that the Metal Trades Branch has been deprived of its separate identity without its members having been afforded the opportunity to vote on the claimed "merger," and that the Local Union did not follow its own procedures in adopting the amendments at issue in this case. Plaintiffs also allege that they will sustain irreparable harm if the December 13 elections are permitted to go forward. The complaint contains three claims for relief. The first claim for relief alleges that defendants have violated two provisions of the LMRDA: (1) § 101(a)(1), 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(1), which sets forth a union member's equal right to vote in elections; and (2) § 101(a)(5), 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(5), which proscribes improper disciplinary action. The second claim for relief alleges that defendants have breached the terms of the U.A. and Local 638 Constitutions in violation of § 301 of the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. § 185. The third claim for relief seeks a declaratory judgment that the Metal Trades Branch is entitled to use its Protection Fund to pay for the instant litigation.
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.
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 917, 923 (2d Cir. 1997); Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters v. Local Union Number 810, 19 F.3d 786, 789 (2d Cir. 1994).
"The showing of irreparable harm is 'perhaps the single most important prerequisite for the issuance of preliminary injunction.' The law in this Circuit requires a showing that irreparable damages are likely, not merely possible." Mason Tenders Local Union 59 v. Local 23, 924 F. Supp. 528, 542 (S.D.N.Y. 1996), aff'd, 101 F.3d 686 (2d Cir. 1996) (quoting Citibank, N.A. v. Citytrust, 756 F.2d 273, 275 (2d Cir. 1985)) (other internal quotations omitted). Further, "need for proof of irreparable harm is 'more pronounced' when 'the plaintiff establishes something less than probable success on the merits.'" Local Unions 20, 135, 257, 296, 531, 740, 902 and 1456 of the United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of America v. United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of America, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15689, 1997 WL 630179 at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 9, 1997) (quoting Triebwasser & Katz v. American Tel. & Tel. Co., 535 F.2d 1356, 1359 (2d Cir. 1976)), aff'd, F.3d , 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 33987 (2d Cir. Dec. 3, 1997).
II. Are Plaintiffs Entitled to a Preliminary Injunction?
A. Irreparable injury
Plaintiffs' primary argument is that the Metal Trades Branch will be irreparably harmed if the elections are permitted to go forward on Saturday because members will be deprived of their right to self-determination and their right to be represented by their own leaders. In support of this argument, plaintiffs rely heavily upon the opinion of the district court in Mason Tenders, supra, which was affirmed without reported opinion by the Second Circuit. However, Mason Tenders is readily distinguishable from the instant case. In that case, the international union adopted a reorganization plan that consolidated ten separate local unions into two newly-chartered unions, revoked the charters of the affected local unions, immediately transferred their assets, and dismissed their elected officials. The local unions challenged the reorganization plan and sought a preliminary injunction blocking its implementation. On those facts, the district court, as affirmed by the Second Circuit, determined that the affected local unions had established irreparable harm, noting that the local unions would no longer be represented by union members that they had democratically elected. Mason Tenders, 924 F. Supp. 528 at 542-543.
In this case, by contrast, the governance structure of the Local Union and the Metal Trades Branch is significantly intertwined. It appears from the documentary evidence before the Court that at least since 1947, the Metal Trades Branch has not been separately chartered. Further, as noted above, even prior to the alleged "merger," the Metal Trades Branch and the Local Union had the same President, Vice-President and Secretary-Treasurer. In addition, according to the Torpey affidavit, the Business Agents elected by the Metal Trades Branch are answerable to the Local Union's Business Agent at Large. Thus, the Metal Trade Branch's right to self-determination has traditionally been subject to significant limitations, and plaintiffs' arguments regarding the potential impact of the elections upon its right to self-determination appear overstated.
Further, as other courts have recognized, even if the elections proceed, there will be no irreparable injury because if it is ultimately determined on the merits that the reorganization ordered by the U.A. was illegal and the election improper, the results of the upcoming election could be voided and another election held. See Rodriguez v. Holloway, 1997 WL 151739, at *11 (S.D.N.Y. March 4, 1997); Bernard v. Local 100, Transport Workers Union of America, 873 F. Supp. 824, 827-828 (S.D.N.Y. 1995), aff'd, 112 F.3d 67 (2d Cir. 1997).
