Harrington v. Chao, No. 01-1577.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Writing for the CourtLynch
Citation280 F.3d 50
PartiesThomas J. HARRINGTON, Richard S. Neville, Thomas Fordham, John A. Biggins, Mark J. Durkin, Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. Elaine L. CHAO, Secretary of Labor, U.S. Department of Labor, Defendant, Appellee.
Decision Date19 February 2002
Docket NumberNo. 01-1577.
280 F.3d 50
Thomas J. HARRINGTON, Richard S. Neville, Thomas Fordham, John A. Biggins, Mark J. Durkin, Plaintiffs, Appellants,
v.
Elaine L. CHAO, Secretary of Labor, U.S. Department of Labor, Defendant, Appellee.
No. 01-1577.
United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.
Heard December 3, 2001.
Decided February 19, 2002.

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Renee J. Bushey with whom Michael A. Feinberg and Feinberg, Campbell & Zack, P.C. were on brief for appellants.

Alan Hyde for Association for Union Democracy, Inc., amicus curiae.

J. Matthew McCracken, Attorney, United States Department of Labor, with whom James B. Farmer, United States Attorney, and Anita Johnson, Assistant United States Attorney, were on brief for appellees.

Daniel J. Hall with whom DeCarlo, Connor & Selvo, Aaron D. Krakow and Krakow, Souris & Birmingham were on brief for United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and New England Regional Council of Carpenters, amici curiae.

Before TORRUELLA, LYNCH, and LIPEZ, Circuit Judges.

LYNCH, Circuit Judge.


This case comes to us under the union-democracy provisions of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 401-531 (1994 & Supp. V 1999).

Thomas Harrington, a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America ("UBC"), alleges that the functions and purposes traditionally accorded to local unions in the New England region of the UBC are now served by the New England Regional Council. That Council, he says, must be treated as a local union and not as an intermediary body. Consequently, Harrington argues, the officers of that Council must be elected in the manner that the LMRDA prescribes for local unions, that is, by direct election by secret ballot among the union members rather than by vote of delegates who are elected from the local unions, as the UBC has chosen to do for the Council. Id. § 481(b),(d) (1994). Harrington filed a complaint with the Secretary of Labor asking her to require the Council to hold a new election as a local union. The Secretary declined for reasons stated in a brief Statement of Reasons.

Harrington sued under the LMRDA. On motion by the Secretary, the district court dismissed his suit. See Harrington v. Herman, 138 F.Supp.2d 232 (D.Mass. 2001). Because the Statement of Reasons is insufficient to permit meaningful judicial review, we reverse the district court, vacate the Secretary's Statement of Reasons and remand the case to the district court with instructions to remand to the Secretary. We do not now decide whether any refusal by the Secretary to bring suit as sought by Harrington would be arbitrary or capricious.

I.
A.

The LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 401-531, was designed "to ensure that unions would be democratically governed, and responsive to the will of the union membership as expressed in open, periodic elections." Finnegan v. Leu, 456 U.S. 431, 441, 102 S.Ct. 1867, 72 L.Ed.2d 239 (1982); see also S.Rep. No. 86-187, at 20 (1959) ("It needs no argument to demonstrate the importance of free and democratic union elections."). The LMRDA balances this purpose with the "countervailing policy recogniz[ing] that unions should be free to conduct their affairs so far as possible and the government should not become excessively involved in union politics." Reich v. Local 89, Laborers' Int'l Union, 36 F.3d 1470, 1476 (9th Cir.1994).

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Title IV of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 481-483 (1994), establishes minimum standards for the election of union officers. The LMRDA provides that "[e]very local labor organization shall elect its officers not less than once every three years by secret ballot among the members." Id. § 481(b). However, these direct election requirements do not apply to the selection of officers of "intermediate bodies" of labor organizations.1 Id. § 481(d). Instead, the Act provides:

Officers of intermediate bodies, such as general committees, system boards, joint boards, or joint councils, shall be elected not less often than once every four years by secret ballot among the members in good standing or by labor organization officers representative of such members who have been elected by secret ballot.

