Murphy v. American Federation of Grain Millers, Local No. 6, No. 59724

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtSubmitted to MOORE; HARRIS
Citation261 N.W.2d 496
Parties97 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2833, 83 Lab.Cas. P 55,117 Joel M. MURPHY, Appellee, v. AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GRAIN MILLERS, LOCAL NO. 6, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 59724
Decision Date18 January 1978

Page 496

261 N.W.2d 496
97 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2833, 83 Lab.Cas. P 55,117
Joel M. MURPHY, Appellee,
No. 59724.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
Jan. 18, 1978.

Page 497

Harry H. Smith and MacDonald Smith, Sioux City, for appellant.

Charles A. Coppola and Arthur L. Buzzell of Newport & Buzzell, Davenport, for appellee.


HARRIS, Justice.

This suit for wages was brought by a discharged business agent of a local labor union. The union appealed following a jury verdict for plaintiff. We affirm the trial court.

On February 18, 1975 Joel M. Murphy (plaintiff) entered into a written contract to serve as business agent for defendant American Federation of Grain Millers, Local Union No. 6 (local 6). Plaintiff had previously served in the same position on a probationary basis. Local 6 represented its members in their employment relationship with the Clinton Corn Processing Plant of Clinton (the company).

The occasion of the written contract occurred during tumultuous times. Two union members had been discharged by the company and the company refused to rehire them. On the same day the contract was signed local 6's executive board called an illegal "wildcat strike" against the company because of the company's refusal to reinstate the two discharged employees. As a result of the strike the company instituted a suit in federal court, against this plaintiff and other individual officers of defendant, seeking injunctive relief and damages. A temporary restraining order was obtained in federal court. When the company employees refused to return to work the company sought and obtained a contempt citation. As a result of the confusion local 6's executive board met on March 10, 1975 and voted to request its international union to place local 6 under trusteeship. The trusteeship was instituted by the international union the following day. Joe Rajcevich, an officer with the international union, was named as trustee.

Rajcevich promptly removed all officers of local 6. Plaintiff was however reinstated for two weeks while Rajcevich consulted with counsel regarding his authority to legally remove plaintiff. After two weeks Rajcevich finally discharged plaintiff. This suit for plaintiff's wages followed.

Other facts can be more appropriately given as they relate to the specific assignments.

I. Defendant's first assignment assails a trial court ruling which denied a motion for directed verdict. The motion was grounded on plaintiff's admitted failure to exhaust internal union remedies prior to bringing suit.

Plaintiff was a member of local 6. It is claimed he thereby became bound to its rules and regulations. Under Art. I, § 3, of the by-laws of local 6 the affairs of the local are governed by the constitution and by-laws of the international union. Under Art. IV, § 1, of the local union's by-laws, disciplinary action by the local union could be undertaken only in accordance with the international union's by-laws.

Under the constitution and by-laws of the international union there is a detailed procedure by which any member of the local union, who is adversely affected during trusteeship, may appeal the action of either the local or international union. No such appeal was undertaken by plaintiff. This

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failure is claimed by the local union as a bar to plaintiff's right of recovery.

Plaintiff meets the local union's contention by four alternative arguments. See generally 48 Am.Jur.2d, Labor and Labor Relations, § 334, pp. 251-253; 51 C.J.S. Labor Relations § 129, pp. 828-833. First, plaintiff argues any requirement to exhaust internal union remedies is discretionary with the courts. His second argument asserts exhaustion of the internal union remedies in this case should not be required where it is apparent the procedures would prove futile. He contends it would have been futile to seek union review of the union's position. Plaintiff's third argument is that his status in this dispute was not as a union member but rather as an employee. He believes the appeal provisions were inapplicable to him as an employee. Finally plaintiff maintains local 6 itself failed to follow the procedures of its constitution and by-laws. No formal notice of specific acts of misconduct, or specific charges against plaintiff, or notice of hearing were served as required by the rules.

It is unnecessary for us to consider any of plaintiff's first three assertions because we may rely on his final one. We agree local 6 is in no position to complain of plaintiff's failure to exhaust union remedies where the union had itself failed to comply with the same constitutions and by-laws by setting hearing and giving...

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