Wholly apart from the question of whether the election should be permitted to go forward, plaintiffs also request an injunction preventing the Local Union from exercising control over the assets of the Metal Trades Branch. However, as set forth in the Torpey Affidavit, the Local Union already exercises some measure of control over the Branch Funds. The papers are devoid of any indication that the Local Union has threatened to assume control over the funds of the Metal Trades Branch. Moreover, as the Second Circuit noted in San Filippo v. United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners, 525 F.2d 508, 512 (2d Cir. 1975), if plaintiffs ultimately prevail at trial, they will have a legal damages remedy against defendants for any assets seized. See also Local Union 20, 1997 WL 630179, at *19; cf. Mason Tenders, 924 F. Supp. 528 at 543. Therefore, the Court concludes that plaintiffs have not demonstrated that they will be irreparably harmed if this relief is not granted.
On balance, therefore, the Court concludes that plaintiffs have not made an adequate showing of irreparable harm, and that they are consequently not entitled to injunctive relief.
B. Probability of Success On the Merits
Even if the Court had determined that plaintiffs had made an adequate showing of irreparable harm, the Court is nonetheless convinced that plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate either a probability of success on the merits, or sufficiently serious questions going to the merits of their claims so as to make them a fair ground for litigation. In setting forth the basis for this conclusion, the Court will examine each of plaintiffs' statutory claims for relief in turn.
1. 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(1)
In their first claim for relief, plaintiffs allege that the U.A. determination has "deprived [Metal Trades Branch members] of their statutory right to vote in internal union elections and hold elective office," in violation of § 101(a)(1) of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(1). This section, which is contained in Title I of the LMRDA, provides:
Every member of a labor organization shall have equal rights and privileges within such organization to nominate candidates, to vote in elections or referendums of the labor organization, to attend membership meetings, and to participate in the deliberations and voting upon the business of such meetings, subject to reasonable rules and regulations in such organization's constitution and by-laws.
However, the Court initially observes that § 101(a)(1) does not protect the rights of individual plaintiffs to hold union office. See Local 115, United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of America v. United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of America, 247 F. Supp. 660, 662 (D. Conn. 1965). Moreover, the Court notes that plaintiffs do not have standing to raise the claim that the determination deprives other union members of their rights to vote, as it is well established that union members lack standing to enforce the rights of other union members. See Ellis v. Civil Service Employees Union Ass'n, Local 1000, 913 F. Supp. 684, 688 (N.D.N.Y. 1996). The Court therefore turns to an examination of whether plaintiffs have established a probability of success on the merits that the challenged determination deprives them of their individual rights to vote in internal union elections.
The Supreme Court has held that § 101(a)(1) "is no more than a command that members and classes of members shall not be discriminated against in their right to nominate and vote." Calhoon v. Harvey, 379 U.S. 134, 139, 13 L. Ed. 2d 190, 85 S. Ct. 292 (1965). The relevant inquiry, therefore, is whether the complaining union members have been "denied [a] privilege or right to vote or nominate which the union has granted to others." Id.; see also Ellis, 913 F. Supp. at 688-689 ("The core of the statute's equal rights provision is the prevention of discrimination against union members and classes of union members"); Bernard, 873 F. Supp. 824 at 828 ("The protections of Title I have never been construed to encompass . . . a claim where all union members have an equal right to nominate and vote for eligible candidates"); Johnson v. Kay, 742 F. Supp. 822, 827-828 (S.D.N.Y. 1990) ([Section] 101(a)(1) provides that where members elsewhere have been given the right to vote on an issue, the union may not unreasonably discriminate against members in the exercise of that vote.")
