520 F.2d 516 (7th Cir. 1975), 74-1639, Brennan v. Local 3489, United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO

Docket Nº:74-1639.
Citation:520 F.2d 516
Party Name:Peter J. BRENNAN, Secretary of Labor, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. LOCAL 3489, UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA, AFC-CIO, and United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:August 05, 1975
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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520 F.2d 516 (7th Cir. 1975)

Peter J. BRENNAN, Secretary of Labor, Plaintiff-Appellant,



United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO,


No. 74-1639.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 5, 1975

Heard April 3, 1975.

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Stanley B. Miller, U.S. Atty., Indianapolis, Inc., Carla A. Hills, Asst. Atty. Gen., Eloise E. Davies, Atty., Appellate Section, Civil Div., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., for plaintiff-appellant.

A.E. Lawson, Pittsburgh, Pa., James A. Goodin, Jr., Indianapolis, Ind., for defendants-appellees.

Before CUMMINGS and PELL, Circuit Judges, and PERRY, Senior District Judge. [*]

CUMMINGS, Circuit Judge.

The Secretary of Labor filed this action for declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to Title IV of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("Act" or "LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. Sec. 481 et seq. The complaint alleged that a June 22, 1970, election of officers of defendant union 1 was void because the union had failed to elect its officers by secret ballot and had imposed an unreasonable candidacy qualification, thus violating Sections 401(b) and 401(e) of the Act. 2 The district judge disagreed and dismissed the complaint. We reverse.

The membership of the Union is composed of the production and maintenance employees of the Stran Steel Corporation of Terre, Haute, Indiana. At the time of the election, there were 660 members in good standing eligible to vote. However, pursuant to rule of the Local Union and its parent, the following requirements were established for eligibility for office in the Local:

  1. Membership in good standing for 24 months immediately preceding the election;

  2. Employment in a place within the jurisdiction of the Local Union;

  3. Attendance at least at 18 of the 36 regular monthly meetings preceding the election unless union activities or working hours prevented attendance.

The third requirement was dictated by the following provision of the International Union's constitution:

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"No member shall be eligible for election as a Local Union Officer or Grievance Committeeman unless

* * * * * *

"He has attended at least one-half ( 1/2 ) of the regular meetings of his Local Union for thirty-six (36) months previous to the * * * election unless his Union activities or working hours prevented his attendance." (Article VII, Sec. 9.)

From June 1967 to May 1970, the Local Union conducted 36 monthly meetings, with an average attendance of 47 members per meeting. As a result of the meeting attendance rule, 96.5% of the Local Union's membership was ineligible to hold office. Ten of the 23 members who were found eligible were incumbent office holders. Following the May 17, 1970, nomination meeting, two of the nominees were informed that they were ineligible for union office because they had attended an insufficient number of union meetings. Ultimately, there were only 13 candidates on the ballot running for ten offices and six of these candidates ran unopposed.

After the June 22, 1970, election of officers, Bernard Frye, 3 a defeated candidate for the presidency, filed a protest with the Local Union, claiming that the meeting attendance rule was unreasonable and that the vote had not been by secret ballot. The Union denied his protest and he appealed to the International Union's Executive Board. Because his protest was not acted upon by the Executive Board within three months (29 U.S.C. Sec. 482(a)(2)), Frye filed a written complaint with the Secretary of Labor, prompting the present litigation.

The district court filed an unreported memorandum opinion in favor of defendants. In its opinion, the court stated:

"The meeting attendance qualification * * * is designed to (1) insure that candidates have demonstrated an interest in union affairs prior to election and are therefore likely to continue to do so, if elected, and (2) that candidates will, if elected, be able to more knowledgeably fulfill their duties."

Therefore, the court concluded that the meeting attendance rule was a reasonable qualification within the meaning of Section 401(e) of the Act (note 2, supra ). the court also held that the Union's failure to provide voting booths or other means of insuring secrecy during the voting did not violate Section 401(b) of the Act (idem ), emphasizing that "the evidence did not indicate that the lack of voting booth [subsequently acquired by the local union] or similar apparatus for secret voting may have affected the outcome of the election."

Reasonableness of Attendance Requirement

As noted, a member of the defendant union is not eligible for election to office unless he has attended 18 of the

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36 regular monthly meetings preceding the election, unless union activities or working hours prevented attendance. This requirement must be tested in light of Section 401(e) of the Act, which makes "every member in good standing" eligible for office, subject to Section 504 of the Act "and to reasonable qualifications uniformly imposed." Section 504 prohibits members of the Communist Party and persons convicted of certain crimes from holding office unless certain conditions are met (29 U.S.C. Sec. 504). This provision is not involved in this appeal. Further narrowing the issue, the Secretary does not seriously contend that the 18 of 36 rule was not uniformly applied. Thus the question before us is whether the meeting attendance rule is a reasonable qualification. We hold that it is not.

The construction of Section 401(e) was also before us in Brennan v. Independent Lift Truck Builders Union, 490 F.2d 213, 217 (7th Cir.1974). Applying the admonition in Wirtz v. Hotel, Motel & Club Employees Union, Local 6, 391 U.S. 492, 499, 88 S.Ct. 1743, 1748, 20 L.Ed.2d 763, that "Congress plainly did not intend that the authorization in Sec. 401(e) of 'reasonable qualifications uniformly imposed' should be given a broad reach," we held that it would not be a reasonable qualification to bar a member from eligibility for office where he was discharged by an employer and was actively contesting the discharge.

In Hotel Employees, the Supreme Court struck down a union by-law which required major office-holders to be selected from members who had previously been office-holders. To support this conclusion, the Court relief on the legislative history of Section 401(e) and its wording that "every member in good standing shall be eligible to be a candidate and to hold...

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