Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.


United States District Court, S.D. New York

September 28, 2004.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, District Judge



  Eunice Rodriguez and Nicholas Mancuso, members of the Executive Board of City Employees Union Local 237, are suing Local 237, its current president Carl Haynes and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("IBT"), for interfering with plaintiffs' joint campaign for union office and for misappropriating Local 237's resources to assist Haynes in his re-election campaign. Each plaintiff alleges five causes of action against the defendants: (a) subjecting plaintiffs to unequal treatment in violation of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA") Section 101(a)(1);*fn1 (b) suppressing plaintiffs' freedom of speech in violation of LMRDA § 101(a)(2);*fn2 (c) improperly imposing disciplinary action in violation of LMRDA § 101(a)(5),*fn3 and in breach of the IBT Constitution and Local 237 By-Laws,*fn4 thereby asserting claims under the Labor-Management Relations Act ("LMRA") Section 301;*fn5 (d) failing to convene a trial board to hear the purported charges against Haynes, in breach of the IBT Constitution, thereby asserting claims under LMRA § 301;*fn6 and (e) misappropriating union assets in violation of sections 722 and 723 of the New York Labor Law.*fn7 Haynes and Local 237 (collectively "defendants") now move to dismiss the Complaint, arguing that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the LMRDA claims, that plaintiffs have failed to exhaust their remedies as required by the LMRA, and that plaintiffs have failed to meet statutory prerequisites to filing suit under the New York Labor Law.*fn8 For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion to dismiss is granted in its entirety.


  Local 237 represents approximately 23,000 workers employed by New York City and other public bodies.*fn9 The individuals in this action are all members of the union's Executive Board. Haynes has served as President since 1993,*fn10 Rodriguez serves as the Recording Secretary and as a Business Representative, and Mancuso serves as the Secretary-Treasurer.*fn11 By September 2003, Rodriguez had declared her intention to seek nomination for the presidency and Mancuso declared his intention to seek re-election as Secretary-Treasurer, each candidate announcing his or her support for the other's campaign.*fn12

  The Complaint alleges that Haynes, along with union members loyal to him, engaged in what plaintiffs describe as three categories of "dirty tricks" purportedly designed to secure Haynes' presidency and to hinder plaintiffs' joint election campaign.*fn13 The first category involves the use of union resources, including the employment of union funds and certain Local 237 employees, to operate Haynes' re-election campaign.*fn14 The second category includes numerous instances of "harassment and retaliation,"*fn15 including allegations that two Local 237 employees followed Rodriguez in an unmarked van,*fn16 that Rodriguez was ordered to report all of her activities to Citywide Division Director Gregory Floyd,*fn17 that Floyd "engaged in a partisan political attack" on Rodriguez's candidacy during a time reserved for strictly union matters,*fn18 and that Haynes circumvented Mancuso's role as Secretary-Treasurer by having other officers sign checks.*fn19 Finally, plaintiffs allege that the "penultimate dirty trick" occurred following an incident on April 7, 2004. That day, plaintiffs and several of their supporters distributed campaign literature at Metropolitan Hospital, a Local 237 represented bargaining unit location, to union members as they entered and left the building. At approximately 11:15 p.m. that evening, Haynes supporter Robert Brown accused plaintiffs of engaging in improper campaigning at the hospital, and the next day, at an Executive Board meeting, Haynes told plaintiffs that they were being given "formal warnings" for their conduct, which purportedly violated the IBT Constitution and Local 237 By-Laws. Plaintiffs deny that their conduct breached the terms of either document.*fn20

  Throughout the year leading up to this lawsuit, plaintiffs wrote a barrage of letters and memoranda to "the powers that be," including Haynes, IBT's president James Hoffa, Jr., and the Independent Review Board, apprising them of the alleged "dirty tricks."*fn21 One such letter, dated October 28, 2003, and entitled "Charges," was sent to Hoffa with a statement of five charges against Haynes:

(1) misuse of the newsletter; (2) permitting Local 237 employees to campaign for him while on union and employer time using union and employer assets; (3) permitting Local 237 employees to harass and stalk Rodriguez including an allegation that a union vehicle was being used for surveillance of Rodriguez; (4) permitting Local 237 employees to falsify time sheets; and (5) permitting campaign meetings to be held at the union headquarters.*fn22
The letter requested an "immediate investigation of these five charges."*fn23 Similarly, Mancuso sent Haynes a memorandum on March 3, 2004, requesting a "full scale externally controlled investigation of the complaints. . . ."*fn24 Aside from Haynes responding by memorandum to one of Mancuso's accusatory letters,*fn25 no action was taken by any of the defendants in response to plaintiffs' many letters and memoranda.*fn26