Based upon the foregoing, the Court is not entirely convinced that plaintiffs have stated a claim for violation of § 101, as they are not being discriminated against in the exercise of their right to vote. Both plaintiffs, as members of the Metal Trades Branch, will have the same right to vote for union officials as any other member of the Local Union. Rather, as defendants point out, plaintiffs' claim that the mandated changes in the Local Union's election procedure are invalid arguably falls within the ambit of Title IV of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 481-483. Title IV sets standards for the qualification and nomination of candidates and the manner in which elections are conducted. This distinction is significant because if plaintiffs' claim arises under Title IV, the Court is clearly without jurisdiction to consider it. The Supreme Court has held that Congress's intent in enacting Title IV was "not to permit individuals to block or delay union elections by filing federal-court suits for violations of Title IV." Calhoon, 379 U.S. 134 at 140. Instead, the statute requires the investigation of any Title IV claim by the Secretary of Labor after the election takes place. 29 U.S.C. § 482. If the Secretary of Labor finds probable cause to belief that a violation of Title IV has occurred, then it is up to the Secretary to bring a civil action against the labor organization to set aside the results of the election. Id. Moreover, 29 U.S.C. § 483 provides that this remedy is exclusive. Thus, to the extent that plaintiffs may have a claim under Title IV of the LMRDA, the Court is without jurisdiction to order the injunctive relief sought here.
But even if the Court were convinced that plaintiffs have stated the elements of a claim under § 101(a)(1), the Court would still be without the power to enjoin the upcoming elections. The Supreme Court case of Local 82 v. Crowley, 467 U.S. 526, 81 L. Ed. 2d 457, 104 S. Ct. 2557 (1984), is dispositive. In that case, the Court held that "whether suits alleging violations of Title I of the LMRDA may properly be maintained during the course of a union election depends upon the appropriateness of the remedy required to eliminate the claimed statutory violation." Id. at 550. Indicating that judicial supervision of ongoing union elections was undesirable, the Court stated that a district court could properly order that minimal, unintrusive remedies be taken to ensure that § 101(a)(1) rights were protected, but that a court could not take any steps to invalidate an ongoing union election, and, consequently, vacated the preliminary injunction issued by the district court. Id. at 550, 551 n.23. Thus, pursuant to Crowley, the Court is without the power to order the injunctive relief requested by plaintiffs. See Rodriguez, 1997 WL 151739 at *11; Bishop v. Duval, 592 F. Supp. 16, 18 (S.D.N.Y. 1984).
Accordingly, the Court concludes that plaintiffs have failed to establish a probability of success on the merits of their § 101(a)(1) claim. Moreover, the Court is not even convinced that they have demonstrated sufficiently serious questions going to the merits to justify a preliminary injunction.
2. 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(5)
Plaintiffs also maintain that the challenged determination constitutes improper disciplinary action in violation of § 101(a)(5), 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(5). This section provides:
No member of any labor organization may be fined, suspended, expelled or otherwise disciplined except for nonpayment of dues by such organization or by any officer thereof unless such member has been (A) served with written specific charges; (B) given a reasonable time to prepare his defense; [and] (C) afforded a full and fair hearing.
"'Discipline' typically involves official union conduct that has the purpose and effect of punishing a member." Galke v. Duffy, 645 F.2d 118, 120 (2d Cir. 1981). "The member may be directly penalized or singled out from other comparable members for special treatment by the union. Alternatively, the union might use a rule in an arbitrary, discriminatory, or bad-faith manner in order to punish a member." Seybert v. United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of America, 755 F. Supp. 561, 564 (S.D.N.Y. 1990).
In Local 311 v. United Ass'n of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada, 1988 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5908, 1988 WL 74053 (D. Conn. 1988) (Cabranes, J.), the court considered precisely the argument raised by plaintiffs here -- that the "merger" of local unions diluted voting rights and constituted an improper disciplinary practice. In rejecting this claim, the court quoted the following language from United Bhd. of Carpenters Local 853 v. United Bhd. of Carpenters, 83 L.R.R.M. 2759, 2765 (D.N.J. 1972), aff'd, 480 F.2d 919 (3d Cir. 1973):
Any merger, consolidation or transfer between local unions necessarily diminishes the voting power of any individual or voting block to the detriment, perhaps, of either the dissolved or the accepting organization. For that matter, the acceptance of every additional member into a union weakens the power of determination shared by those already belonging to the local when voting and deliberating upon union business.