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REILLY v. SHEET METAL WORKERS' INTL. ASSN.

March 31, 1980

VINCENT REILLY, Plaintiff, against SHEET METAL WORKERS' INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION, AFL-CIO and SHEET METAL WORKERS' INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION LOCAL UNION NO. 137, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRODERICK

I.

The plaintiff, a member of Local Union No. 137 of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, brought this action against the International and the Local under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 ("the Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., alleging that the union disciplined him in violation of the due process requirements of the Act, 29 U.S.C. § 411(a) (5). A bench trial was held on February 22 and 26, 1980.

 II.

 The following constitute my findings of fact in this case.

 On or about June 30, 1977, plaintiff Reilly, a member in good standing of the union, became involved in an altercation with the acting financial secretary of the Local, Bernard Friedland, at a jobsite located at the World Trade Center in New York City. For reasons set forth in the discussion which follows, I find it unnecessary to make any detailed findings concerning the events which took place. It is undisputed, however, that Reilly hit Friedland and knocked him unconscious. Friedland suffered a concussion, was confined to bed for 24 hours, and underwent extensive dental treatment thereafter.

 Sometime prior to the this incident, Reilly had notified the Local that he had problems receiving mail at his home address, and had asked that correspondence from the union be mailed to him at his employer's address. That request was communicated to the recording secretary of the Local, Richard Greenberg. In early 1977, union correspondence had been directed to Reilly through his employer, as requested.

 By letter dated August 17, 1977, Friedland preferred charges of misconduct against Reilly; he alleged that the physical injury inflicted on him violated two specified provisions of the International's constitution. That letter was sent by certified mail to Reilly's home address on August 17. After three unsuccessful attempts to deliver, the post office returned the letter to Friedland at the Local's business office on September 4. Friedland was aware of the fact that the letter had not reached Reilly, but made no further attempts to serve him with it.

 On September 12, the Local's recording secretary Greenberg addressed a letter to Reilly notifying him that a trial on Friedland's charges had been scheduled for September 27. One copy of that letter was sent certified mail to Reilly's home address and was returned unclaimed. A second copy was mailed to Reilly's employer, who signed a receipt for its delivery on September 18.

 On about September 17 the Local's business agent, Gerry Gieseking, approached Reilly while he was on the job and notified him of the upcoming trial. Reilly, who continued with his work while the conversation was taking place, learned only that a trial would take place and that he, Reilly, was "in trouble" as a result of the charges being pressed. Gieseking did not tell him anything about the procedure to be followed or his rights at trial.

 The trial on Friedland's charges took place before a trial committee of Local 137. Both Friedland and Reilly attended. The Chairman read the Local's guidelines for conducting trials to all present. Reilly requested a postponement of the proceedings on the grounds that he was not prepared, and that request was denied. Friedland then testified that Reilly had struck him without apparent provocation and that he had not struck Reilly at all. Reilly testified that Friedland struck him first, and that he had struck back in self-defense. Friedland called three other witnesses who testified that they saw Reilly strike Friedland and did not see Friedland strike Reilly. Reilly called no witnesses.

 The trial committee thereafter issued a decision finding Reilly guilty as charged. In accordance with the International's constitution, that decision was submitted for approval by majority vote of the Local's members attending the next regular union meeting. The membership rejected the trial committee's decision by a vote of 33 to 17, in effect exonerating Reilly. A copy of a letter notifying Reilly of this action, together with a copy of the minutes of the trial, *fn1" was mailed to Reilly by certified mail at his home address on October 25 and returned to the local unclaimed on November 12. Greenberg received the undelivered envelope and relegated it, unopened, to his files. He made no attempt to serve Reilly with the envelope or with another copy of the minutes at any of the succeeding regular monthly union meetings which both Greenberg and Reilly attended.

 On October 28, Friedland appealed the membership decision to the General President of the International and sent a copy of his letter appeal to Reilly by certified mail to his home address. Reilly received that letter. He was not informed of his right to or the procedures for opposing that appeal, nor of his right to receive a copy of the minutes. On January 6, 1978 the General President reversed the decision of the membership, reinstated the decision of the trial committee and imposed the additional penalty on Reilly of three months suspension from membership. On March 23, 1979, his decision was affirmed by the General Executive Council of the International. *fn2"

 III.

 For the reasons which follow, I hold that the defendants violated Reilly's due process rights. Accordingly, I vacate the penalties imposed on him by the General Executive ...


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