  A. Rule 12(b)(1)

  "A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it."*fn27 When the defendant challenges the legal sufficiency of the plaintiff's jurisdictional allegations, the court must take all facts alleged in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.*fn28 However, "where evidence relevant to the jurisdictional question is before the court, `the district court . . . may refer to [that] evidence.'"*fn29 Therefore, "[i]n resolving the question of jurisdiction, the [] court can refer to evidence outside the pleadings and the plaintiff asserting subject matter jurisdiction has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it exists."*fn30 The consideration of materials extrinsic to the pleadings does not convert the motion into one for summary judgment.*fn31

  B. Rule 12(b)(6)

  "Given the Federal Rules' simplified standard for pleading, `[a] court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations.'"*fn32 Thus, a plaintiff need only plead "`a short and plain statement of the claim' that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."*fn33 Simply put, "Rule 8 pleading is extremely permissive."*fn34

  At the motion to dismiss stage, the issue "`is not whether a plaintiff is likely to prevail ultimately, but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims. Indeed it may appear on the face of the pleading that a recovery is very remote and unlikely but that is not the test.'"*fn35

  The task of the court in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is "merely to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight of the evidence which might be offered in support thereof."*fn36 When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), courts must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor.*fn37


  A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction Under the LMRDA

  Section 412 of the LMRDA provides for federal jurisdiction over suits by persons alleging that their statutory rights are or were infringed by a "labor organization," which the Act defines as an entity that "exists for the purpose, in whole or part, of dealing with employers concerning" various terms of employment.*fn38 Section 402(e) excludes from the definition of employer "the United States or any corporation wholly owned by the Government of the United States or any State or political subdivision thereof."*fn39 Mixed unions, however, which represent both public and private employees, are covered by the LMRDA.*fn40 Defendants move to dismiss all of plaintiffs' LMRDA claims on the ground that because Local 237 only represents public employees, it is not covered by the LMRDA.

  Plaintiffs allege that Local 237 is a mixed union because "several of Local 237's employees are also members of Local 237, a private sector employer including secretaries, directors, assistants and Local 237's comptroller."*fn41 Defendants respond that the union's inclusion of its own employees as members "does not render Local 237 a `mixed union' subject to the LMRDA."*fn42 Thus, the issue before the Court is whether a union, though largely comprised of members employed by the public sector, is nevertheless considered a mixed union because a small number of its members are employed by the union itself, a private sector entity. This appears to be a question of first impression.

  Defendants argue that in order to qualify as a private sector union, the union must actually represent the members in bargaining with the members' private sector employers.*fn43 The Second Circuit has not directly considered whether it is the actual representation, or the membership, of private sector employees that determines whether a union is a "labor organization" under the LMRDA.*fn44 Several other circuits, however, have concluded that representation, and not mere membership, is required to establish jurisdiction under the Act.*fn45 This Court has followed the other circuits, holding that "the issue of whether or not [a union] is mixed is determined by representation rather than just mere membership."*fn46

  Despite the weight of contrary authority, plaintiffs contend that the mere membership of private sector employees in an otherwise public sector union suffices to render a union "mixed," and therefore covered by the LMRDA.*fn47 To support their argument, plaintiffs rely on language in Laity v. Beaty, which found "the LMRDA's definition of labor union to include unions consisting of employees, as defined in 29 U.S.C. § 402(i), and employees in the public sector."*fn48 Plaintiffs argue that "[i]n choosing to use the phrase `consisting of' rather that [sic] `represented by,' the court seemed to accept that simple membership would confer LMDRA jurisdiction."*fn49

  Laity, however, is factually inapposite. Unlike Local 237, the union in Laity actually represented both private and public sector employees.*fn50 Thus, the court never confronted the issue raised in this case: whether a union that merely consists of both public and private employees is a "mixed union" covered under the Act. Moreover, Laity explicitly based its holding on Hester v. International Union of Operating Engineers, which squarely held that "unions representing employees working for private employers . . . are subject to the LMRDA."*fn51 Accordingly plaintiffs' reliance on Laity is misplaced.