Id. § 481(d).2 Thus an intermediate body may choose between direct election or representative election; UBC has chosen the latter.

When a union member wishes to challenge the validity of an election, he must exhaust remedies available under the labor organization's rules, and he may then file a complaint with the Secretary. Id. § 482(a). Upon receipt of a union member's complaint, the Secretary investigates the allegations of that complaint. Id. § 482(b). If she determines that there is probable cause to believe that a violation of Title IV occurred and that the violation probably infected the outcome of the election, she must bring suit against the labor organization to set aside the election and to obtain a new election. Id.; Wirtz v. Local 153, Glass Bottle Blowers Ass'n, 389 U.S. 463, 472, 88 S.Ct. 643, 19 L.Ed.2d 705 (1968); see also Heckler v. Chaney, 470 U.S. 821, 834, 105 S.Ct. 1649, 84 L.Ed.2d 714 (1985) (noting that § 482(b) "quite clearly withdrew discretion from the agency and provided guidelines for exercise of its enforcement power").

B.

In 1996, the UBC, an international union, undertook a dramatic restructuring which established a new three-tier organization of dominant and subordinate UBC bodies. The International remained at the top of the organization. Below the International, the UBC established a group of strong regional entities, called Regional Councils. Lastly, the numerous existing UBC locals were placed at the bottom, subordinate to both the International and the Regional Councils. It appears that before July 1, 1996, the Regional Councils did not exist.

The New England Regional Council ("NERC") covers UBC members and subordinate UBC locals throughout Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The

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officers of NERC are not elected directly by local union members, but rather by a secret ballot of delegates who are, in turn, elected by the members of the local unions. The key officer of NERC is the Executive Secretary-Treasurer; he has exclusive authority to submit grievances to binding arbitration, hire or terminate NERC employees, chair the collective bargaining committees, appoint the membership of collective bargaining committees, and appoint the members of the trial committees convened to discipline union members.

Although deprived of many of their previous functions, the UBC locals subordinate to NERC remain independently chartered, have identifiable memberships, elect their own officers, and have their own by-laws. Although the locals do not negotiate collective bargaining agreements, the membership of the locals must vote to ratify the agreements. The locals hold meetings, have their own budgets and bank accounts, and collect members' dues (a substantial portion of which are then passed on to NERC). Each local is permitted to hire one clerical staff member. Grievances are administered in the early, informal stages by local stewards, but the locals cannot invoke higher levels of the grievance process, including arbitration.

Harrington, a UBC member in Massachusetts, filed a complaint with the Secretary of Labor on September 21, 1999, pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 482 and 29 C.F.R. § 452.4 (2001), alleging that NERC was essentially a "local" labor organization because it had assumed most of the powers and functions traditionally retained by UBC locals. Harrington contended that because NERC is a "local," it must elect its officers by direct vote of the local union members, and not by vote of delegates from the local unions, in order to comply with the LMRDA.3

After conducting an investigation, the Secretary concluded in a Statement of Reasons dated April 7, 2000, that NERC is an "intermediate body," not a "local," and is therefore permitted to elect its officers either by "secret ballot among the members in good standing or by labor organization officers representative of such members who have been elected by secret ballot." 29 U.S.C. § 481(d).

In the Statement of Reasons, the Secretary noted that NERC's bylaws invested it with some of the powers and functions that the union's locals previously possessed, but that this was insufficient ground upon which to regard NERC as a local rather than as an intermediate body.4 The Secretary stated that there was "no basis in the statute or legislative history for concluding that if intermediate bodies possess certain functions and powers," they lose the statutory choice of electing officers indirectly and must elect their officers directly. The Secretary concluded that because the investigation found no violation of law in the method by which NERC elected its officers, there was no basis for bringing suit against NERC.

Harrington then filed suit in United States district court challenging the Secretary's refusal to file an enforcement action. On April 10, 2001, the district court granted the Secretary's motion to dismiss, reasoning that the Secretary's decision not to initiate suit was not arbitrary or capricious. Harrington, 138 F.Supp.2d at 235-36. Harrington promptly filed this appeal.

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II.
A.

Harrington's principal argument is that the Secretary, in refusing to sue NERC, has retreated without explanation from her prior policies regarding the enforcement of direct election standards. Specifically, Harrington contends that the Secretary's current position is directly at odds with her established position — as expressed in the regulations and case law — of enforcing the direct election provisions of 29 U.S.C. § 481(b) against so-called intermediate bodies that have, in reality, assumed all of the functions of a local union. Harrington is supported by amicus curiae Association for Union Democracy, Inc, while the UBC and NERC, acting as amici...

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38 practice notes
  • Rochester-Genesee Regional Transp. v. Hynes-Cherin, No. 07-CV-6378L.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • January 24, 2008
    ...without sufficient explanation may be considered arbitrary and capricious and therefore subject to judicial reversal." Harrington v. Chao, 280 F.3d 50, 58 (1st Cir.2002) (citing INS v. Yueh-Shaio Yang, 519 U.S. 26, 32, 117 S.Ct. 350, 136 L.Ed.2d 288 (1996)). Evidence that other public trans......
  • N.H. Lottery Comm'n v. Barr, Consolidated Case No. 19-cv-163-PB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • June 3, 2019
    ...case for remand. The agency has not disregarded procedural requirements or inadequately explained its conclusions. Cf. Harrington v. Chao, 280 F.3d 50, 60 (1st Cir. 2002) (remanding to provide agency "an opportunity to better explain [its] position"). It has produced a capable, but mistaken......
  • Saint Fort v. Ashcroft, No. 02-2451.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 9, 2003
    ...they explain the reasons for such change and provided that those reasons meet the applicable standard of review." Harrington v. Chao, 280 F.3d 50, 59 (1st Cir.2002). We have applied this rule to the BIA. See, e.g., Davila-Bardales v. INS, 27 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir.1994).9 Here, there is an ampl......
  • Harrington v. Chao, No. 04-1144.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • June 21, 2004
    ...an "intermediate" rather than a "local" union body and is thus not required by the Act to conduct direct elections. In Harrington v. Chao, 280 F.3d 50 (1st Cir.2002) (Harrington I), we found the Secretary's explanation inadequate and remanded the case to her. A new Secretary reviewed the ma......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
37 cases
  • Rochester-Genesee Regional Transp. v. Hynes-Cherin, No. 07-CV-6378L.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • January 24, 2008
    ...without sufficient explanation may be considered arbitrary and capricious and therefore subject to judicial reversal." Harrington v. Chao, 280 F.3d 50, 58 (1st Cir.2002) (citing INS v. Yueh-Shaio Yang, 519 U.S. 26, 32, 117 S.Ct. 350, 136 L.Ed.2d 288 (1996)). Evidence that other public trans......
  • N.H. Lottery Comm'n v. Barr, Consolidated Case No. 19-cv-163-PB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • June 3, 2019
    ...case for remand. The agency has not disregarded procedural requirements or inadequately explained its conclusions. Cf. Harrington v. Chao, 280 F.3d 50, 60 (1st Cir. 2002) (remanding to provide agency "an opportunity to better explain [its] position"). It has produced a capable, but mistaken......
  • Saint Fort v. Ashcroft, No. 02-2451.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 9, 2003
    ...they explain the reasons for such change and provided that those reasons meet the applicable standard of review." Harrington v. Chao, 280 F.3d 50, 59 (1st Cir.2002). We have applied this rule to the BIA. See, e.g., Davila-Bardales v. INS, 27 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir.1994).9 Here, there is an ampl......
  • Harrington v. Chao, No. 04-1144.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • June 21, 2004
    ...an "intermediate" rather than a "local" union body and is thus not required by the Act to conduct direct elections. In Harrington v. Chao, 280 F.3d 50 (1st Cir.2002) (Harrington I), we found the Secretary's explanation inadequate and remanded the case to her. A new Secretary reviewed the ma......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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