Appeal from a judgment entered in favor of the defendants in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Irving Ben Cooper, Judge) after a jury trial of plaintiff's claims asserted under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. (1976). Reversed and remanded.
Lumbard, Winter and Pratt, Circuit Judges.
Alleging violations of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. (1976), by his local union, its three chief officers and the parent international union, Pasquale Petramale brought this action for a variety of legal and equitable relief. Following a jury trial which resulted in a verdict for the defendants, Petramale appealed on grounds that he was disciplined for engaging in legally protected speech and that the court's instructions to the jury were erroneous.
Petramale has been a member of the Local No. 17 ("Local 17") of the Laborers International Union of North America ("LIUNA") for over thirty years. At relevant times, Local 17's President was Anthony Galietta, its Business Manager was Lorenzo Diorio and its Secretary-Treasurer was Lawrence T. Diorio. These officers, Local 17 and LIUNA are the defendants.
It appears that the events in question took place against a background of bad feeling between rival factions within Local 17. At Local 17's regular meeting on August 29, 1980, a member by the name of Anthony DuBaldi attempted to question his prior suspension from union activities but was refused permission to speak. Petramale raised his hand, was recognized by the chair and urged to no avail that DuBaldi be allowed to speak. DuBaldi subsequently became involved in a scuffle with another member. When Petramale left his seat to help, he was confronted by other members and an altercation resulted. The regular business of the meeting was interrupted by these events, and the police were called. After order was restored, Petramale stood up and spoke again, this time without recognition. The minutes of the meeting state:
Br. Pat Petramale stated from the back of the meeting Hall that all three of you are crooks, Referring to the three Delegates on the rostrum. All the fucking Officers are crooks. The whole fucking Union and International is crooked, and Br. Reed and Br. Curry Naming the Election Committee are fucking liars. Fuck you all, you laborers deserve these people. I'm getting out of this fucking Union. They took all your money.
Petramale then walked out of the meeting. At trial, he conceded that his remarks were critical of union officials but denied use of any expletives.
Two days later, on August 31, 1980, a local newspaper carried a story about the August 29 meeting. The article stated in part:
A rift within the local has been widening since the June 20 election. Elections Committee member Pasquale "Pat" Petramale, of Kingston, called this election "corrupt and fixed" while he spoke on the floor of the meeting Friday night.
Petramale, a former supporter of DiOrio who testified against him during the election dispute, claimed the outbreak of violence was "set up" by the union leadership.
He charged he was laid off from his job as flagman on the Route 9W arterial project at Kingston earlier Friday because of his opposition to DiOrio. Petramale said he has ...