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WEISS v. TORPEY

December 12, 1997

MORRIS WEISS and JOHN CAREY, Individually and as Business Agents of METAL TRADES BRANCH LOCAL UNION 638 PIPE FITTERS AND APPRENTICES OF GREATER NEW YORK, NASSAU AND SUFFOLK COUNTIES AND VICINITY OF THE UNITED ASSOCIATION OF JOURNEYMEN AND APPRENTICES OF THE PLUMBING AND PIPE FITTING INDUSTRY OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA, Plaintiffs, against JOHN TORPEY, Individually and as President of ENTERPRISE ASSOCIATION PIPE FITTERS AND APPRENTICES OF GREATER NEW YORK, NASSAU AND SUFFOLK COUNTIES AND VICINITY LOCAL UNION 638 OF THE UNITED ASSOCIATION OF JOURNEYMEN AND APPRENTICES OF THE PLUMBING AND PIPE FITTING INDUSTRY OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA; and MARTIN MADDALONI, Individually and as President of UNITED ASSOCIATION OF JOURNEYMEN AND APPRENTICES OF THE PLUMBING AND PIPE FITTING INDUSTRY OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BLOCK

 BLOCK, District Judge:

 In this case, which arises under the Labor-Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 141 et seq. and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., plaintiffs Morris Weiss ("Weiss") and John Carey ("Carey") seek, inter alia, to enjoin a union election scheduled for Saturday, December 13, 1997. Because the Court concludes that plaintiffs have fallen well short of establishing their entitlement to a preliminary injunction, their motion for injunctive relief is denied.

 BACKGROUND

 Defendant John Torpey ("Torpey") is the President of Local 638, which allegedly represents approximately 5,000 members employed in the building and construction industries of the plumbing and pipe fitting trade. Both the Metal Trades Branch and the Local Union fall within the jurisdiction of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada ("United Association" or "U.A."), the parent union which represents approximately 300,000 workers in the plumbing and pipefitting industry in the United States and Canada. Defendant Martin Maddaloni ("Maddaloni") is the President of the United Association.

 I. The Relationship Between the Metal Trades Branch and the Local Union

 At issue in this case is a determination by the United Association that the Local Union and the Metal Trades Branch, which have traditionally operated with some degree of separateness, must henceforth operate as a single union and, inter alia, conduct joint elections. These joint elections are presently scheduled for Saturday, December 13, 1997, and plaintiffs seek a preliminary injunction to prevent these elections from going forward. Before discussing the specifics of the U.A.'s determination, a brief examination of the traditional relationship between the Metal Trades Branch and the Local Union is in order.

 It is uncontested that the Metal Trades Branch and the Local Union are governed by the same President, Vice-President and Secretary-Treasurer; however, the U.A. Constitution expressly provides that members of the metal trades are not eligible to run for any of these offices. Both the Metal Trades Branch and the Local Union have offices in the same building in Long Island City. According to the affidavit of defendant Torpey ("Torpey Aff."): (1) the majority of Metal Trades Branch members work under the terms of a union-wide collective bargaining agreement that is negotiated by the President and Business Agent At Large of the Local Union, or under collective bargaining agreements that are virtually identical to the union-wide agreement; (2) as President of Local 638, he exercises substantial control over the administration of the Metal Trades Branch Pension, Welfare and Education Funds ("Branch Funds"); (3) the Local Union and the Metal Trades Branch file a single annual report with the Department of Labor, signed by their common Secretary-Treasurer; and (4) there is a single Business Agent at Large who is the principal contact person with the United Association for both the Metal Trades Branch and the Local Union, and this Business Agent at Large is in charge of the Business Agents for both the Local Union and the Metal Trades Branch.

 Notwithstanding the foregoing, however, it is readily apparent from the record that the Metal Trades Branch has for decades operated with considerable autonomy. According to the allegations of the complaint, the Metal Trades Branch has traditionally, inter alia : (1) elected from its membership certain officers including two Business Agents, a Recording Secretary, an Advisory Board consisting of a Shop Steward from each shop, and an Executive Committee of four members; (2) paid the salary of its officers from its own funds; (3) maintained separate dues assessment structures; (4) maintained its own financial records; (5) conducted its own membership meetings; and (6) paid for its office staff from its own General Fund. Although the United Association and the Local Union contest certain of plaintiffs' specific allegations in this regard, they do not dispute the essence of plaintiffs' position -- that for decades the Metal Trades Branch has operated with "a degree of separateness" from the Local Union. See Torpey Aff. at P 7.

