709 F.3d 901 (9th Cir. 2013), 11-15737, Corns v. Laborers International Union of North America

Docket Nº:11-15737.
Citation:709 F.3d 901
Opinion Judge:PAEZ, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:Alex CORNS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. LABORERS INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA; Northern California District Council of Laborers; Hod Carriers Local Union 166, affiliated with the Laborers International Union of North America, Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:Christopher W. Katzenbach (argued), Katzenbach & Khtikian, San Francisco, CA, for Plaintiff-Appellant. Roberta D. Perkins (argued), Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld, Alameda, CA, for Defendants-Appellees.
Judge Panel:Before: RICHARD A. PAEZ and JAY S. BYBEE, Circuit Judges, and SARAH S. VANCE, Chief District Judge.[*] Opinion by Judge PAEZ; Concurrence by Judge BYBEE. BYBEE, Circuit Judge, concurring in the judgment:
Case Date:March 07, 2013
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 901

709 F.3d 901 (9th Cir. 2013)

Alex CORNS, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

LABORERS INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA; Northern California District Council of Laborers; Hod Carriers Local Union 166, affiliated with the Laborers International Union of North America, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 11-15737.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

March 7, 2013

Argued and Submitted July 20, 2012.

Page 902

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 903

Christopher W. Katzenbach (argued), Katzenbach & Khtikian, San Francisco, CA, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Roberta D. Perkins (argued), Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld, Alameda, CA, for Defendants-Appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Marilyn H. Patel, Senior District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 3:09-cv-04403-MHP.

Before: RICHARD A. PAEZ and JAY S. BYBEE, Circuit Judges, and SARAH S. VANCE, Chief District Judge.[*]

Opinion by Judge PAEZ; Concurrence by Judge BYBEE.

OPINION

PAEZ, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff Alex Corns, a now-retired member of Defendant Hod Carriers Local Union No. 166 (" Local 166" ), filed this lawsuit under § 101(a)(3) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (" LMRDA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(3), to challenge the legality of an organizing fee and a dues increase imposed on Local 166 members by the local union's umbrella labor organizations. Corns alleges that the labor organizations could not extract these fees without the approval of the Local 166 membership by a secret ballot vote, as provided in § 101(a)(3)(A). We hold that the plain text of the LMRDA authorizes a labor organization, other than a local labor organization or a federation of national or international labor organizations, to levy assessments or increase dues or initiation fees payable by its members by any of the procedures enumerated in § 101(a)(3)(B), provided that union members' rights are adequately protected in the approval process.

Because Defendant Laborers International Union of North America (" LIUNA" ) satisfied both prerequisites in this case, we conclude that it complied with the LMRDA when it enacted an organizing fee, applicable to all of its members working in the construction industry, following a majority vote of its delegates at a general convention. With respect to the dues increase approved by Defendant Northern California District Council of Laborers (" NCDCL" ), however, we conclude that the NCDCL lacked the statutory authority to ratify such an increase because Local 166 members are not, by the express terms of the International Union and Uniform District Council constitutions, members of the NCDCL. Accordingly, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

LIUNA is an international labor union that represents employees in the construction industry. The NCDCL functions as an intermediate body between LIUNA and fifteen Northern California local unions affiliated

Page 904

with LIUNA. Local 166, one of the local unions within the NCDCL's jurisdiction, represents masonry and plastering employees in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties.

A. The Union Hierarchy

We begin by describing the union hierarchy because our determination of the legality of the actions undertaken by LIUNA, the NCDCL, and Local 166 (collectively, " the Unions" ) requires an understanding of not only the Unions' organizational structure, but also the source and scope of their respective powers and obligations. LIUNA, which consists of the members of its affiliated local unions, derives its authority from the International Union Constitution. Int'l Union Const. art. I, § 1.1 LIUNA's primary purpose is to protect and advance the welfare of its members by engaging in collective bargaining with employers; improving members' employment benefits and working conditions; implementing programs, practices, and policies to enhance members' employment opportunities; and participating in legal and legislative activities that serve to benefit the union membership. Id. art. II, § 1. To that end, it is empowered to issue charters to subordinate bodies, including district councils and local unions; establish policies for and on behalf of itself and its subordinate bodies and members; and govern, discipline, and regulate its subordinate bodies. Id. art. II, § 2. Because LIUNA is the umbrella labor organization, all of its affiliated district councils and local unions are bound by its actions, and are obligated to comply with the Unions' respective constitutions, including the International Union Constitution, the Uniform District Council Constitution, and the Uniform Local Union Constitution. Id. art. XVII, § 4.

