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Balaban v. Local 1104

October 7, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY Senior United States District Judge


Plaintiff Utku Balaban commenced the instant action against Defendant Local 1104, Communications Workers of America alleging violations of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 411 and 529, and the Union's constitution and bylaws. Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion, and Plaintiff's cross-motion, for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.


Plaintiff is an international student who works as a teaching assistant at the State University of New York at Binghamton, New York. Defendant Local 1104, Communications Workers of America (the "Union" or "CWA") is a labor organization representing employees in the private and public sector. The public sector members include graduate and teaching assistants within the State University of New York ("SUNY"). The public sector members belong to the Education Division of Local 1104, which is referred to as the Graduate Student Employees Union ("GSEU"). Graduate student employees are represented by the Local 1104 President, the Executive Vice President for the Education Division, five business agents (one each from several SUNY schools, including SUNY Binghamton), and four chief stewards.

a. Stipends

Plaintiff was a member of Local 1104. On December 1, 2008, Plaintiff was elected for a three-year term as business agent for the SUNY Binghamton campus. Business agents receive a $1,200 monthly stipend. The stipend is not dependent upon the number of hours a business agent works. To receive the stipend, business agents must complete a weekly schedule that shows the kind of activities in which they engage. Defendant provides forms for this purpose.

Upon taking office as a business agent, Plaintiff declined to submit weekly schedules. Plaintiff claimed that providing the schedules would violate federal immigration laws limiting the number of hours per week that foreign students may work. Defendant responded to Plaintiff that submission of the schedules was a prerequisite to receiving the stipend. Plaintiff refused to submit the schedules and Defendant refused to pay the stipend. Defendant did reimburse Plaintiff for all expenses for which he submitted vouchers.

On March 17, 2009, Plaintiff appealed Local 1004's decision to withhold his stipend pending submission of his weekly schedules. On May 12, 2009, Local 1104's Executive Board denied Plaintiff's appeal. On May 18, 2009, Plaintiff advised that he would comply with the May 12, 2009 decision and submitted his weekly schedules. On June 9, 2009, Local 1104 advised Plaintiff that his stipends would be paid for the period from December 15, 2008 through April 13, 2009, the date of his suspension. Local 1104 paid Plaintiff his stipends. Plaintiff has not further appealed Local 1104's actions concerning the stipends.*fn1

b. Suspension from Union Membership

On February 13, 2009, Plaintiff went to Defendant's office in Binghamton, New York to obtain membership cards. While there, he is alleged to have physically assaulted Executive Vice President Kathleen Sims by shoving her into a wall and punching her in the shoulder. This conduct resulted in criminal charges against Plaintiff. The Binghamton City Court issued an order of protection to Sims and Defendant's Administrative Assistant Tina Traska against Plaintiff. This conduct also resulted in Sims filing internal Union charges against Plaintiff.

By letter dated March 3, 2009, Plaintiff was suspended from his duties as business agent.*fn2 On March 10, 2009, Plaintiff was supplied with a copy of the Union charges against him. Plaintiff was advised that Dennis Telford had been appointed as the prosecutor under the CWA Constitution and had determined that probable cause existed to proceed with a Union trial. A Union trial was scheduled for March 25, 2009. At Plaintiff's request, the trial was adjourned to April 13, 2009. Plaintiff sought a further adjournment because he felt that his presence at the trial would violate the order of protection and that he had a right to attend the trial. The request for a further adjournment was denied. The April 13, 2009 trial was held in Plaintiff's absence. The prosecutor submitted, among other things, the testimony of Sims and certain documentary evidence substantiating the charges against Plaintiff. Plaintiff submitted a written defense that was placed into the trial record. After trial, Plaintiff was found guilty of the charge. The trial court imposed a seven year Union suspension as a penalty. The trial court allowed Plaintiff an indefinite amount of time to request that the matter be reopened in the future so that he could appear on his own behalf, submit additional evidence, and/or cross-examine witnesses. Plaintiff has not requested that the matter be reopened.

On May 4, 2009, Plaintiff appealed the decision of the trial court. On June 3, 2009, the Local 1104's Executive Board sustained the trial court's determination, but lowered the suspension to a four year period. On June 29, 2009, Plaintiff appealed the decision of the Executive Board to the Secretary-Treasurer of CWA. That appeal is pending.


Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures governs motions for summary judgment. It is well settled that on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, see Tenenbaum v. Williams, 193 F.3d 581, 593 (2d Cir. 1999), and may grant summary judgment only where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56( c). An issue is genuine if the relevant evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and of identifying those portions of the record that the moving party believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact as to a dispositive issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant is able to establish a prima facie basis for summary judgment, the burden of production shifts to the party opposing summary judgment who must produce evidence establishing the existence of a factual dispute that a reasonable jury could resolve in her favor. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 ...

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