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EEOC v. LOCAL 40

December 14, 1994

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff, against LOCAL 40, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BRIDGE, STRUCTURAL AND ORNAMENTAL IRON WORKERS, . . . THE JOINT APPRENTICESHIP COMMITTEE, IRON WORKERS LOCALS 40 & 361 . . . AND ALLIED BUILDING METAL INDUSTRIES, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT L. CARTER

 CARTER, District Judge

 Plaintiffs Roysworth D. Grant and Willie Ellis seek to have defendants Local 40, Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers ("Local 40"); the Joint Apprenticeship Committee, Iron Workers Locals 40 & 361; and Allied Building Metal Industries found in contempt of court for their failure to comply with two orders -- one issued by Judge Werker in EEOC v. Local 638 . . . Local 40, No. 71 Civ. 2877 (S.D.N.Y. March 5, 1980) (Werker, J.) ("Werker Order"), and one issued by Judge Knapp in Grant v. Bethlehem Steel Corp. and Local 40, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1689, 76 Civ. 847 (S.D.N.Y. 1979) (Knapp, J.) ("Knapp Order"). Defendants contest the court's jurisdiction to issue contempt orders in both cases.

 I.

 In 1975, Grant and Ellis brought a complaint on behalf of themselves and a class of minority ironworkers before Judge Knapp of this court alleging that Local 40 and Bethlehem Steel Corporation had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. They subsequently amended the complaint to allege that Local 40 had retaliated against them for bringing the original complaint. Judge Knapp found that retaliation had occurred, and he ordered the union to stop retaliating, to refer Grant and Ellis to employment on the same basis as other workers, and to pay their attorneys' fees and reimburse them for back pay. Grant v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1069, No. 76 Civ. 847 (S.D.N.Y. May 14, 1979) (Knapp, J.), aff'd 622 F.2d 43 (2d Cir. 1980).

 The plaintiffs seek to enforce the Knapp order in this court, "presenting the anomalous proceeding of one [judge] taking cognizance of an alleged contempt committed before and against another [judge], which possesse[s] ample powers, itself to take care of its own dignity and punish the offender." Ex parte Bradley, 74 U.S. 364, 372, 19 L. Ed. 214 (1869). A motion for contempt of an order issued by Judge Knapp should be brought before Judge Knapp. Plaintiffs have proffered no reasons why Judge Knapp cannot hear the contempt motion, so I decline to exercise jurisdiction over the motion for contempt of the Knapp order.

 II.

 In 1971, the United States riled a complaint charging a number of unions and contractors' associations, including defendant Local 40, with violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The Local 40 case was subsequently severed. After a three-day trial Judge Gurfein found that defendant Local 40 had violated Title VII, and he issued an order requiring it to remedy its discriminatory practices by instituting specific membership and referral policies and practices. United States v. Local 638 . . . Local 40, 347 F. Supp. 169 (S.D.N.Y. 1972) (Gurfein, J.). In 1977, the EEOC (which had been substituted as a party for the United States) sought to hold Local 40 in contempt for violation of Judge Gurfein's order, and plaintiffs Grant and Ellis intervened, along with Louis Martinez, who is not a party to this contempt motion. The parties entered into a consent decree, signed by Judge Werker (who had inherited the case from Judge Gurfein), which permanently enjoined Local 40 from discriminating against minorities and ordered further changes in the union's referral practices, EEOC v. Local 628 . . . Local 40, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1689, No. 71 Civ. 2877 (S.D.N.Y. March 5, 1980) (Werker, J.), and which the plaintiffs now seek to enforce. Upon Judge Werker's demise, I inherited the case.

 In their contempt motion and the accompanying affidavits, Grant and Ellis make numerous allegations, several of which pertain to the Knapp Order and are thus not under the purview of this proceeding. Other allegations, however, if proven, go to the very heart of the job referral system set up by the Werker Order and would constitute serious violations of it. These include (but are not limited to) failure to offer referrals to members of Local 40 present in the hiring hall, failure to issue consecutive referral preference numbers to all eligible applicants, failure to refer applicants according to the lowest referral preference number, failure to announce requests for referral in the order they are received, failure to allow eligible applicants the opportunity to bid on each referral request, and maneuvering special requests for the purpose of not referring Grant and Ellis to long-term positions as stewards or foremen.

 This court has inherent and statutory power to enforce its decrees and to punish violators for contempt. Roadway Express, Inc. v. Piper, 447 U.S. 752, 764-765, 65 L. Ed. 2d 488, 100 S. Ct. 2455 (1980); 18 U.S.C.A. § 401 (1966). Local 40 claims, however, that the court currently lacks jurisdiction to enforce the Werker decree on the grounds that it expired in 1983. It claims further that the plaintiffs lack standing to bring a contempt motion and that any claims for relief are barred by the doctrine of laches.

 A.

 Local 40 asserts that the court no longer has jurisdiction to enforce Judge Werker's order because of a clause in the consent decree ("the termination clause") which reads:

 
This Order, as modified, shall expire three (3) years from the date of entry hereof; notwithstanding the foregoing, EEOC shall have the right, upon good cause shown, to make application to the Court at least thirty (30) days prior to the expiration of this Order to have the same extended beyond ...

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