Giunta's charges against Robins. Hearings were held on September 12, October 3, and December 12, 1962. On or about February 5, 1963, the trial committee filed its report suspending Robins for three years from certain membership rights, namely, the right to attend or to vote or to speak at his local union's meetings, the right to take the floor at any local meeting and the right to be a candidate in any local election (PTO, pars. 3(a)(7), (8) and (9); 21, 62-63; PX 2, 4, 5, 10, 11).

 12. Prior to bringing this action, but after the imposition of punishment, Robins exhausted all remedies reasonably available to him within Local 892, District Council 9, and the ...


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