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BRADY v. LOCAL 551

October 26, 1977

BARBARA ANN BRADY, Plaintiff,
v.
LOCAL 551, AIR TRANSPORT DIVISION, TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, ARTHUR TEOLIS and VERA TROLF, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUFFY

KEVIN THOMAS DUFFY, D.J.

 This action was brought under Section 102 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 412 ("LMRDA"), seeking monetary and injunctive relief for the allegedly wrongful termination of plaintiff's membership in defendant Local 551, Air Transport Division, Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO ("the Union"). The individual defendants Teolis and Trolf were officers of the Union at the time at which the acts complained of occurred. Presently pending are defendants' motion for summary judgment and plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, which, upon request of plaintiff's counsel, will be considered initially in opposition to defendants' summary judgment motion, and in support of partial summary judgment in plaintiff's favor on the issue of liability. *fn1"

 The flight attendants at Trans World Airlines, Inc. ("TWA"), as represented by the Union, and TWA are parties to a collective bargaining agreement, governing wages and working conditions. Article 22 of this agreement, commonly known as the union security clause, provides that as a condition of continued employment, the flight attendant must maintain "membership in good standing" in the Union, defined as the payment of union dues by the flight attendant within two months after the calendar month in which they are due. Delinquency in dues payments subjects the employee to discharge, in accordance with a procedure prescribed by that clause. *fn2"

 Plaintiff was employed as a TWA flight attendant from July 1971 to January 1973 and from April 1974 to August 8, 1975. When she became a member of the Union in May 1972, she executed a dues checkoff authorization, allowing TWA to deduct her union initiation fees and monthly dues from her paychecks and remit the same to the Union on her account. This procedure continued until January 1973, when she took a position with TWA as a temporary instructor. In July 1973, she accepted a position as a TWA training supervisor and continued in that capacity through October of that year. A strike and subsequent layoff preceded her return to flight attendant status in April 1974. It is undisputed that this fifteen-month interval in flight attendant employment was not covered by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, relieving plaintiff of any obligation for union dues.

 Section Q of the union security clause provides for the automatic revocation of an executed checkoff authorization of an employee transferred to a job not covered by the collective bargaining agreement, and requires the execution and receipt of another checkoff form before dues deductions will be made from the paycheck of an employee who returns to a covered position. *fn3" However, when plaintiff returned to her job as a flight attendant in April 1974, she executed numerous payroll and personnel forms, but it was not until January 1975 that she signed and submitted a new checkoff authorization, having discovered a blank authorization form in her mailbox the previous month. Dues were thereafter checked off by TWA and remitted to the Union as of March 1975.

 By registered letter dated April 10, 1975, defendant Trolf notified plaintiff that she was in dues arrears of $110.50 for April 1974 through April 1975, and that failure to tender full payment within fifteen days would subject her to discharge under the union security clause. This letter enclosed another dues checkoff authorization form. Similar notices were sent to forty-four other flight attendants; and the following day notice of these actions was sent to TWA. Plaintiff protested the amount demanded in a letter dated May 5, 1975, and advised Trolf that her union dues had been "deducted for several months now." She suggested that "[the] way this matter has been handled is intolerable. I suggest that you check the accuracy of your records." The Union complied with this suggestion and on May 13, 1975, Trolf advised plaintiff that newly arrived TWA payroll records indicated deductions for March and April 1975, and that plaintiff's arrearage was reduced to $93.50 to reflect these payments. Trolf added that if plaintiff found the situation "intolerable," she should provide the Union with payroll stubs or other verification showing that additional dues had been paid.

 Prior to this adjustment, however, TWA was notified by Trolf on May 6, 1975, that Brady and eighteen other flight attendants were still delinquent and that their discharges were requested in accordance with the union security clause. Acting on this, TWA advised plaintiff by certified letter dated May 8, 1975, that her employment would be terminated as of August 8, 1975.

 On July 21, 1975, plaintiff sent Trolf a personal check for $5, stating in a cover note that it was "the first in a series of payments . . . to cover past due union dues." Trolf credited plaintiff's account but advised her by letter dated July 30, 1975, that "partial payments are not satisfactory" and that she would remain "subject to termination on August 8, 1975 if payments of our billing [now reduced to $88.50] is not paid in full."

 On August 6, 1975, Trolf received messages from plaintiff, relayed through her supervisor. The first, dated August 1, asked for Union help and advice and left a telephone number where plaintiff could be reached; the second, dated August 5, advised that plaintiff had sent a $40 check for back dues and would pay the balance on August 17. No effort was made by the Union to contact plaintiff.

 Notwithstanding the receipt by the Union of this partial payment on the morning of August 8, TWA was advised by the Union that day to discharge plaintiff. Three days later, plaintiff was so advised; the same day she tendered the full amount of her dues arrearage to Trolf but was told that her recourse at that point was to appeal her discharge to the TWA Flight Attendant System Board of Adjustment. A System Adjustment Board Grievance was prepared that day; a subsequently held Board hearing resulted in a denial of plaintiff's grievance. *fn4"

 Plaintiff claims that the actions taken by defendants resulting in her discharge from TWA violate Sections 101 and 609 of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 411 and 529, guaranteeing equal rights and freedom of speech to all union members, as well as procedural safeguards against improper disciplinary action, and prohibiting a union from expelling a member for exercising the aforementioned rights. *fn5"

 To support her claim of unfair treatment by the Union, plaintiff contends that she was deprived of good standing as a union member on checkoff status in violation of the notice provision of Article XIII, § 3 of the Constitution of the Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, (the Internal Constitution) to which the collective bargaining agreement is subordinate. Although Article XIII, § 3 allows for the automatic placement in bad standing of a dues-delinquent union member as of the fifteenth day of any particular month of nonpayment, it mandates a thirty-day registered mail notice of the correct amount of dues indebtedness before a member on checkoff status can be so placed. *fn6" Plaintiff also invokes the provisions of Article XIII, § 4, providing in part that "[any member in bad standing] shall not be restored to good standing until he has met all his financial obligations to the Union," in contesting defendants' rejection of her full tender of dues arrears on August 11, 1975.

 To compound the purported illegitimacy of her expulsion, plaintiff accuses defendants of conspiring to deprive her of her membership rights as a result of her questioning the amount of her dues indebtedness in her letter to Trolf of May 5, 1975. To evidence this assertion, she offers a statement contained in defendants' submission to the Adjustment Board indicating that her $40 partial payment was received in the afternoon of August 8, 1975, after the Union had confirmed its discharge request to TWA, as well as a copy of her letter enclosing that partial payment marked with the Union's time stamp showing receipt at 10:00 a.m. that morning.

 Defendants contest plaintiff's entitlement to thirty-day notice and dispute that her expulsion resulted from anything more than her nonpayment of dues. They assert the legitimacy of the actions taken by virtue of the union security clause of the collective bargaining agreement, and the irrelevance of any time variation in the Union's receipt of plaintiff's partial payment of her dues arrears in the absence of a full tender prior to August 8, 1975. In addition, Teolis and Trolf ...


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