  Limiting the LMRDA's coverage to unions that represent private sector employees comports with the statute's nature and purpose. The LMRDA was passed "to protect workers whose unions are susceptible to corrupt leadership — unions that deal with private employers, to whatever extent, and which are thus afforded power by federal labor law."*fn52 Unions that represent only public employees are excluded from the Act's protection because "[t]he rights to bargain collectively and to use economic weapons to gain concessions from employers create power in the hands of leaders of unions representing private sector employees, power that does not rest in the hands of leaders of public sector unions."*fn53 Thus, unless a union's leadership is susceptible to abusing power, power that was created as a result of its representation of private sector employees, the Act's protection is unnecessary. Mere membership, without representation, of private sector employees, creates no special power in the hands of Local 237's leadership.

  Moreover, there is no evidence to suggest that Local 237 is unique in including its employees as members of the union. If plaintiffs' argument were accepted, any union including its employees as members would defeat the private sector requirement established by the LMRDA, a result Congress did not intend. Accordingly, only a union that actually represents private sector union members is a "labor organization" for purposes of conferring LMRDA jurisdiction.

  Plaintiffs also argue that the court should "presume that employee/members of a local union collectively bargain with the Local as employer and, therefore, satisfy the `dealing with' language of the LMRDA thus creating a mixed local."*fn54 Plaintiffs' theory is entirely implausible. As an initial matter, a union does not engage in collective bargaining with itself. Moreover, plaintiffs never allege that such representation occurs; rather, they ask the Court to make this improbable presumption.

  Because Local 237 is not a "labor organization" under the LMRDA, plaintiffs' claims under that statute are dismissed for lack of subject mater jurisdiction.

  B. Exhaustion of Remedies Under the LMRA

  Defendants move to dismiss all of plaintiffs' LMRA claims on the ground that plaintiffs failed to exhaust internal union remedies. The IBT Constitution and Local 237 By-Laws contain precise mechanisms by which a union member may seek to redress an alleged wrong perpetrated by union members, IBT local unions or IBT officers.*fn55 Furthermore, the IBT Constitution explicitly requires exhaustion of remedies.*fn56

  Assuming that Haynes issued a "formal warning" and that this action amounted to discipline in violation of the IBT Constitution, "plaintiffs did not avail themselves of three means under the IBT Constitution to correct the alleged wrong."*fn57 First, Article XIX, Section 2(a) of the IBT Constitution provides that "[i]n the event disciplinary action is taken against the accused, he or she may take an appeal from the Executive Board of the Joint Council, if one exists."*fn58 Second, plaintiffs could have filed charges against Haynes with the IBT Secretary-Treasurer, to be heard before the IBT's General Executive Board ("GEB").*fn59 Finally, plaintiffs could have brought charges against Local 237 by filing a complaint with the Secretary of the Executive Board of the Joint Council, to be heard before that Board.*fn60 Although plaintiffs "sent letter after letter and memorandum after memorandum to the powers that be; specifically, Haynes, Hoffa, and the IRB," including a document entitled "Charges," complaining of the alleged misconduct, plaintiffs never followed any of the remedial paths provided by the IBT Constitution.*fn61

  "As a general rule in cases to which federal law applies, federal labor policy requires that individual employees wishing to assert contract grievances must attempt use of the contract grievance procedure agreed upon by employer and union as the mode of redress."*fn62 While "it is settled that the employee must at least attempt to exhaust exclusive grievance and arbitration procedures established by the bargaining agreement,"*fn63 this policy is not absolute when the court is asked to require exhaustion of internal union procedures.*fn64 Rather, in deciding whether to apply the exhaustion doctrine to internal union procedures, a court "must balance the right of union members to institute suit against the policy of judicial noninterference in union affairs."*fn65 The Supreme Court has instructed courts to examine three factors in making this determination, and to excuse the employee's failure to exhaust if any of the three are found to exist:

[F]irst, whether union officials are so hostile to the employee that he could not hope to obtain a fair hearing on his claim; second, whether the internal union appeals procedures would be inadequate either to reactivate the employee's grievance or to award him the full relief he seeks under § 301; and third, whether exhaustion of internal procedures would unreasonably delay the employee's opportunity to obtain a judicial hearing on the merits of his claim.*fn66
1. Union Hostility
  Plaintiffs allege that "Rodriguez and Mancuso's correspondence with Haynes and Hoffa reveal that they have exhausted all reasonably available internal union remedies and that any further attempts to remedy their complaints through internal union channels would be futile."*fn67 Furthermore, the majority of plaintiffs' complaints involve accusations regarding Haynes' hostility towards them. Before permitting plaintiffs to proceed under this exception, plaintiffs must show that they could not obtain a fair hearing from the union. Plaintiffs have made no such showing.

