UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
October 10, 1984
RICHARD A. ANSON, and UNION DEMOCRACY COMMITTEE, Plaintiffs, against THE NATIONAL MARITIME UNION OF AMERICA, SHANNON WALL, President of the N.M.U., THOMAS MARTINEZ, National Secretary Treasurer of the N.M.U., ANDREW RICH, New York Branch Agent of the N.M.U., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAND
LEONARD B. SAND, U.S.D.J.
Plaintiffs, a member of the National Maritime Union (hereinafter "Union") and a committee comprised of canidates for union office, have filed a complaint seeking an order (1) preventing incumbent Union officers from enacting and enforcing amendments to the Union constitution and (2) enjoining the convening of the 1984 Union convention, scheduled to take place on October 1, 1984.
Defendants, the Union and several incumbent Union officers, have moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and (6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure of lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
For the reasons discussed below, defendants' motion to dismiss is granted.
The resolution of this motion is inextricably linked to the present procedural and temporal posture of plaintiffs' claims. With respect to plaintiffs' first request for relief, plaintiffs appear to predicate their request on alleged improprieties occurring during the 1983 election of defendant Union officers. See Complaint, p.2, P2, p.3, P2;
see also Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Dismiss Complaint, etc., at 3 (hereinafter "Defendants' Memorandum of Law"). Both plaintiffs and defendants acknowledge that the United States Department of Labor (hereinafter "the DOL") is currently investigating charges that the 1983 election of Union officers was conducted in violation of Title IV of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (hereinafter "the LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 481 et seq. (1982). See Complaint, p.2; P2, Defendants' Memorandum of Law, at 3.
In this connection, we note that Title IV of the LMRDA affords a presumption of validity to challenged elections of union officers. See 29 U.S.C. § 482(a) (1982).
In addition, Title IV permits federal courts to entertain challenges to previously-conducted union elections only after the administrative process has been completed and only if the Secretary of Labor chooses to pursue the union member's complaint by filing a civil action in federal court. See 29 U.S.C. § 482(b) (1982).
Thus, to the extent that plaintiffs' claim is based on the alleged 1983 Union election violations currently under investigation by the DOL, this Court is without jurisdiction either to determine the validity of these allegations or to grant the relief requested by plaintiffs.
With respect to plaintiffs' second requiest for relief this Court is similarly without jurisdiction to entertain this portion of plaintiffs' claim. Initially, we note that plaintiffs can no longer obtain the particular relief sought in their complaint. Plaintiffs filed the instant complaint on August 1, 1984. However, plaintiffs have since failed to properly pursue any application for preliminary relief or expedited consideration of their claim.
At the present time, the Union's convention has already commenced and has presumably concluded.
Thus, even if plaintiffs' claims are properly before the Court and are found to be meritorious, this Court is no longer in a position to grant the relief which plaintiffs seek, namely, the enjoining of the 1984 Union convention.
Regardless of the relief requested by plaintiffs, however, this Court must still address the question of whether plaintiffs' complaint states a claim over which this Court has jurisdiction.Plaintiffs' complaint, liberally construed, can be interpreted as advancing two bases for challenging various acts which occurred prior to the 1984 Union convention and election of Union officers.
Briefly stated, plaintiffs appear to allege that (2) defendants have "denied unreasonably" the opportunity to nominate delegates to the 1984 convention by making applications for such positions available at a limited place and time,
and have engaged in ballot tampering in connection with this nominating process;
and (2) Union funds have been improperly used to promote the candidacy of defendants, i.e., incumbent Union officers seeking re-election.
Plaintiffs contend that these acts constitute violations of Title I of the LMRDA; specifically, plaintiffs allege that the first claim falls within § 101(a)(1) of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(2) (1982), which guarantees union members "equal rights and privileges . . . to nominate candidates . . . subject to reasonable rules and regulations in such organization's constitution and by-laws," and that the second claim falls within § 101(a)(2) of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(2) (1982), which guarantees union members "the right to meet and assemble freely with other members . . . and to express at meetings of the labor organization his views, upon candidates in an election of the labor organization . . . subject to the organization's established and reasonable rules pertaining to the conduct of the meetings. . . ." See Complaint, p.1, P4, p.2, P3.
Although plaintiffs frame these claims as arising under Title I of the LMRDA, these claims are, in substance, violations of Title IV of the LMRDA as well. Plaintiffs' claims regarding the nomination process appear to fall within 28 U.S.C. § 481(e) and (f) (1982), which govern the nomination of candidates and election of union officers by a convention of delegates.
Defendants' alleged improper use of Union funds falls within 28 U.S.C. § 481(g) (1982), which prohibits the use of union funds to promote candidates for union office. Plaintiffs' assertion regarding access to Union publications, to the extent this constitutes a claim of wrongdoing by defendants and not merely a form of requested relief, is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 481(c) (1982). See New Watch-Dog Committee v. New York City Taxi Drivers Union, 438 F. Supp. 1242, 1245-46 (S.D.N.Y. 1977) (§ 481(c) includes right to nondiscriminatory coverage in the utilization of union publications), and cases cited therein.
The troubling conflict presented by plaintiffs' claims is thus apparent: while Title I provides various rights and protections for members involved in union elections, with enforcement and appropriate remedies available in federal court, Title IV also regulates the conduct of elections for union officers and provides an elaborate post-election procedure for enforcement of its standards by the Secretary of Labor. See Local No. 82, Furniture and Piano Moving, Furniture Store Drivers, Helpers, Warehousemen and Packers v. Crowley, 467 U.S. 526, 52 U.S.L.W. 4757, 4758, 81 L. Ed. 2d 457, 104 S. Ct. 2557 (U.S. June 12, 1984). Fortunately, the Supreme Court has recently reaffirmned the proper resolution of this conflict: where an individual union member challenges the validity of an election that has already been completed, the exclusive remedy for the alleged labor law violations lies in the administrative enforcement procedures provided by Title IV. See Crowley, supra, 52 U.S.L.W. at 4761; 29 U.S.C. § 483 (1982) ("The remedy provided by [Title IV] for challenging an election already conducted shall be exclusive."). All of plaintiffs' claims effectively constitute challenges to various incidents occurring as part of the Union's nomination and election process; the nature of these claims, as well as the relief which plaintiffs request, make clear that plaintiffs challenge the validity of the 1984 election itself. See Complaint, p.3, P3 (requesting "that the National Convention be suspended until after the new 1984 National Maritime Union Election").
In these circumstances, Crowley makes clear that this Court lacks jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims. If plaintiffs wish to pursue their claims, the appropriate course of action is to file a complaint provided under Title IV. See Crowley, supra, 52 U.S.L.W. at 4762, 4764 n.23.
Accordingly, defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is granted.