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LAITY v. BEATTY

July 5, 1991

ROBERT C. LAITY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THOMAS BEATTY, PRESIDENT, SERVICE EMPLOYEES UNION, LOCAL 200-C, AFL-CIO, CLC, AND JOHN SWEENEY, PRESIDENT, SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION, DEFENDANTS.



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

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Now before this Court are the motions of defendants John Sweeney ("Sweeney"), president of Service Employees International Union ("International"), and Thomas Beatty ("Beatty"), president of Local 200-C of the International ("Local 200-C"), for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.*fn1 Additionally, Beatty moves for sanctions against the plaintiff pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 11.

Plaintiff Robert Laity ("Laity"), appearing pro se, has filed a single opposition to the defendants' motions.

This Court has jurisdiction over Laity's lawsuit pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 412.

This lawsuit stems primarily from Laity's suspension from his position as a union Steward within Local 200-C. Laity alleges that the defendants violated rights secured by three provisions contained in Title I of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., ("Title I").*fn2 Laity alleges violations of Title I §§ 101(a)(2), 101(a)(4) and 101(a)(5), 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(2), 411(a)(4) and 411(a)(5), respectively. Specifically, Laity alleges that Local 200-C indefinitely suspended him from his position as a Steward as retaliation for dissident expression in violation of § 101(a)(2), that the defendants denied him a prior hearing before suspending him in violation of § 101(a)(5), and that, apart from his suspension, the defendants have attempted to restrict Laity's right to file an action with an administrative agency in violation of § 101(a)(4). Laity seeks reinstatement to his former Steward position and certain specified costs.

Moving for summary judgment, defendants initially contend that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Laity's lawsuit, arguing that Laity is a public employee and therefore beyond the LMRDA's coverage. Additionally, even if this Court has subject matter jurisdiction, defendants argue that this Court must dismiss Laity's lawsuit because Laity has failed to show that any of the defendants' alleged conduct impaired his membership rights within the union and that, therefore, he has failed to allege any violation of rights secured by Title I. Alternatively, Beatty argues that, even if Laity states a cognizable Title I claim with respect to §§ 101(a)(4) & (5), this Court must dismiss those claims because, essentially, Local 200-C engaged in no conduct violative of those provisions. Sweeney also argues that he is not properly a defendant to this lawsuit.

In any event, defendants argue, Laity's suspension justifiably resulted from his failure on two occasions to attend a meeting requested by Local 200-C's president, and that Laity's conduct amounted to insubordination.

In support of their motions,*fn3 the defendants have submitted the following: the affidavit and supplemental affidavit of Donald Mumm submitted by Sweeney ("Mumm aff."; "Mumm Supp. aff."); Beatty's statement and supplemental statement of material facts not in dispute ("Beatty fact", "Beatty supp. fact"); Sweeney's statement and supplemental statement of material facts not in dispute ("Sweeney fact", "Sweeney's supp. fact"); the January 25, 1991 affidavit of Thomas Beatty with exhibits ("Beatty"); Sweeney's first legal memorandum and revised legal memorandum ("Sweeney memo.", "Sweeney rev. memo."); and Beatty's revised legal memorandum ("Beatty memo.")

In opposition to the defendants' motions, Laity has submitted a Notice of Motion ("Laity Notice"); a Supplemental Notice of Motion with exhibits ("Laity Supp. Notice"); the affidavit of Jane Pickering ("Pickering"); the affidavit of Ona Baton ("Baton"); and the affidavit of James Carney ("Carney"). Laity has also filed an opposition to Beatty's motion for sanctions.

Conclusion: For the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that it has subject matter jurisdiction over this lawsuit and grants the defendants' motions for summary judgment in their entirety. Additionally, this Court denies Beatty's motion for sanctions.

FACTS

The Following material facts are not in dispute.

At all relevant times, including the present, Laity has been employed by the United States Veterans Administration and is a member of the International, Local 200-C. Local 200-C represents members employed in the private and public sectors.

Article VIII, Section I of Local 200-C's Constitution and Bylaws authorizes the president of Local 200-C to ". . . appoint a Shop Steward, or order a proper election for the Shop Steward whenever he or she deems it necessary for the welfare of the membership and the Local Union." (Beatty memo., p. 1).

In late 1988, Laity was appointed Steward for Local 200-C at the Buffalo Veterans Administration Medical Center ("BVAMC"). Laity did not become Steward through an election. (Laity Supp. Notice, ¶ 8).

A Steward is neither an officer nor an employee of Local 200-C. (Beatty fact, ¶ 3; Laity Supp. Notice, ¶¶ 19-20, 58). The Steward's responsibilities include resolving problems between union employees and the employer. (Mumm, ¶ 3; Beatty fact, ¶ 3).