  Plaintiffs' naked assertion that a union member may not be "penalized for the failure to abide by minor technical rules in such procedures," is without merit.*fn68 As an initial matter, "[t]he requirement that an aggrieved employee resort to the grievance procedure is not a mere ritual or formality."*fn69 Moreover, the so-called "minor technical rules" exist for a reason and make perfect sense in this case. While it is entirely reasonable to expect, based on the allegations in the Complaint, that Haynes was hostile towards plaintiffs and that he would not trigger an investigation into his own alleged misconduct, union procedures provide that plaintiffs should have brought their complaints to parties external to Haynes and Local 237. Plaintiffs never allege, and there is no indication, that the Executive Board of the Joint Council, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Joint Council, or the Secretary-Treasurer of the GEB, were in any way adverse to pursuing plaintiffs' claims. Without having alleged that the designated recipients of the complaints or the bodies designated to review the complaints were hostile, plaintiffs cannot support their contention that exhausting internal remedies would have been futile.*fn70

  2. Adequacy of Procedures

  "Adequacy of these procedures must be demonstrated by showing that the disgruntled employee can be fully redressed for his injuries. . . ."*fn71 Plaintiffs seek an injunction enjoining defendants from committing the alleged misconduct and ordering Haynes to pay restitution to Local 237 for the resources he used in his re-election campaign.*fn72 Once a charge has been sustained, the IBT Constitution permits all of the requested remedies.*fn73 Accordingly, the internal union procedures are adequate.

  3. Reasonableness of Procedures

  "[A] union can demonstrate the reasonableness of its procedures by showing that `Union members have been informed of the availability of internal appellate remedies and that these procedures are not particularly cumbersome or confusing.'"*fn74 Local 237's remedial procedures are readily ascertainable and clearly set forth in Article XIX of the IBT Constitution.*fn75 Moreover, because plaintiffs were officers on Local 237's Executive Board, they "reasonably should have been aware of the relatively simple procedures."*fn76

  C. Failure to Convene a Trial Board in Breach of the IBT Constitution

  Plaintiffs' Nineteenth Cause of Action reads:

As a result of the foregoing, Local 237 violated Section 301 of the LMRA when the remaining members of the Executive Board failed to comply with Article XIX, Section 1(a) of the IBT Constitution by failing to appoint a trial board with substitute members for Rodriguez, Mancuso and Haynes and failing to conduct a trial of Haynes on the charges filed by Rodriguez and Mancuso.*fn77
Plaintiffs misunderstand the procedures established by the IBT Constitution. Section 1(a) provides that an "officer of a Local Union charged by any other member of the Local Union with any offense constituting a violation of this Constitution shall, unless otherwise provided in this Constitution, be tried by the Local Union Executive Board."*fn78 In their analysis of the union's internal procedures,*fn79 plaintiffs failed to recognize that section 4(d) does otherwise provide, stating that "[t]rial of elective International Union officers shall be only before the General Executive Board. . . ."*fn80 Thus, although Haynes is an officer of the Local Union, as an International Union officer, the only tribunal permitted to hear claims against him is the GEB. And, as discussed earlier, plaintiffs failed to file charges with the GEB's Secretary-Treasurer, the proper recipient of such charges.*fn81 Accordingly, defendants never breached the IBT Constitution by failing to initiate a trial.

  D. New York Labor Law Claim

  Where a complaint pleads both federal and common-law claims in federal court, "when the federal claims are dismissed before trial, `even though not insubstantial in a jurisdiction[al] sense, the state claims should be dismissed as well.'"*fn82 When all federal claims are dismissed at an early stage of a case, exercise of supplemental jurisdiction over remaining state law claims is usually inappropriate.*fn83


  For the foregoing reasons, defendants' motion to dismiss is granted in its entirety. SO ORDERED.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.