817 F.2d 566 (9th Cir. 1987), 86-5573, Zamora v. Local 11, Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Intern. Union (AFL-CIO)

Docket Nº:86-5573, 86-5746.
Citation:817 F.2d 566
Party Name:Angel ZAMORA, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees/Cross-Appellants, v. LOCAL 11, HOTEL EMPLOYEES AND RESTAURANT EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION (AFL- CIO), et al., Defendants-Appellants/Cross-Appellees.
Case Date:May 18, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Page 566

817 F.2d 566 (9th Cir. 1987)

Angel ZAMORA, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees/Cross-Appellants,





Nos. 86-5573, 86-5746.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

May 18, 1987

Argued and Submitted Dec. 3, 1986.

As Amended June 9, 1987.

Page 567

Arturo Morales, Los Angeles, Cal., for plaintiffs-appellees/cross-appellants.

Lewis Levy, Los Angeles, Cal., for defendants-appellants/cross-appellees.

Michael J. Goldberg, Pittsburgh, Pa., Linda J. Wong, Los Angeles, Cal., and William R. Tamayo, Oakland, Cal., for amicus curiae.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Before ANDERSON, FARRIS, [*] and CANBY, Circuit Judges.

J. BLAINE ANDERSON, Circuit Judge:

These two consolidated appeal arise out of the same action. Local 11, Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International

Page 568

Union ("Local 11") seeks to reverse the grant of summary judgment against it by the district court which ordered Local 11 to provide an English-Spanish translator for the monthly union membership meetings. Angel Zamora ("Zamora") appeals the denial of his motion for attorneys' fees after obtaining the relief requested in the main action. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the judgment in the main action and reverse and remand the attorneys' fee determination.


Local 11 is a labor organization and the collective bargaining representative of catering, hotel, restaurant and food service employees in the Los Angeles area. Zamora and other appellees are members of Local 11 who speak Spanish and are not sufficiently bilingual to understand the English language in either written or spoken form. In 1984, Local 11 consisted of approximately 16,500 members, forty-eight percent of whom understood only Spanish.

Since 1978, Local 11 has had its collective bargaining agreements, monthly newsletters and various notices printed in Spanish to accommodate its Spanish-speaking members. At the nomination meetings and the contract ratification meetings, which occur every three years, English and Spanish translation is provided for the discussion taking place. 1 However, at the monthly membership meetings, which are usually attended by 50-75 members, translation is not provided with respect to the oral debate which is conducted in English. The debate takes place on topics such as union expenditures, salaries of officers, election of officers, general complaints with particular employers and various other operational matters. In industry parlance, this debate is commonly identified as "shop talk." Translation at the monthly meetings is provided only when union officer nominations take place or when Spanish-speaking members comment or ask questions and then request that their comments or questions be translated for the benefit of others attending the meeting. When translation is provided at the monthly meetings, the translation is performed by a bilingual union officer and not by an independent professional translator.

In the fall of 1982, Zamora and other union members petitioned Local 11 officers through the internal union procedures to provide a qualified translator at all monthly membership meetings who would simultaneously translate all meeting proceedings and discussion into Spanish and English. The union officers brought the petition before the members at the next monthly meeting. With the union members in attendance acting as a legislative body, the proposition to translate the meetings was debated and then defeated by a majority vote of the attending members. In February, 1984, Zamora and other Spanish-speaking union members commenced this action in district court alleging the failure to provide simultaneous translation at the regular meetings was a violation of their equal participation and freedom of speech and assembly rights guaranteed under Title I, Sec. 101(a)(1) and (2) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), 29 U.S.C. Sec. 411(a)(1) and (2). After the suit was brought, the union secretary filed a declaration with the district court stating that Local 11 would translate the monthly membership meetings in their entirety into Spanish. However, when this translation policy was announced at the next regular monthly meeting, an attending union member made a new motion that the meeting be conducted only in English. This motion was discussed and passed by a majority vote of the members in attendance. As a result, the regular meetings are conducted in accordance with the past practice of translating only the pertinent communications, collective bargaining agreements, monthly newsletters and notices. No translation is provided with respect to the "shop talk" except for isolated comments or questions when requested.

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Upon cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted Zamora's motion, finding Local 11's non-translation rule violated the equal participation rights guaranteed by section 101(a)(1) of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 411(a)(1). Accordingly, the district court ordered Local 11 to provide a qualified translator at all monthly membership meetings. The translator was ordered to translate all debate, questions and other proceedings with the exception of the reading of the prior meeting's minutes and social community announcements. After being granted summary judgment, Zamora moved for an award of attorneys' fees. The district court denied the motion without comment. These appeals followed.


In 1959 Congress passed the LMRDA with the purpose of guaranteeing "full and active participation by the rank and file in the affairs of the union." American Federation of Musicians v. Wittstein, 379 U.S. 171, 182-83, 85 S.Ct. 300, 307, 13 L.Ed.2d 214, 221 (1964). Section 101(a)(1) is contained in Title I, the "Bill of Rights" of the LMRDA, and provides:

Every member of a labor organization shall have equal rights and privileges within such organizations to nominate candidates, to vote in...

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