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Sheldon v. O'Callaghan

decided: May 28, 1974.

LLOYD SHELDON, VICTOR SOTO, JAMES CLIFFORD, ARTHUR SOHNEN AND JOHN HAYES, EACH OF THEM INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHER MEMBERS OF INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF MASTERS, MATES AND PILOTS, AFL-CIO, SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
THOMAS F. O'CALLAGHAN, AS PRESIDENT, OR CHARLES M. CROOKS, AS SECRETARY-TREASURER, OR WILLIAM M. CALDWELL, AS VICE PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF MASTERS, MATES AND PILOTS, AFL-CI0, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Plaintiffs-Appellants, members of the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots, AFL-CIO, brought this action in the Southern District of New York against the three International officers of the union for an injunction preventing a new union constitution from becoming effective. They appeal from an adverse judgment entered by Judge Knapp at the close of plaintiffs' case. Reversed and Remanded.

Friendly and Timbers, Circuit Judges, and Thomsen, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Thomsen

THOMSEN, District Judge:

Plaintiffs, members of the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots, AFL-CIO (the union), brought this action in the district court against the three International officers of the union for an injunction preventing a new union constitution from becoming effective. They appeal from an adverse judgment entered at the close of plaintiffs' case.

Plaintiffs argued below and argue here that defendants, as officers of the union, infringed the rights of plaintiffs and other members of the union under § 101 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, 29 U.S.C. § 411, and under the old constitution of the union, (1) by not permitting separate votes on the various provisions of the new constitution, which included an increase in dues and an enlargement of the powers of the defendant officers, but requiring a single "yes" or "no" vote on the adoption of the new constitution; and (2) by publishing allegedly misleading information about the new constitution and refusing to permit plaintiffs either (a) to state their objections to the new constitution in the union newspaper, or (b) to have access to the union's mailing list or to have the list made available to a mailing service selected by defendants, so that plaintiffs could transmit their views to the other members of the union before or during the voting period.

The stipulated facts and other evidence show that before 1968 the union consisted of largely autonomous local unions, although its collective bargaining agreements were negotiated on an industry-wide basis. In response to suggestions to eliminate the local unions and consolidate their powers and responsibilities into divisions which corresponded to the bargaining patterns in the industry (i.e., offshore, inland, governmental employees and pilots), plaintiff Sheldon, who was then International President, appointed a Constitutional Advisory Committee.*fn1 That committee prepared proposals for restructuring the union, including a proposal to consolidate the local unions into divisions. Those proposals were published in the March 1968 issue of the union newspaper, which is mailed to each member's home address, to the ships on which members are employed, to each local union, and to recreation centers overseas.

The committee's proposals were put before the International convention held in May 1968. The convention decided to hold an advisory referendum of the entire membership on the issue of restructuring the union through consolidation of locals into divisions. The advisory referendum approved the principle of restructuring and consolidation by a vote of about five to two.

In December 1968 the International Executive Board voted to convene a special constitutional convention to be held in September 1969. The result of the advisory referendum and the decision to convene a constitutional convention were reported in the January 1969 issue of the union newspaper. The constitutional convention met in September 1969. It proposed certain constitutional amendments and a description of a proposed structure for an Offshore Division and other divisions. These proposals were published in the October 1969 issue of the union newspaper.

The convention reconvened on January 26, 1970, to consider a draft of a proposed new constitution, which contained a variety of amendments to the then-existing constitution. It "consolidated" all local unions of the sea-going members, who comprise some 8,000 of the union's total membership of 10,000, into a nation-wide Offshore Division, and created other nation-wide divisions for non-seagoing members. It changed the union's dues structure in various ways and increased the rates of dues payable by more than half of the union's members. It raised the salaries of the two top International officers, and provided for a new, $35,000 salary for a third, previously unsalaried International officer. It greatly increased the power of the three International officers by providing that those three officers were to become the three top officers of each division, including the Offshore Division, and by virtue of being the three top officers of the Offshore Division would be able to cast one-half of the weighted vote of the Offshore Division on the General Executive Board of the union.

The pre-existing constitution provided that it might be amended by a two-step procedure: approval at a convention and, thereafter, approval by the membership in a referendum.

At the session of the constitutional convention on January 31, 1970, a delegate raised a point of information as to whether the separate provisions of the "new" constitution would be voted upon seriatim or separately; the Chairman (defendant O'Callaghan, the International President) ruled that the entire document would be voted upon as a single package. The proposed constitution was put to a vote at the convention and was approved by a more than two-thirds vote.

During the convention, the International President announced that a committee composed of the executive officers (or their designees) of each offshore local would meet after the close of the convention for the preparation of Offshore Division by-laws. After the convention had dissolved, that committee met and drafted a set of by-laws for the Offshore Division.

During February 1970 a copy of the proposed constitution was sent to the executive officer of each local union and a mimeographed copy of the proposed Offshore Division by-laws was sent to the executive officer of each offshore local. The referendum was to be conducted by mail, over a three month period beginning in March 1970 and ending in June 1970. All members were to vote on the adoption of the proposed constitution; all offshore members were to vote on the adoption of the proposed Offshore Division by-laws.

One of the provisions of the proposed constitution was widely publicized by defendants before and during the referendum; that was the provision which would consolidate all sea-going local ...


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