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LOCAL 323 v. INTERNATIONAL UNION OF ELECTRONIC
July 12, 2001
LOCAL 323, SAM AUGELLO, PRESIDENT OF LOCAL 323, BERNARD SCOPPO, SHOP CHAIRMAN OF LOCAL 323, RICHARD ROTH, TREASURER OF LOCAL 323, TONI FELTON, SECRETARY OF LOCAL 323, KEN WILSON, EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBER OF LOCAL 323, JERRY HOCHREITER, EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBER OF LOCAL 323, CLIFFORD BALL, EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBER OF LOCAL 323, JOHN COOLEY, EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBER OF LOCAL 323, FRED CICCOLINE, EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBER OF LOCAL 323, PLAINTIFFS,
INTERNATIONAL UNION OF ELECTRONIC, ELECTRICAL, SALARIED, MACHINE AND FURNITURE WORKERS, AFL &MDASH; CIO, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Telesca, District Judge.
Plaintiffs Local 323, and various Officers and Board Members
of Local 323 bring this action against defendant International
Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture
Workers, AFL — CIO, ("IUE"), pursuant to the Labor-Management
Relations Act of 1947 ("LMRA") and the Labor Management
Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), claiming that the
defendant has unlawfully denied Local 323 the right to
disaffiliate from the IUE. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that
the defendant unlawfully amended its constitution to prevent
local unions from freely disaffiliating from the IUE, and
violated the IUE constitution by denying Local 323's application
to disaffiliate from the IUE. Plaintiffs further allege that
because the amended constitution materially changed the
relationship between the IUE and Local 323, plaintiffs may
rescind its relationship with the IUE. Plaintiffs seek a
declaration from this court enforcing the decision of Local 323
to disaffiliate from the IUE, declaring that all assets of Local
323 shall remain the property of Local 323, permanently
restraining the IUE from interfering with Local 323, and
awarding damages to Local 323 equal to the amount of dues paid
to the IUE after September 27, 1999 together with attorneys fees
Defendant denies plaintiffs' allegations, and moves to dismiss
the Complaint on grounds that: (1) plaintiffs failed to exhaust
their remedies within the Union, and thus are barred from filing
suit in federal court; (2) the Complaint fails to state a claim
for breach of the union's constitution because plaintiffs have
failed to allege facts from which a trier of fact could conclude
that defendant acted in bad faith in denying plaintiffs'
application for disaffiliation; (3) defendant properly amended
its constitution, and therefore plaintiffs may not unilaterally
rescind its relationship with the IUE; (4) plaintiffs' claims
are barred by the doctrine of laches; and (5) plaintiffs lack
standing to raise certain claims alleged in the Complaint.
For the reasons set forth below, I find that plaintiffs were
required to first exhaust their claims pursuant to the IUE
appeal process, and that defendant has established-on the face
of the Complaint — that the plaintiffs have failed to exhaust
their intra-union remedies. Because defendants have established
the merits of their affirmative defense based on plaintiffs'
failure to exhaust, I grant defendant's motion to dismiss, and
dismiss plaintiffs' Complaint with prejudice.
Plaintiff Local 323 is a local union consisting of about 155
members, all of whom are employed by Alstom Signaling. Local 323
has been affiliated with the defendant IUE since March 21, 1951,
when it was organized as a subordinate labor organization of the
IUE. The IUE was founded in 1949, at which time it adopted the
constitution that, as amended, has governed the relationship
between the IUE and Local 323.
In April 1999, the IUE proposed an amendment to its
constitution to change the way a local union could disaffiliate
from the IUE. Under the proposed amendment, either the Executive
Board of the IUE or the International Convention would have to
approve any application for disaffiliation by a local union.
Local member-unions of the IUE approved the proposed amendment
in May, 1999.
Four months later, in September 1999, Local 323 union member
John Vogt presented a proposal to the Local Executive Board
urging that the local union disaffiliate from the IUE. The
proposal was accompanied by a petition signed by more than 94 of
the local union members who supported disaffiliating from the
IUE. The proposal was eventually adopted by a 40 to 2 vote of
the general membership.
On October 18, 1999, Local 323 petitioned the IUE to
disaffiliate. While Local 323 reserved what it believed was its
right to unilaterally disaffiliate, it attempted to follow the
newly amended IUE constitution by seeking permission from the
IUE Executive Board to disaffiliate. Local 323 continued, and
continues to meet all of its dues obligations to the IUE despite
filing its application to disaffiliate.
On November 17, 1999, the Executive Board of the IUE voted to
conduct an investigation concerning the request to disaffiliate,
and appointed two officers to chair a Committee charged with
making such an inquiry. Local 323 objected to the nature of the
inquiry on grounds that the Committee was not operating under
any set of guidelines, and no criteria had been established for
making the determination as to whether or not Local 323's
application should be granted. Local 323 also contends that
during the investigation period, the IUE engaged in a
counter-campaign to undermine the disaffiliation attempt. The
Committee held a hearing on March 22, 2000, at which members of
Local 323 and other local IUE-affiliated unions were allowed to
express their opinions as to the proposed disaffiliation.
Members who were unable to attend the hearing were allowed to
submit written statements.
On April 24, 2000, IUE President Edward Fire ("Fire") informed
the members of Local 323 that the Committee had recommended that
the Local not be allowed to disaffiliate, and that the Executive
Board had voted unanimously against disaffiliation. Fire cited
the following reasons for denying Local 323's application: (1)
disaffiliation would reduce the bargaining strength of the
Local; (2) the complaints by local union members against the IUE
were vague and unsubstantiated; (3) local union members would
not have access to IUE sponsored strike benefits including
medical protection; (4) retired union-members' benefits could be
placed in jeopardy; (5) disaffiliation would have a negative
impact on other IUE-affiliated unions in the Rochester area; (6)
local members would lose their right to utilize the IUE
grievance system; and (7) the factors which had existed in prior
circumstances in which the IUE allowed member unions to
disaffiliate were not present in the current situation. On April
25, 2000, Fire, in a letter to Local 323 President Sam Augello,
("Augello"), informed Augello of his decision, and further
advised Augello that Local 323 may appeal that decision to the
International Convention, scheduled to commence on September 21,
Rather than appeal the Executive Board's decision to the
International Convention, Local 323 filed the instant ...