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BOSS v. INTERNATIONAL BHD. OF BOILERMAKERS

June 15, 1983

BOSS, et al.
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF BOILERMAKERS, IRON SHIPBUILDERS, BLACKSMITHS, FORGERS AND HELPERS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MINER

MINER, District Judge: --

I

 In this class action, plaintiffs allege that the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Shipbuilders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers (hereinafter "International") breached both its duty of fair representation and certain collective bargaining agreements. These claims arise under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 185, and jurisdiction is predicated upon 28 U.S.C. § 1337. Before this Court are defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(b) and plaintiffs' motion for class certification pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 23.

 II

 The facts here are simple and straightforward. The named plaintiffs are residents of New York who claim to be qualified for referral as construction "boilermakers" under the terms of applicable labor agreements and who allege that they were denied employment for reasons which are "irrelevant, invidious or unfair to, or in derogation of, the employment status of such plaintiffs." (Complaint, P29). Although no specific allegation of involvement by the International is made, plaintiffs maintain that defendant International stands "throughout the United States . . . [as the] . . . exclusive representative of employees for the purposes of collective bargaining . . ." and, therefore, all "subordinate subdivisions serve as defendant's agents in administering the exclusive referral procedures contained in the labor contracts . . ." (Complaint, PP5, 11). Accordingly, through affiliated local unions, acting as "agents," the International is perceived to have breached both the collective bargaining agreements and the federally imposed duty of fair representation in the "administration of exclusive referral procedures." (Complaint, P15). As a result, plaintiffs allege that they "have [along with other unnamed persons throughout the country] been denied employment under such contracts. . . ." (Complaint, P26).

 III

 Section 301(b) and (e) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185(b) and (e), provide in part as follows:

 (b) Any labor organization which represents employees in an industry affecting commerce . . . shall be bound by the acts of its agents. . . .

 * * *

 (e) For the purposes of this section, in determining whether any person is acting as an "agent" of another person so as to make such other person responsible for his acts, the question of whether the specific acts performed were actually authorized or subsequently ratified shall not be controlling.

 The issue here is whether the local union is an agent of the International so that the International may be held vicariously liable for the improper acts alleged.

 A considerable body of federal case law applying agency *fn1" principles to labor relations reflects the importance of "control" by establishing the rule that a local union is not an agent of the International if that local is "autonomous and independent." See, e.g., Shimman v. Frank, 625 F.2d 80, 97, (6th Cir. 1980); Barefoot v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 424 F.2d 1001, (10th Cir. 1970), cert. denied, 400 U.S. 950, 27 L. Ed. 2d 257, 91 S. Ct. 239, (1971); Baldwin v. Poughkeepsie Newspapers, Inc., 410 F. Supp. 648, (S.D.N.Y. 1976). In order to determine the local's autonomy, courts have looked at the constitution and the by-laws of the union. Shimman v. Frank, supra; Barefoot v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, supra.

 However, neither complete separation nor total lack of control by the International is required to determine that a local is autonomous. Indeed, a local union may remain autonomous and independent notwithstanding the fact that the International retains a degree of supervisory authority. Baldwin v. Poughkeepsie Newspapers, Inc., supra. See Morgan Drive Away, Inc. v. Teamsters Union, 166 F. Supp. 885, (S.D. Ind. 1958), aff'd, 268 F.2d 871, (7th Cir. 1958), cert. denied, 361 U.S. 896, 80 S. Ct. 199, 4 L. Ed. 2d 152 (1959) (where the Seventh Circuit held that, even though the int'l constitution placed complete executive, legislative and judicial control in the int'l, as well as plenary power to suspend the local and seize its property, approve strikes, suspend and remove officers and levy assessments, the local would be considered autonomous for purposes of attributing vicarious liability to the int'l if the local retained some power); see also Axel Newman Co. v. Sheet Metal Workers, (D. Minn. 1955).

 This judicial gloss on labor agency under section 301 was refined by the Supreme Court in Carbon Fuel Co. v. United Mine Workers, 444 U.S. 212, 62 L. Ed. 2d 394, 100 S. Ct. 410, (1979). There, the Court addressed "the . . . issue of whether an international or district union may be held legally responsible for locals' unilateral actions which are concededly in violation of the locals' responsibilities under the contract." 444 U.S. at 216 n.5. The collective bargaining agreements contained a clear-cut no-strike obligation and a mandatory grievance and arbitration procedure for resolution of all disputes. Nevertheless, three of the local unions ...


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