Alexander v. Local 496, Laborers' Intern. Union of North America

Decision Date30 June 1999
Docket Number98-3823,98-3854,Nos. 96-3806,98-3857 and 98-3858,s. 96-3806
Citation177 F.3d 394
Parties79 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 1057 Davine ALEXANDER, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees/Cross-Appellants (96-3858), v. LOCAL 496, LABORERS' INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA; Floyd Conrad, Defendants-Appellants (96-3823/3854)/Cross-Appellees, Laborers' International Union of North America, Defendant-Appellant (96-3806/3857)/Cross-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

Theodore T. Green (argued and briefed), Laborers' International Union of North America, Washington, D.C., Alan S. Belkin (argued and briefed), Law Offices of Alan S. Belkin, Cleveland, Ohio, Eben O. McNair, IV, Timothy J. Gallagher (briefed), Schwarzwald & Rock, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellants.

Edward G. Kramer (argued and briefed), KRAMER & NIERMANN, Cleveland, Ohio, Alan C. Rossman (argued and briefed), Schrieber, Rossman & Associates, Kenneth J. Kowalski, David G. Oakley (briefed), Kramer & Niermann, Cleveland, Ohio for Appellees.

Before: KEITH, BATCHELDER, and COLE, Circuit Judges.

COLE, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which KEITH, J., joined. BATCHELDER, J. (pp. 414-29), delivered a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.


COLE, Circuit Judge.

Defendants, Local Union 496, Laborers' International Union of North America ("Local 496"), Floyd Conrad, and Laborers' International Union of North America ("LIUNA"), appeal the district court's order finding them liable for race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2(a) and (c), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

Plaintiffs, all African-American persons who sought membership in Local 496 or referral for jobs at the Perry Nuclear Power Plant ("Perry"), cross-appeal the district court's order calculating damages and its order sanctioning plaintiffs' counsel for alleged failure to comply with LIUNA's discovery requests.

For the following reasons, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court with respect to the defendants' appeal and AFFIRM the judgment of the district court with respect to the plaintiffs' cross-appeal.


The facts in this case implicate the relationship among the plaintiffs, Local 496, LIUNA, and Perry, where members of the plaintiff class sought employment. All plaintiffs, including the named plaintiff, Davine Alexander, were black applicants whom Local 496 rejected for membership.

Work began at Perry, which is located in Lake County, Ohio, in the early 1970s. In 1973, Local 496 1 signed a project labor agreement with the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, under which Local 496 was to act as the exclusive hiring hall for laborers at Perry during the plant's "construction phase," which lasted until 1985. During this time, Perry was the primary employer of laborers in Lake County. However, Perry by no means exclusively employed laborers who resided in Lake County; laborers from several neighboring counties also coveted work at the plant, in large measure because of the relatively high wages Perry contractors offered. Perry laborers earned approximately $14.00 per hour, compared to the average $6.66 an hour other workers, including those in professional occupations, earned in the same geographic area.

Local 496's membership has always been overwhelmingly white. For example, between 1980 and 1985 blacks comprised only between 2.88% and 3.59% of its total membership. During this same time period, the union accepted 54 new members, only one of whom was black. 2 African Americans who sought a referral to Perry from this union faced daunting opposition. According to the project labor agreement, Local 496 was to refer both union members and non-members for laborers' positions at Perry. It failed to do so. Furthermore, Local 496's constitution, which is the Uniform Local Constitution of the Laborers' International Union of North America, requires that a person seeking union membership first be employed as a laborer in Lake County. This "working-in-the-calling" rule requires non-members seeking induction into Local 496 to first secure work at a "union shop." Conversely, in the event that an individual secured such work, he or she was required to join the union within eight days of beginning employment. Essentially, then, the project labor agreement, which obligated Local 496 to treat members and non-members alike for the purposes of referrals, was to constitute a contractual waiver of the working-in-the-calling rule. Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, despite this waiver, union personnel selectively enforced the working-in-the-calling rule to effect the exclusion of black prospective members. Most markedly between 1975 and 1985, a period of rapid union growth, Local 496 regularly waived the working-in-the-calling requirement for white applicants. The union declined to accord African-American applicants the same benefit. Indeed, Floyd Conrad, business manager of Local 496, admitted that the union failed to refer a single black non-member to Perry.

The white applicants for whom the union waived its working-in-the-calling rule were, more often than not, relatives of Local 496 members. During the relevant time period, over 30% of union members had relatives who were also union members. Moreover, one of the principal means of acquiring Local 496 membership or an employment referral from the union was the request of a relative or friend who was already a union member. Sometimes, union members asked the union's business manager for a waiver of the working-in-the-calling rule on behalf of their cronies. Alternately, union members working as stewards or foremen at Perry simply approached employers and contractors at the plant and recommended their relatives for available positions. This sort of direct access to Perry employers was only available to people already employed at the plant, because of the plant's security requirements.

The ease with which white members of Local 496 bolstered their ranks with friends and relatives contrasts starkly with the barriers their black counterparts confronted when they sought to act similarly. On several occasions, Donald Robinson, one of the few African-American members of Local 496, attempted to refer black friends and relatives to Conrad for positions at Perry. Conrad consistently ignored Robinson's requests. The story of Cheryl Journigan, a class member and relative of Donald Robinson's, illustrates Conrad's treatment of black applicants. Journigan testified that in 1985, she repeatedly sought union membership or employment referrals by calling and appearing at Local 496's union hall. Journigan recalled that Conrad invariably refused to return her telephone calls or instructed union secretaries to tell Journigan he was absent. Deborah Bracale, Conrad's secretary at the time, corroborated Journigan's account. At Conrad's direction, union personnel similarly rebuffed other African Americans seeking union membership or employment referrals. Thus, several factors, including nepotism, inequitable application of the working-in-the-calling-rule, and security at Perry, all converged to exclude black applicants from union membership and employment referrals.

After the plant's construction phase ended, maintenance work at the plant began. This work was performed pursuant to a 1985 National Maintenance Agreement, which LIUNA signed but Local 496 did not. However, the Maintenance Agreement provided that Local 496 was to act as LIUNA's agent in filling all laborer vacancies at Perry. No LIUNA representatives or agents were involved in administering the referral system.

After a decade of unsuccessful attempts to thwart the union's discriminatory membership restrictions, several black applicants initiated this class action in December 1984. Subsequently, by orders dated October 28, 1985 and March 6, 1986, individual discrimination suits filed by plaintiffs Ron Colvin, Richard Lilly, Edward Turner II, Percy Pouewells, Lee Coffee, Sr., Isiah Johnson, Jr., and Jimmie Rice, against Local 496 and Conrad were consolidated with the class suit. Cheryl Journigan, the last class member to file EEOC charges of discrimination against the defendants, did so on January 10, 1985. On January 26, 1988, the district court certified the class to include:

All Black persons who, on or before [January 26, 1988], have sought membership in Local 496 and/or employment either by application or by referral under the policy described in the collective bargaining agreement of March 9, 1973, by which the defendant union agreed to make referrals to employers at the Perry Nuclear Power Plant site.

LIUNA was aware of this action from its inception. Beginning in 1984, Business Agent Conrad regularly informed the regional office of LIUNA, specifically LIUNA's Regional Manager, Thomas J. Arconti, about charges lodged with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), lawsuits filed by the plaintiffs, and of all findings of the EEOC related to the allegations against the local union. LIUNA's regional officers, the EEOC and the National Labor Relations Board, in turn, notified the General President of LIUNA of such events. In addition, the constitutions of Local 496 and LIUNA empowered LIUNA to intervene in the affairs of Local 496. Nevertheless, LIUNA never investigated the plaintiffs' charges of discrimination. Having discovered LIUNA's awareness of their EEOC charges against Local 496, in September 1989, plaintiffs Colvin and Tomblin filed additional EEOC charges against the parent union, claiming it intentionally refused to investigate the alleged discrimination. On January 12, 1990, the class moved to amend its complaint to add LIUNA as a defendant. Although the suit was originally to be tried on January 17, 1990, the district court found that LIUNA was an indispensable party and on ...

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