The NCDCL, a subordinate body created by LIUNA through a district council charter, " is charged with the responsibility to unify all of the economic and other forces of the affiliated Local Unions in its area, as a central representative body of such Local Unions." Unif. Dist. Council Const. art. II, § 1. Fifteen local unions in Northern California are affiliated with the NCDCL. As provided in Article XIX, § 5 of the International Union Constitution and Article I, § 2 and Article IV, § 1 of the Uniform District Council Constitution, the NCDCL's membership consists of delegates from its affiliated local unions.2 To effectuate its purpose, the NCDCL possesses the constitutional authority " [t]o negotiate, bargain for and enter into understandings and agreements with employers, for and [on] behalf of its affiliated Local Unions and to enforce and police the observance

Page 905

thereof by employees and employers, Local Unions and their members...." Unif. Dist. Council Const. art. II, § 2(d). The Uniform District Council Constitution also empowers the NCDCL to establish and regulate the amount of dues and initiation fees paid by members of its affiliated local unions. Id. art. II, § 2(e). To increase dues or fees, the NCDCL must convene a special convention at which delegates vote on whether an increase is necessary for one or more of the fifteen local unions. Id. art. VIII, § 2.

Local 166, an affiliate of LIUNA and the NCDCL, exists for the purpose of " gathering under one banner all those that work at the craft and calling of said International Union, in accordance with the craft and territorial jurisdiction allotted to each Local Union by its charter." Unif. Local Union Const. art. I, § 1. Pursuant to the Uniform Local Union Constitution, Local 166 is authorized to establish rules, policies, and practices; collectively bargain with employers; and provide for the well-being and security of its members, officers, and employees through the establishment of insurance, health, and welfare benefit plans. Id. art. II, § 2. Local 166 is also empowered to raise income from dues, fees, and assessments payable by its members. Id. art. II, § 2(b). Like the Uniform District Council Constitution, the Uniform Local Union Constitution provides that dues and initiation fees shall be established and regulated by the NCDCL. Id. art. VIII, § 1. If, however, dues and initiation fees are not established by the district council, Local 166 is authorized to impose them by a secret ballot vote of the membership. Id. art. VIII, § 2.

B. Local 166 Members' Dues and Fees Structure

Local 166 members' dues and fees are dictated by multiple collective bargaining agreements, some of which were negotiated by the NCDCL pursuant to its constitutional authority. When members work within San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties, they work under collective bargaining agreements negotiated by their local union or the NCDCL (" the Local 166 Agreements" ), or under collective bargaining agreements negotiated by Hod Carriers Local Union No. 36 (" Local 36" ).3 Otherwise, they may work under collective bargaining agreements negotiated by the NCDCL on behalf of multiple local unions in various Northern California counties.

Local 166 members' wages and dues rates vary depending on the applicable collective bargaining agreement. Generally, however, members pay union dues consisting of regular dues (sometimes referred to as " counter dues" ) in a fixed monthly amount; working dues (sometimes referred to as " dues check-off" or " supplemental dues" ) in an amount that corresponds with the hours each member works; and organizing fees in an amount that varies depending on the location of the work and the governing collective bargaining agreement. Individual employers withhold these dues and fees from Local 166 members' wages and, depending on the agreement, the deductions are remitted to either Local 166's Trust Funds or the NCDCL's Trust Fund.

C. LIUNA Organizing Fee

Corns challenges the organizing fee approved at LIUNA's 2006 general convention.

Page 906

During the convention, LIUNA's delegates ratified Resolution 12, which required, among other things, that every affiliated local union involved in the construction industry pay $0.25 per hour, to be phased in over the ensuing three years, to a regional organizing fund for all hours worked by its members in construction. The regional organizing funds were intended to finance activities designed to increase LIUNA's membership.

In accordance with Resolution 12, the LIUNA organizing fee was incorporated into some of the collective bargaining agreements covering Local 166 members. Thus, although Local 166 members had not previously incurred an organizing fee for work performed in San Francisco and San Mateo counties, the 2008-10 San Francisco and San Mateo Masonry Agreement included an organizing fee of $0.16 per hour and the 2008-10 San Francisco and San Mateo Plastering...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP