LOCAL UNION NO. 28, ETC. v. International Bro. of Elec. Wkrs.

Decision Date14 August 1961
Docket NumberCiv. No. 13177.
Citation197 F. Supp. 99
PartiesLOCAL UNION NO. 28 INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS v. INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS and Gordon M. Freeman as International President of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Patrick A. O'Doherty and William A. Hegarty, Baltimore, Md., for plaintiff.

John Henry Lewin, Baltimore, Md., and Louis Sherman, Washington, D. C., for defendants.

THOMSEN, Chief Judge.

This is an action by a local union against its parent international and the international president, seeking (A) an injunction against an order of the international president revoking the charter of the local and directing certain corollary actions and (B) a declaratory judgment deciding various questions which have arisen between the parties with respect to the construction of the constitution of the international.

Defendants have moved (1) to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter and because the complaint fails to state a claim against defendants upon which relief can be granted, and (2) to vacate and dissolve a temporary restraining order issued by Judge Chesnut on August 4, 1961. Defendants contend: (A) that this court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter under sec. 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S. C.A. § 185(a), upon which plaintiff now solely relies1; and (B) that this court should refuse to intervene until plaintiff has exhausted the appeals from the action of the president provided by the union constitution.

Facts

The following facts appear from the allegations of the complaint, affidavits filed by the respective parties, and statements of counsel conceded to be true at the hearing.

For a number of years the relations between the local and the international have been strained. See Executive Board, Local Union 28, I.B.E.W., et al. v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, et al., D.Md., 184 F. Supp. 649, Watkins, J. After the filing of Judge Watkins' opinion and other hearings in that case, the trusteeship of the local union was terminated.

For many years it has been the policy of the I.B.E.W. to discourage strikes and to have its locals include in all collective bargaining agreements with local chapters of the National Electrical Contractors Association (N.E.C.A.) a provision calling for the arbitration of all disputes by the Council of Industrial Relations for the Electrical Contracting Industry of the United States and Canada (Council), a bipartite group composed of representatives of I.B.E.W. and representatives of N.E.C.A. See opinion filed May 16, 1961, in Local Union No. 28, I.B.E.W. v. Maryland Chapter, N.E.C.A., D.Md., 194 F.Supp. 494. In that case I held that the latest agreement between the local union and the Maryland Chapter did not require that the question whether the local union had the right to terminate the agreement be submitted to the Council for its decision, that the local union had the right to terminate the agreement on March 31, 1961, and that it did so terminate it upon proper notice.

At the conclusion of the hearing on May 11, at which that decision was announced, I suggested that the parties agree (1) that they would continue their collective bargaining in good faith, as required by law; (2) that the chapter take any appeal promptly, so that the case might be heard by the Court of Appeals at its June Term; and (3) that all members of the local union return to work and continue at work during collective bargaining until the decision of the Court of Appeals on any such appeal, or until July 31, if no appeal were taken. Both sides agreed to continue collective bargaining in good faith, the chapter agreed to take any appeal promptly, and all members of the union present in the courtroom agreed to return to work. The chapter appealed, but dismissed the appeal on June 9.

On June 13 the members of the local union voted to strike beginning June 19, and did so strike without obtaining the approval of the international president. Indeed, on June 15, 1961, the president sent a telegram to the officers of the local union which stated, inter alia: "I am therefore refusing to grant consent to a strike or other work stoppage by Local Union No. 28 of the I.B.E.W. I also wish to make it clear that no strike or other work stoppage at any future date can be undertaken without strict compliance with the provisions of Article 17 Section 13 of the Constitution of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers." That section and other provisions of the constitution of the I.B.E.W. relevant to this case are set out below in Note 2. Plaintiff contends that Art. XVII, sec. 13, applies only to certain kinds of disputes under existing collective bargaining agreements, and not to "economic" strikes when no contract is in existence. The international president has rejected that contention.

At a meeting of the local union held on June 22, 1961, the telegram of the international president was read by its counsel, who asked for a vote of non-concurrence, which was given. After some further communications between the parties, the international president sent to the local union on July 7, a notice of a hearing before a referee to show cause why the charter of the local union should not be revoked or suspended.3 The referee held a public hearing in Baltimore on July 17, 18, 19 and 21; counsel for the local union participated, testimony was taken, and the referee promptly reported his findings of fact to the international president, who conducted a further hearing on July 28, at which attorneys for the I.B.E.W. and attorneys for Local Union 28 appeared and argued.

Meanwhile, on July 17, the local union had filed its complaint in the instant case, alleging many of the facts set out above, alleging that the Maryland chapter of N.E.C.A. had not bargained in good faith, and contending that the local union is the collective bargaining representative of its members "and that under the Act it has the right to use its economic weapon and that no other party has the right to break the strike". The complaint further alleged that because of plaintiff's affiliation with the I.B.E.W. it enjoys a working arrangement with various other locals throughout the country and that three or four hundred of its members who were working through other local unions would have their employment terminated if plaintiff's charter were revoked. The complaint alleged that the course of action dictated by the international president "demonstrates conscious or unconscious failure to abide by his obligation to the Local, and further that his conscious or unconscious intent is to insist that the Local follow a course of action that would cause it to surrender its autonomy guaranteed to it by the Constitution of the I.B.E.W. and the Laws of the Land".

The complaint prays that the court declare that Art. XVII, sec. 13 of the constitution does not apply to an economic strike but only to disputes of a general nature which might arise under an existing collective bargaining agreement, that the plaintiff local union has not violated Art. XVII, sec. 13, that the international president is without authority "to hold a Show-Cause Hearing whereby the Local is required to prove that it did not violate the Constitution", that the international president has no power to try a local union but that it may only be tried by the international executive council, that the referee was without authority under the constitution of the I.B.E.W. to either try the local union or to make findings of fact, and that the hearing before the referee be declared null and void because of lack of due process, as well as a lack of constitutional authority.

The complaint seeks an injunction restraining defendants from taking any action against the local by reason of the hearing of July 17 and enjoining them from taking any action whatever to jeopardize the employment of the hundreds of members now working through out-of-town locals.

Counsel for the parties appeared before Judge Watkins on July 17 and counsel for the plaintiff orally requested a temporary restraining order. No record or memorandum of that conference was filed, no order was issued by Judge Watkins, and no formal application for a temporary restraining order was filed by plaintiff until August 4.

On August 1, the international president sent to Local Union 28 and each member thereof his decision and order revoking the charter of Local Union 28. The essential portions of that order are set out in Note 4 below. The order directed that it should become effective on August 7, unless prior thereto Local Union 28 took certain action, set out in the order, on or before Friday, August 4. The letter to the members of the local union described the effect of the order, the choice before the local union and the choice before each member.5

The local union took an appeal from the order of the president to the international executive council as permitted by Art. IV, sec. 3(2), of the constitution of the I.B.E.W., and that appeal is now pending. A prompt hearing before the international executive council has been promised by defendants, and the international president has agreed to hear the application for a stay of his order which was filed by plaintiff on August 4 and amplified on August 7. The international executive council will meet on September 11, 1961. The international convention will not meet until September, 1962.

On August 4, the local union filed herein a motion for a temporary restraining order enjoining defendants from (a) revoking the charter, (b) granting the jurisdiction of Local No. 28 to a new union, (c) instigating or filing legal proceedings as set out in the president's order, (d) compelling the members of the local union to make an election between having their charter revoked or instructing...

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