On April 24, 1990, Laity attended a general membership meeting (the "April meeting") of the BVAMC. The parties, however, have characterized Laity's conduct at the April 24 meeting differently. Defendants contend that at the April 24 meeting, Laity ". . . stood up and began to shout in a loud and abusive manner, walked towards the Division's chief steward in a threatening manner, making a vulgar remark to her." (Beatty memo, p. 2; Beatty exh. A). Laity does not deny he used profane language at the April meeting and argues that others at the meeting used such language as well. (Laity Notice, ¶ 7; See, Pickering, ¶ 10). Laity, however, vehemently denies making any physical threats or hostile approaches toward anyone at the April 24 meeting. (Laity Notice, ¶ 7; See, Pickering, ¶ 18; Baton ¶ 25).

On April 27, 1990, by certified letter addressed to Laity, Beatty requested a meeting with Laity. According to the letter, this request stemmed from "complaints" prompting Beatty's investigation of Laity's ". . . conduct . . ." at the April meeting. (Beatty, exh. B; Laity Notice, ¶ 9). By letter dated April 29, 1990 addressed to Beatty, Laity declined to attend a meeting with Beatty to discuss Laity's conduct at the April meeting. Laity expressed his belief that Beatty lacked authority to compel his presence at such a meeting and that the proper procedure for filing charges against a union member had not been followed. (Beatty, exh. C; Laity Notice, ¶ 10). By letter addressed to Laity dated May 1, 1990, Beatty informed Laity that no formal charges had been filed against him and renewed his request for a meeting with Laity. (Beatty, exh. D). Laity did not attend this subsequently scheduled meeting.

On May 20, 1990, Local 200-C's Executive Board indefinitely suspended Laity from his position as Steward. By certified letter dated May 29, 1990, the Board notified Laity of the suspension and informed him that the basis for the suspension was Laity's ". . . conduct at the April 24, 1990 . . . meeting . . . and [Laity's] subsequent refusal to meet with Local Union President/Thomas Beatty to discuss the matter." (Laity Supp. Notice, exh. F).

On May 25, 1990, Laity filed with the International charges against Beatty alleging that Beatty had ". . . engaged in conduct unbecoming of an officer." The source of these charges were, inter alia, Beatty's handling of certain internal union matters at the BVAMC and Laity's allegation that Beatty engineered ". . . a campaign . . ." to ruin Laity's reputation. (Laity Supp. Notice, exh. H).

On June 4, 1990, Laity filed with the International additional charges against Beatty, the entire Local 200-C Executive Board and its business representative alleging that Laity was improperly suspended from his position as Steward without a prior hearing in violation of the LMRDA. (Laity Supp. Notice, exh. D).

In response to Laity's charges against Local 200-C and Beatty, the International's Executive Board appointed one of its members, Donald Mumm, to conduct a hearing and, by letter dated July 24, 1991, noticed Laity of the hearing to be conducted on August 9, 1990 ("the August hearing"). (Mumm Supp. aff., exh. B). Mumm conducted the August hearing at which Laity was present and testified.

On October 31, 1990, Mumm submitted his Findings of Fact, Conclusions and Recommendations ("the report") to the International's Executive Board (Beatty, exh. E).

In December, 1990 the International's Executive Board adopted the report in its entirety. (Mumm Supp. aff., ¶ 5).

Since Local 200-C suspended Laity as Steward, Laity has remained a regular member of Local 200-C. (Beatty, ¶ 9). Subsequent to his suspension, Laity entered an election for the position of Chief Steward but lost. (Beatty fact, ¶ 13; Laity Supp. Notice, ¶ 65).

Thereafter, Laity filed an unfair labor practice charge against Local 200-C and the International with the Federal Labor Relations Authority ("FLRA") alleging that Local 200-C violated the Labor-Management and Employee Relations Act, Title VII of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (the "Act"). Specifically Laity charged that his suspension as Steward violated 5 U.S.C. § 7116(b)(1), (b)(3) & (c). Laity also argued that his suspension deprived him of due process in violation of Local 200-C's Constitution and By-Laws.

  After an investigation the Acting FLRA Regional Director
concluded that Local 200-C did not violate the Act by
suspending Laity as Steward and declined to issue a Complaint
against Local 200-C. (Beatty memo., exh. A, p. 2). The Acting
Regional Director concluded, upon review of all the evidence,
that Laity's exercise of statutorily protected activity was not
". . . a motivating factor . . ." prompting Laity's suspension.
The Acting Regional Director found that

   . . for several months [Laity was] involved in
  internal controversies over the Local Union's
  affairs, ...

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