Department of Labor. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
finds that plaintiffs failed to exhaust their union remedies and
grants defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.
On December 6, 2000, Local 97 held an election for union
officers. Plaintiffs were candidates for the following offices:
Hill ran for president, Lewis for vice-president, Kraucuk for
secretary-treasurer, and Stalks for recording secretary. All
four plaintiffs were defeated in their bids for election, losing
by an average margin of 112 votes out of 2,042 votes cast.
(Compl.Ex. A.) On December 8, 2002, plaintiffs filed a challenge
to the election results with Teamster Joint Council No. 73
("Joint Council"). (Compl.Ex. B.) Sixty-nine days later, on
February 15, 2001, the Joint Council mailed a decision in
response to plaintiffs' challenge, upholding the election
results. (Compl.Ex. D.)
Plaintiffs did not appeal the Joint Council's decision to the
International Executive Board ("IEB") at that time. Instead, on
March 15, 2001, plaintiffs filed a complaint with the Department
of Labor ("DOL") under Section 482 of the Labor Management
Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"). 29 U.S.C. § 482. The
complaint alleged "massive violations" of the LMRDA by incumbent
slate of candidates and requested an investigation of the
proceedings as well as a new, DOL-supervised, election.
(Compl.Ex. E.) On March 21, 2001, an agent of the DOL, Frank
Gonzalez, informed plaintiffs that their protest was time-barred
because no appeal had been taken to the IEB within 15 days of
the Joint Council's decision. Plaintiffs wrote a letter to the
DOL the next day, contesting agent Gonzalez' conclusion on
several grounds. (Compl.Ex. F.) Plaintiffs claim that they never
received a response to this letter. (Compl. ¶ 12.)
Plaintiffs next appealed the Joint Council's decision to the
IEB. On April 3, 2001, plaintiffs received a letter from the IEB
acknowledging receipt of their appeal and inviting them to
submit any additional evidence within 30 days. (Compl. ¶ 14.)
Plaintiffs renewed their appeal to the DOL when more than 100
days had passed without additional communication from the IEB.
(Compl. ¶ 15.) On July 18, 2001, the DOL responded by letter,
declining to undertake an investigation of the election and
reiterating its position that plaintiffs' action was
time-barred. (Compl.Ex. I.) Defendant has moved to dismiss this
action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), claiming that plaintiffs have
failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
II. Legal Standards
A. Rule 12(b)(6)
In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court merely
"determine[s] whether the compliant itself is legally
sufficient," Goldman v. Belden, 754 F.2d 1059, 1067 (2d Cir.
1985), accepting as true its factual allegations, see Anatian
v. Coutts Bank (Switzerland) Ltd., 193 F.3d 85, 88 (2d Cir.
1999). All inferences are drawn in favor of the non-moving
party. See Moore v. PaineWebber, Inc., 189 F.3d 165 (2d Cir.
1999). The complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears
beyond doubt that the plaintiff "can prove no set of facts in
support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Cruz
v. Gomez, 202 F.3d 593, 597 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting
Conley v. Gibson, 855 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d
In making this assessment, the Court "must limit itself to the
facts stated in the complaint, documents attached to the
complaint as exhibits and documents incorporated by reference in
the complaint." Hayden v. County of Nassau, 180 F.3d 42, 54
(2d Cir. 1999). However, when a motion to dismiss is predicated
on plaintiffs' failure to exhaust internal union remedies, "a
court may only grant dismissal if it is able to say beyond a
doubt that plaintiffs' allegations . . . are insufficient to
excuse their failure to exhaust the remedies available."
Bennett v. Saunders, 1999 WL 529539, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. 1999)
internal quotations omitted (quoting Retana v. Apartment,
Motel, Hotel, & Elevator Operators Union, 453 F.2d 1018, 1025
(9th Cir. 1972)).
B. Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act
Section 482 of the LMRDA dictates when the Department of Labor
may become involved in a labor organization dispute. Section
482(a) relates specifically to the enforcement of complaints
filed with the Department, and states: "A member of a labor
(1) who has exhausted the remedies available under
the constitution and by-laws of such organization and
of any parent body, or
(2) who has invoked such available remedies without
obtaining a final decision within three calender
months after their invocation,
may file a complaint with the Secretary within one calendar
month thereafter alleging the violation of any provision of
section 481 of this title (including violation of the
constitution and bylaws of the labor organization pertaining to
the election and removal of officers)." 29 U.S.C. § 482(a).
In applying this statute, courts must defer to the Department
of Labor's interpretation when faced with any ambiguities. "The
law is well settled that an agency's interpretation of a statute
with which it has been charged with administering and which has
been reduced to a regulation is to be fully accepted by a court
as long as Congress has not directly spoken as to the precise
question at issue and the interpretation proffered by the agency
is a permissible one." Jones v. American Postal Workers Union,
192 F.3d 417, 427 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Chevron U.S.A., Inc.
v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 at
842-43, 104 S.Ct. 2778, 81 L.Ed.2d 694 (1984)).
The legislative intent behind the enactment of the LMRDA is
well documented. Congress gave the Department of Labor the power
to investigate internal union affairs, but circumscribed that
power in order to protect union independence. Thus, the LMRDA
"represents a balance between the public interest in fair and
democratic elections, on the one hand, and the importance of
minimizing government encroachment upon union autonomy, on the
other." Martin v. Local 480, 946 F.2d 457, *461 (6th Cir.
1991). As the Supreme Court has commented,
[e]xamination of the relevant legislative materials
reveals a clear congressional concern for the need to
remedy abuses in union elections without departing
needlessly from the longstanding congressional policy
against unnecessary governmental interference with
union affairs. . . . Plainly Congress intended to
foster a situation in which the unions themselves
could remedy as many election violations as possible
without the Government's ever becoming involved.
Achieving this objective would not only preserve and
strengthen unions as
selfregulating institutions, but also avoid
unnecessary expenditure of the limited resources of
the Secretary of Labor. Hodgson v. Local Union
6799, 403 U.S. 333, 338-39, 91 S.Ct. 1841, 29
L.Ed.2d 510 (1971).
Plaintiffs claim that the Secretary is in violation of her
legal obligation to consider the merits of their