391 U.S. 492 (1968), 891, Wirtz v. Hotel, Motel & Club Employees Union, Local 6

Docket Nº:No. 891
Citation:391 U.S. 492, 88 S.Ct. 1743, 20 L.Ed.2d 763
Party Name:Wirtz v. Hotel, Motel & Club Employees Union, Local 6
Case Date:June 03, 1968
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 492

391 U.S. 492 (1968)

88 S.Ct. 1743, 20 L.Ed.2d 763

Wirtz

v.

Hotel, Motel & Club Employees Union, Local 6

No. 891

United States Supreme Court

June 3, 1968

Argued April 29, 1968

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioner, Secretary of Labor, charged that respondent union's bylaw which limited eligibility for major elective offices to union members who hold or have previously held elective office was not a reasonable qualification under § 401(e) of Title IV of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, and that enforcement of the bylaw "may have affected the outcome" of the election within the meaning of § 402(c). The union has 27,000 members, 93% of whom were ineligible to run for major office because of the bylaw. The restriction did not apply to vacancies filled by appointment. The District Court held the prior-office requirement unreasonable, but in view of the substantial defeat of opposition candidates who did run, lack of evidence that those disqualified were proven vote-getters, lack of substantial grievance against the incumbents, and the overwhelming advantage of the incumbent group in having a full slate of candidates, did not find that enforcement of the bylaw "may have affected the outcome" of the election. The court refused to set aside the election but granted an injunction against enforcement of the bylaw in future elections. The Court of Appeals reversed that part of the judgment declaring the bylaw not to be reasonable and set aside the injunction.

Held:

1. The bylaw, measured against the Act's requirement of "free and democratic" union elections, is not a "reasonable qualification" within the meaning of § 401(e) of the Act. Pp. 496-505.

(a) A limitation on candidacy for major office which renders 93% of the union members ineligible can hardly be a "reasonable qualification." P. 502.

(b) The restriction cannot be supported by the argument that the union enjoyed enlightened and aggressive leadership, since Congress designed Title IV of the Act to curb the possibility of abuse by benevolent as well as malevolent entrenched leaderships. P. 503.

Page 493

(c) The bylaw, virtually unique in union practice, is based on the undemocratic assumption that union members are unable to select qualified candidates for particular offices without a demonstration of performance in other offices. Pp. 504-505.

2. A proved violation of § 401 establishes a prima facie case that the outcome may have been affected and may be met by evidence supporting a finding to the contrary. The factors the District Court relied on were pure conjecture, and none of those factors is tangible evidence against the reasonable possibility that the wholesale exclusion of members did affect the outcome. Pp. 505-509.

381 F.2d 500, reversed and remanded.

BRENNAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This action was brought by petitioner, the Secretary of Labor, in the District Court for the Southern District of New York for a judgment declaring void the May, 1965, election of officers conducted by respondent Local 6, and ordering a new election under the Secretary's supervision. The action is authorized by § 402(b) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, 73 Stat. 534, 29 U.S.C. § 482(b). The Secretary charged that a bylaw of the Local which limited eligibility for major elective offices to union members who

Page 494

hold or have previously held elective office1 was not a "reasonable qualification" within the intendment of the provision of § 401(e) of the Act, 29 U.S.C. § 481(e), that "every member in good standing shall be eligible to be a candidate and to hold office (subject to . . . reasonable qualifications uniformly imposed). . . ."2 He charged further that enforcement of the bylaw "may have affected the outcome" of the election within the meaning of § 402(c), 29 U.S.C. § 482(C).3

Page 495

The District Court, after hearing, entered a judgment which declared that the prior-office requirement was not reasonable, but also declared that it could not be found that its enforcement in violation of § 401(e) "may have affected the outcome" of the election. The court therefore refused to set aside the May, 1965, election and to order a new election under the Secretary's supervision, [88 S.Ct. 1746] but did grant an injunction against enforcement of the bylaw in future elections. 265 F.Supp. 510. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the provision of the judgment which declared the bylaw not to be reasonable and its enforcement violative of § 401(e), and set aside the injunction.4 The court found it unnecessary in that circumstance to decide whether enforcement of the bylaw at the election may have affected the outcome. 381 F.2d 500. We granted certiorari. 390 U.S. 919. We hold that the restriction was not reasonable and that its enforcement may have affected the outcome of the election. The Secretary is therefore entitled to an order directing a new election under his supervision.

Page 496

I

Title IV is one of the seven titles of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). Earlier this Term, we observed that

Title IV's special function in furthering the overall goals of the LMRDA is to insure "free and democratic" elections. The legislative history shows that Congress weighed how best to legislate against revealed abuses in union elections without departing needlessly from its longstanding policy against unnecessary governmental intrusion into internal union affairs.

Wirtz v. Local 13, Glass Bottle Blowers Assn., 389 U.S. 463, 470-471. The Court of Appeals, however, in considering the reasonableness of the bylaw, emphasized only the congressional concern not to intervene unnecessarily in internal union affairs, stating that,

[i]n deciding the issue of reasonableness, we must keep in mind the fact that the Act did not purport to take away from labor unions the governance of their own internal affairs and hand that governance over either to the courts or to the Secretary of Labor. The Act strictly limits official interference in the internal affairs of unions.

381 F.2d at 504. But this emphasis overlooks the fact that the congressional concern to avoid unnecessary intervention was balanced against the policy expressed in the Act to protect the public interest by assuring that union elections would be conducted in accordance with democratic principles. As we said in Wirtz v. Bottle Blowers, supra, at 473, decided after the Court of Appeals decided this case,

. . . Congress, although committed to minimal intervention, was obviously equally committed to making that intervention, once warranted, effective in carrying out the basic aim of Title IV.

Thus,

the freedom allowed unions to run their own elections was reserved for those elections which conform to the democratic principles

Page 497

written into § 401.

Id. at 471. In a companion case, Wirtz v. Local 125, Laborers' Int'l Union, 389 U.S. 477, 483, we said that the provisions of § 401 are "necessary protections of the public interest as well as of the [88 S.Ct. 1747] rights and interests of union members." In sum, in § 401,

. . . Congress emphatically asserted a vital public interest in assuring free and democratic union elections that transcends the narrower interest of the complaining union member.

Wirtz v. Bottle Blowers, supra, at 475.

A pervasive theme in the congressional debates about the election provisions was that revelations of corruption, dictatorial practices and racketeering in some unions investigated by Congress5 indicated a need to protect the rights of rank-and-file members to participate fully in the operation of their union through processes of democratic self-government, and, through the election process, to keep the union leadership responsive to the membership. This theme is made explicit in the reports of the Labor Committees of both Houses of Congress.6 It is

Page 498

reflected in the discrete provisions of Title IV and also of Title I, the "Bill of Rights" for union members. 29 U.S.C. § 411. Title IV, and particularly § 401, was the vehicle by which Congress expressed its policy. That section prescribes standards to govern the conduct of union elections: international union elections must be held at least once every five years, and local elections at least once every three years. Elections must be by secret ballot. Specific provisions insure equality of treatment in the mailing of campaign literature; require adequate safeguards to insure a fair election; guarantee a "reasonable opportunity" for the nomination of candidates, the right to vote, and the right of every member in good standing to be a candidate subject to "reasonable qualifications uniformly...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP