Parks v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Wkrs.

Decision Date30 March 1962
Docket NumberCiv. No. 13235,13359.
Citation203 F. Supp. 288
PartiesJohn E. PARKS, Jr., et al., individually and as representatives of the members of Local 28, IBEW, in a class action, v. INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS. LOCAL UNION 28, IBEW v. INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland

Patrick A. O'Doherty and Melvin J. Sykes, Baltimore, Md., for plaintiffs in both cases.

John Henry Lewin, Baltimore, Md., Louis Sherman and Thomas X. Dunn, Washington, D. C., for defendant in both cases.

THOMSEN, Chief Judge.

These two actions against the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) are brought: No. 13235, by certain members of Local Union 28, IBEW, as individuals and on behalf of all the members of Local 28, seeking to enjoin the International and its officers from revoking the charter of Local 28, from granting its jurisdiction to a new local union, and from taking other corollary action; and No. 13359, by Local 28 itself, seeking a decree which would set aside the revocation of its charter, reinstate it as a local of the IBEW, enjoin the International from wrongfully interfering with the operations of Local 28 as collective bargaining agent for its members, award damages and counsel fees, and grant other and further relief.

The Issues

Plaintiffs claim that the action of the International President (IP), later affirmed by the International Executive Council (IEC), revoking the charter of Local 28, and granting its jurisdiction to Local 24, a new local chartered immediately after the revocation, was illegal and invalid: (I) because the stated ground, that Local 28 had violated the constitution of the IBEW by engaging in a strike without the approval of the IP, was not a sufficient ground, since the strike was not the kind of strike which required the approval of the IP; (II) because, even if Local 28 had violated the constitution, (a) its charter should not have been revoked without a fair hearing before a tribunal authorized to decide the case, which was not accorded; (b) the action of the IP was a breach of the duty owed by the IP to Local 28 and its members, was illegal and against public policy, and was taken in bad faith, in that the purported ground was only a pretense for punishing the members of Local 28 for defying his wishes in connection with the collective bargaining agreement the Local was negotiating with the Maryland Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors' Association (NECA), and for having brought several suits in court against the IBEW without exhausting intra-union remedies; and (c) the action of the IP was an unreasonably severe and unjust sanction under all the circumstances. Plaintiffs contend:

A. That the revocation of the charter was a violation of the constitution of the IBEW, which in legal effect is a contract between Local 28 and the International, and that Local 28 has a right of action for such breach of contract under sec. 301(a) of Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, as amended (Taft-Hartley), 29 U.S.C.A. § 185(a); and

B. That the revocation was (1) a violation of the rights of the members of Local 28 set out in Title I, sec. 101 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA or Landrum-Griffin), 29 U.S.C.A. § 411, giving the members a right of action under sec. 102, 29 U.S.C.A. § 412; (2) a violation of the trusteeship provisions of Title III of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C.A. § 461 et seq.; and (3) disciplinary action against the members prohibited by Title VI of the LMRDA, giving Local 28 and its members a right of action under sec. 609, 29 U.S.C.A. § 529, enforceable under sec. 102.

The International challenges the jurisdiction of this Court to determine any of the questions raised in either case, on the grounds (1) that the facts alleged and proved do not come within any of the jurisdictional provisions relied on by plaintiffs, (2) that all of them are within the primary jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), (3) that the relief requested is barred by the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 101 et seq., and (4) that plaintiffs have not exhausted their intra-union remedies by appeal to the International Convention of the IBEW.1

The International further contends (I) that the action of the IP, approved by the IEC, was justified under the IBEW constitution because Local 28 had engaged in a strike without the approval of the IP, in clear violation of the constitution; (II) that the action of the IP was reasonable, indeed necessary for maintaining proper union discipline, and was taken after a fair hearing and all steps required by law or by the IBEW constitution; and, finally, (III) that plaintiffs' claims are barred by their own unclean hands.

The jurisdictional questions will be considered first, so that the findings of fact may be related to the issues properly before the Court.


Diversity of citizenship between the parties is not claimed in either case. Nor have plaintiffs argued that jurisdiction can be sustained under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1332. Jurisdiction of the action filed by Local 28 is claimed under sec. 301 of Taft-Hartley, 29 U.S.C.A. § 185(a)2, and of the action filed by the members (the Parks case) under several sections of Landrum-Griffin, particularly Title I, secs. 101 and 102, 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 411 and 412, Title III, secs. 302 and 304, 29 U.S. C.A. §§ 462 and 464, Title VI, sec. 609, 29 U.S.C.A. § 529.

A. The Suit Filed by Local 28

Sec. 301(a) of Taft-Hartley, 29 U.S. C.A. § 185(a), provides: "Suits for violations of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties."3

As this Court pointed out in 197 F.Supp. 99, at 106, the courts have not agreed as to the extent of the jurisdiction granted to the district courts by that section, but some questions are now settled, e. g. a local union is a "labor organization" within the terms of the Act.4 It also seems to be settled that the constitution of an international union is a "contract" between the international and its members and locals.5 The Supreme Court has just held, February 26, 1962, that the term "contracts" in sec. 301(a) should not be limited to collective bargaining agreements. Retail Clerks Int'l, etc. v. Lion Dry Goods, Inc., 82 S. Ct. 541.6 But the courts are not agreed on what other types of contracts were intended to be covered by sec. 301(a).7 No case brought by a local union against its parent international alone for an alleged violation of a constitution has arisen under sec. 301(a); few cases have discussed intra-union disputes, where two or more locals of the same international were in conflict.8 In Local 33 Hod Carriers v. Mason Tenders, 2 Cir., 291 F.2d 496, the majority held that in such a case a district court should assume jurisdiction under sec. 301(a) unless there is a conflict or likelihood of conflict with the jurisdiction of the NLRB.

If sec. 301(a) be taken literally, this is a suit for an alleged violation of a contract between two labor organizations representing employees in an industry affecting commerce. Although the question is not free from doubt, I adhere to my conclusion in the former suit filed by Local 28 against the International, reported at 197 F.Supp. 99, 106, that the fact that one of the organizations is an international union and the other is one of its locals does not of itself take the case outside the scope of the jurisdiction granted by sec. 301 (a). Textile Workers v. Lincoln Mills, 353 U.S. 448, 77 S.Ct. 912, 1 L.Ed.2d 972, and other recent cases have indicated that the federal courts should take a broad view of the jurisdiction granted by sec. 301(a) and should fashion a body of federal law from the policy of our national labor laws.

Likelihood of Conflict with NLRB Jurisdiction

Local 28 has filed several charges with the NLRB against the Maryland Chapter of NECA, charging the Chapter with bargaining in bad faith in various respects, e. g. by insisting on a particular clause in the proposed new collective bargaining agreement and by conniving with officers of IBEW to coerce the members of Local 28 in the exercise of their rights protected by sec. 7 of the NLRA, as amended. The International argues that the gravamen of both actions against it is the same as those charges; that both complaints allege acts which are subject to secs. 7 and 8 of the NLRA, 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 157 and 158, and therefore come within the exclusive jurisdiction of the NLRB under 29 U.S.C.A. § 160.

The International cites San Diego Bldg. Trade Council Mill Men's Unions v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 79 S.Ct. 773, 3 L.Ed.2d 775 (1959), where the Supreme Court said: "When an activity is arguably subject to § 7 or § 8 of the Act, the States as well as the federal courts must defer to the exclusive competence of the National Labor Relations Board if the danger of state interference with national policy is to be averted." 359 U.S. at 245, 79 S.Ct. at 780.

While potential conflicts of this nature have been avoided in certain areas by ousting jurisdiction of the courts over activities which might constitute unfair labor practices subject to regulation by the NLRB, the courts have generally held that actions for breach of contract are not subject to such preemption.9 San Diego Unions v. Garmon indicates that the principal basis for the preemption is the doctrine of primary jurisdiction, under which state and federal courts may not regulate those labor activities which Congress entrusted initially to the expertise of the NLRB. However, Congress did not entrust to the NLRB the formulation of the law of intra-union...

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