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SEYBERT v. INTERN. ORGANIZATION OF MASTERS ETC.

July 9, 1990

JOHN R. SEYBERT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF MASTERS, MATES AND PILOTS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leval, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This is an action for violations of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 401, et seq., and for breach of the duty of fair representation. Defendant International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots (IOMM & P) moves for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

Defendant IOMM & P is a labor union headquartered in Maryland. This suit concerns the actions of the Offshore Membership Group, the largest unit of the IOMM & P, which numbers approximately 3,600 members, and which represents deck officers on ocean-going vessels. Affidavit of F. Elwood Kyser, IOMM & P Secretary-Treasurer ¶ 3. Among other things, IOMM & P runs a hiring hall, at which sea-going jobs are allocated to members of the IOMM & P. In order to allocate these jobs, defendant has devised a Group Classification Plan.*fn1 Members are classified in groups A, B, or C depending upon how much time they have spent at sea (Group A is the highest; group C the lowest). Jobs are awarded at the hiring hall to the longest-registered member in the highest group classification who is present at the hall.

In 1966, plaintiff John R. Seybert, pro se, a member in good standing of the IOMM & P, attained Group A status, after completing 365 days of sea assignments. He believed that he would be able to retain his Group A classification until he either retired or resigned from the IOMM & P.

In late 1987, defendant conducted a mail ballot referendum among its Offshore Membership Group on the issue of whether the classification rule should be changed. Eighteen hundred of the members returned ballots, which were counted by an independent balloting agency. By a vote of 1012 to 807, the members approved an amendment to the union's by-laws which provided that a member with Group A status would be reclassified as Group B, unless, within the previous three years, the member had accumulated 180 days of combined seagoing employment and vacation days earned by such employment. The purpose of the rule, according to F. Elwood Kyser, the International Secretary-Treasurer of defendant, was to preserve access to the sea-going jobs for the largest number of active sea-going members maintaining continuous employment on IOMM & P vessels. The Work Rule required that appeal of reclassification be taken to a committee composed of Offshore Vice Presidents. The Work Rule was implemented in January, 1988.

Some forty-odd members of the union have been reclassified to Group B under this rule. Kyser Aff. ¶ 9. Apparently, many of them are employed full time shoreside. Kyser Aff. ¶ 9. Plaintiff, who works full-time hours as a practicing attorney, was reclassified to group B in July, 1988, upon completion of a seagoing assignment and "registration," apparently while seeking a new assignment at the Port of New York hiring hall. Plaintiff continues to be a member in good standing of the IOMM & P, eligible to vote in all union referenda and attend all membership meetings. He is still eligible for seagoing jobs at the hiring hall. The reclassification affects only his priority of bidding for jobs in the hiring hall. Kyser Reply Aff. at 3.

Plaintiff requested review of his reclassification by the IOMM & P Convention, the highest body within the IOMM & P, which was due to convene on August 22, 1988. At the Convention, the appeal was referred to the Grievance and Appeals Committee. The Committee recommended a denial of the appeal, and the full Convention, on August 23, 1988, denied the appeal.

Seybert alleges that the reclassification was designed to penalize him for political activity within the union, along with the "farmers and lawyers and teachers," who "have the time to oppose the leadership." Seybert Aff. at 7. Seybert submits the transcript of the proceedings before the Convention, at which his appeal was presented. At that proceeding, one member of the union stated that he believed that this rule was designed to punish "finks." Others responded that the purpose of the rule was not to hurt finks, but to "provide for the full-time seamen," to ensure that the work goes to the regular members, rather than the part-timers.

DISCUSSION

I. Summary Judgment

Defendant IOMM & P moves for summary judgment. As the movant, defendant has the burden of demonstrating to the Court that there is no material issue of fact standing in the way of judgment. In other words, movant must show that there is an "absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2554, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once this showing has been made, the opponent "must set forth arguments or facts to indicate that a genuine issue — not merely one that ...


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