The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer, District Judge
This case is an example of the old adage, "you can't have it both
ways." The case before the Court involves thirteen union members who were
expelled from their union for certain activities relating to efforts to
replace their existing union with a rival one. The expelled members claim
that their acts were protected "free speech" activities under the Labor
Management Reporting Disclosure Act, 29 U.S.C. § 401, et seq.
("LMRDA"). The union, on the other hand, contends that the activities
were not protected and that the members were properly disciplined.
I agree with the union that the activities here went far beyond
expressing opinions about union leadership, which is protected, and
became activity in direct competition with the union, which is not. The
union, therefore, properly expelled those members for acts designed to
displace the union with another.
Currently pending before the Court is plaintiffs' motion to amend their
complaint (Dkt. #12) and the union's cross-motion for summary judgment
(Dkt. #16). As set forth below, plaintiffs' motion to amend is denied,
and RTWA's motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in
The basic facts of this case are undisputed. Plaintiffs were members of
the defendant union, Rochester Telephone Workers Association ("RTWA"). At
that time, RTWA represented approximately one-half of the work force at
Frontier Telephone. The other one-half was represented by a rival union,
Local 1170 of the Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO ("CWA").
Historically, the RTWA has represented the clerical employees and the CWA
has represented the outside or "line" employees.
In May and June of 2000, plaintiffs formed the `CWA Organizing
Committee,' met with RTWA members at CWA's local
office, met with CWA's
District Organizing Coordinator, prepared and distributed leaflets and
announcements urging RTWA members to join CWA, wore buttons and
tee-shirts supporting CWA, and recruited other RTWA members to join in
the organizing campaign. Plaintiffs admit that they undertook such
measures in an effort to persuade RTWA members that CWA should be their
representative instead of RTWA. Bockus Decl., Dkt. #23 at ¶ 2.
Plaintiffs' goal was to displace RTWA with CWA as their collective
bargaining representative. Dkt. #18 at ¶ 8. Because of these
activities, on June 4, 2000, RTWA filed internal union charges against
plaintiffs alleging violation of the following provision of RTWA's
Any member may be penalized as set forth in Section
3, hereof, for committing any one or more of the
(a) Violation of any of the provisions of this
Constitution, any collective bargaining agreement, or
working rule of the Rochester Telephone Workers
(c) Advocating or attempting to bring about the
withdrawal from the Rochester Telephone Workers
Association of any member or group of members.
(d) Working in the interest of or accepting membership
in any organization opposed to the Rochester Telephone
Dkt. #14, Ex. B. Each plaintiff was charged with engaging in some or all
of the prohibited acts. Dkt. #14, Ex. C.
RTWA sent each plaintiff a letter notifying her of the charges, the
specific subdivision of the Constitution alleged to have been violated,
and of the date of the hearing before RTWA's Committee of Representatives
("the Committee"). Dkt. #16, Ex. B. Section 3 of the RTWA Constitution
provides that "[a]ny member convicted of any one or more of the above
offenses may be suspended and removed from office and membership after a
hearing before the Committee of Representatives, by a majority
vote . . . ." Dkt. #16, Ex. D.
At the June 29, 2000 hearing, twelve of the thirteen plaintiffs
appeared. All twelve admitted engaging in the acts charged and each
pleaded "guilty," although all contended that such conduct was protected
speech. The thirteenth plaintiff, Laurie Dominick, did not appear at the
hearing. RTWA Hearing Officer Ellen Lynch announced at the hearing that ...