 II. The Challenged Determination

 Shortly after defendant Maddaloni assumed the office of U.A. President in January of this year, the United Association held a series of meetings that addressed the traditional relationship between the Local Union and the Metal Trades Branch and culminated in a determination that the Local Union would be required to amend its Constitution to bring it into line with provisions of the United Association's Constitution regarding certain organizational matters, including the election of officers. As a result of these amendments, the Metal Trades Branch would no longer be permitted to hold separate elections for its own Business Agents, Recording Secretary, and Executive Board; rather, the entire membership of the Local Union, including the Metal Trades Branch, would vote for thirteen Business Agents, a single Recording Secretary, and a five-member Executive Board.

 This directive, which appears to have been part of an ongoing effort on the part of the United Association to streamline operations, is premised upon the assumption, sharply contested by plaintiffs, that the Metal Trades Branch is not a separate local union chartered by the United Association. Rather, it is defendants' position that Local 638 is a "combination" union containing construction trades and metal trades, and that a single charter to this effect was issued to the Local Union in February of 1947. The U.A. points out that Local 638 is listed as a single combination union in the U.A.'s September 1997 Roll Call, which is the official directory of U.A. local unions, and is listed as a combination local union in the General Officers' Report to the 1996 U.A. Convention. Consequently, defendants contend that the autonomy traditionally enjoyed by the Metal Trades Branch is, in fact, inconsistent with the charter of the Local Union and violative of the U.A. Constitution, and that the "merger" at issue was simply an effort to eliminate procedures that were inconsistent with the governance structure and election procedures mandated for local unions by the U.A. Constitution.

 By contrast, plaintiffs, claiming that the amendments dilute the voting strength of the Metal Trades Branch and destroy its separate identity, have taken the position that the autonomy enjoyed by the Metal Trades Branch since 1947 serves as evidence that it is a separate local union. This distinction is relevant because plaintiffs consequently contend that the United Association was required to follow certain procedures before ordering that the Local Union and the Metal Trades Branch operate as a single union, and that those procedures were not followed here. In support of their argument that proper procedures were not followed, plaintiffs include among their submissions a copy of a report written by Maddaloni entitled "Mergers of Local Unions Can Be Painful But Can Also Lead to Greater Strength," which appeared in the November 1997 U.A. Journal. In this report, defendant Maddaloni stated, in pertinent part, that "No merger is ever even contemplated unless all indications are that it will benefit and enhance the job opportunities, training, political influence, and security of the members involved," and, "While there have been many mergers this year, every single one was undertaken only after long and careful investigation. We have looked at every aspect of each merger individually and have held comprehensive hearings with all of the local unions involved." Plaintiffs allege that the United Association did not conduct any investigation before requiring the Local Union to implement the changes at issue here. Further, plaintiffs maintain that the President failed to obtain the approval of the Executive Board for the consolidation, in violation of § 84 of the United Association Constitution. Finally, plaintiffs maintain that because the Metal Trades Branch is financially healthy, there is no economic reason for the alleged consolidation.

 III. The Complaint

 Also on November 12, 1997, plaintiffs presented a proposed Order to Show Cause to the Court seeking, inter alia, a Temporary Restraining Order that would have prevented the Local Union from conducting a meeting later that night at which candidates would be nominated for the December 13 elections. The Court heard arguments from the parties that afternoon and declined to sign the Order to Show Cause and Temporary Restraining Order, concluding that plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate that they would be irreparably harmed if the nominating meeting went forward. Acknowledging that plaintiffs were also seeking to enjoin the elections scheduled for December 13, 1997, the Court established a briefing schedule for submissions on the discrete issue of whether plaintiffs were entitled to a preliminary injunction preventing the December 13, 1997 elections from taking place.

 DISCUSSION

 I. Standard For a Preliminary Injunction

 The standard for obtaining a preliminary injunction is well established. A plaintiff must show "a threat of irreparable injury and either (1) a probability of success on the merits or (2) sufficiently serious questions going to the merits of the claims to make them a fair ground of litigation, and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly in favor of the moving party." Time Warner Cable of New York City v. Bloomberg L.P., 118 F.3d ...


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