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Joe Santo et al v. Laborers' International Union of North America et al

December 19, 2011

JOE SANTO ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
LABORERS' INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Korman, J.:

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

On November 13, 2007, Joe Santo ("Santo"), Mark Palumbo ("Palumbo"), Joe Germano ("Germano"), John Aquista ("Aquista"), Glenn Semioli ("Semioli"), and Rosario Prato ("Prato") (collectively "the plaintiffs") filed the instant action against Laborers' International Union of North America ("LIUNA"), Asphalt Workers' Local 1018 a/w Laborers' International Union of North America ("Local 1018"), Road Construction Workers' Local 1010 a/w Laborers' International Union of North America ("Local 1010"), Pavers and Road Builders District Council ("Pavers District Council"), and Vincent Masino as Trustee ("Masino") (collectively "the defendants").*fn1

The plaintiffs are current and former members of two local unions, Local 1018 and Local 1010. LIUNA is an international labor organization representing workers in the United States and Canada. Its governing documents, which bind LIUNA, its affiliates, and its members, include the LIUNA International Union Constitution ("IUC"), the Uniform District Council Constitution ("UDCC"), and the Uniform Local Union Constitution ("Local Constitution"). The Pavers District Council is an intermediate labor organization, between LIUNA and the two local unions, which is affiliated with LIUNA. And, at all relevant times, Local 1018 and Local 1010 were affiliated with LIUNA and the Pavers District Council. The Pavers District Council, Local 1018, and Local 1010 are thus all subordinates of LIUNA. The members of the Pavers District Council are delegates who are elected by the district council's affiliated local unions, such as Local 1018 and Local 1010. (IUC, Art. XIX, § 5, p. 53-54, attached as Ex. E to Marinovic Decl.)*fn2 At all relevant times, Masino was the trustee of Local 1018, Local 1010, and the Pavers District Council.*fn3

The plaintiffs' complaint asserts six separate causes of action. The first three challenge the continuation of the trusteeships that were imposed on Local 1018, Local 1010, and the Pavers District Council, on the ground that their continuation violates (i) Title III of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., (ii) the IUC, and (iii) Title I of the LMRDA, respectively. The fourth and fifth causes of action challenge the increase in the union members' working dues on the ground that this increase violated (i) the UDCC, incorporated by reference into the IUC and the Local Constitution, and

(ii) Title I of the LMRDA. The sixth cause of action asserts that the defendants breached the duty of fair representation.

The defendants subsequently moved to dismiss the complaint, and the plaintiffs' third and sixth causes of action were dismissed pursuant to Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy's March 27, 2009 Report and Recommendation, which this Court adopted on April 16, 2009.*fn4 The first and second causes of action, alleging the unlawful continuation of the trusteeships imposed on Local 1018, Local 1010, and the Pavers District Council, were subsequently mooted by the merger of Local 1018 and Local 1010 on August 26, 2009 and the lifting of the remaining trusteeships.*fn5

Thus, on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, only the plaintiffs' fourth and fifth causes of action challenging the dues increase are before this Court. Through these causes of action, the plaintiffs seek (i) injunctive relief, enjoining the defendants from deducting the increased amount of working dues from the local members' wages; (ii) declaratory relief, directing the defendants to comply with LIUNA's constitutional procedures for increasing dues; (iii) compensatory damages; and (iv) punitive damages. FACTS

A. The Trusteeships

On May 9, 2005, LIUNA placed Local 1018 under an emergency trusteeship. Three days later, on May 12, 2005, LIUNA placed Local 1010 and the Pavers District Council under an emergency trusteeship. On the same days the trusteeships were imposed, LIUNA's General President Terence M. O'Sullivan appointed Masino as the emergency trustee of Local 1018, Local 1010, and the Pavers District Council, with the authority to designate deputy trustees.

As trustee, Masino appointed John Peters ("Peters") as one of his deputy trustees.*fn6

Masino remained the trustee of Local 1018 until its merger with Local 1010 on August 26, 2009. Masino remained the trustee of Local 1010 until December 2008. And Masino remained the trustee of the Pavers District Council until April 2010.

B. The Working Dues Increase

The members of Local 1018 and Local 1010 are required to pay both "working dues" and "monthly dues." Working dues and monthly dues are separate and distinct in amount. These dues are used to finance the operations of Local 1018 and Local 1010 and are also paid to LIUNA monthly.

In or about February or March 2006, Masino decided to increase the working dues for the members of Local 1018 and Local 1010.*fn7 And on July 1, 2006, while the trusteeships were still in place, the working dues for the members of Local 1018 and Local 1010 were increased. Before the increase, the working dues had been $0.75 per straight-time hour paid, $1.12 per oneand-a-half-time hour paid, and $1.50 per double-time hour paid. The working dues increased, however, to 4.5 percent of all straight-time wages paid, which was a 100 percent increase. The defendants explain that the dues were increased for the following reasons:

(1) to meet costs incurred in increasing staff to represent the membership and protect the jurisdiction of Local 1010 and Local 1018; (2) to meet costs, including legal expenses, incurred defending Local 1010 and Local 1018 against raids on their memberships; (3) to finance organizing efforts; and (4) to bring dues in line with other LIUNA locals operating in the New York metropolitan area. (Defs.' R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 43.)

The dues increase took effect without the vote of either the members of Local 1018 and Local 1010 or the elected delegates to the Pavers District Council. In Masino's view, however, he had the authority, as trustee of the Pavers District Council, to increase the union members' working dues without calling for such a vote. Masino believed that, as trustee, he held all of the power previously held by the delegates to the Pavers District Council.

The plaintiffs contend that the dues increase also took effect without any notice being given to the members of Local 1018 and Local 1010. The defendants, however, assert that from about January to July 2006-before the dues increase took effect-"informal" monthly meetings were held at which the dues increase was discussed, and no objections were raised by the members in attendance.*fn8 Although the plaintiffs claim that they received no notice of these meetings, the defendants state that the members of Local 1018 and Local 1010 received notice that such meetings were going to take place at a certain location but were not notified of the topics to be discussed. Peters testified that no minutes were kept of these meetings but that he "believe[s]" there were sign-in sheets. (Peters Tr. at ...


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