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Hughes v. Local 11

March 9, 1961

HENRY HUGHES, APPELLANT
v.
LOCAL 11, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BRIDGE, STRUCTURAL AND ORNAMENTAL IRON WORKERS, AFL-CIO, APPELLEE.



Author: Biggs

Before BIGGS, Chief Judge, GOODRICH and FORMAN, Circuit Judges.

BIGGS, Ch. J.: This is an appeal from a judgment of the court below dismissing an action brought by the plaintiff-appellant, Hughes, against Local 11 of the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers, AFL-CIO, on the ground that the court did not have jurisdiction of the subject matter of the suit. The following appears from the complaint, the answer, and from affidavits filed in this case in the court below. The plaintiff is a member in good standing of the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers, affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (the International). He is also a member in good standing of Local 489 of the International, located at Scranton, Pennsylvania. On or about October 1, 1951, he moved from Scranton to Mine Hill, New Jersey, which lies within the district allocated by the International to Local 11.Since that date the plaintiff has performed work within the jurisdiction of Local 11 with that Local's knowledge and consent. On or about October 3, 1957, the plaintiff requested a transfer from Local 489 to Local 11. At this time he requested the International to give him aid and information in effecting the transfer and was informed that the matter was entirely one of "local jurisdiction" to be effected, however, in accordance with the requirements of the constitution of the International. He was given an "informal permit" to work by Local 11 pending his transfer. This informal permit was evidenced by a brass pin given him by Local 11, but he was not given a formal permit of the kind set out in the constitution of the International. He has attempted to surrender his membership book showing his good standing in Local 489 to Local 11. He has paid his dues to Local 11 and has attempted to effect his transfer to that Local by appeals both to it and to the International. The Secretary of Local 11, by a letter dated June 22, 1959, directed him to appear before a meeting of the Executive Board of Local 11 to be examined as to his qualifications as a journeyman ironworker but, insofar as the present record shows, nothing has come of this. He received a letter, dated January 21, 1960, from the Business Agent of Local 489, stating, "There is no trouble at all involved in getting a transfer to another local. Simply contact Local 11 and if they accept your transfer they will contact us and I will issue the transfer card from Local 489 to Local 11." No transfer has been forthcoming despite the fact that "P laintiff has fulfilled all the requirements of the International's constitution for transfer to Local 11".It is asserted that Local 11's inaction is in disregard of International's constitution by which "defendant is required to permit plaintiff to become a member of defendant. . . ." It is sufficiently pleaded that the plaintiff has no effective administrative remedy or relief available to him within the Locals or within the International. It is conceded that the plaintiff is allowed to attend the meetings of Local 11 but he cannot take any part in the meetings or vote at them.

On these facts Hughes asserted in the court below and asserts in this court that he, as a member of the International and as a person who has fulfilled all of the requirements for membership in Local 11, is being denied equal rights and privileges within Local 11 in contravention of Section 101(a)(1)*fn1 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. The relief asked by the plaintiff is a decree granting him membership in Local 11 with all the rights and privileges incident to such membership.Local 11 contends, on the other hand, that Section 101(a)(1) only secures rights to persons who have been admitted to membership in labor organizations and that Hughes is not a member of Local 11 within the meaning of the Act. Local 11 argues that the plaintiff is attempting to gain a right of transfer into Local 11 and that the right of transfer is not secured by Section 101(a)(1) of the Act.

Local 11 moved to dismiss Hughes' complaint for lack of jurisdiction asserting that it did not set out a valid claim arising under the Act. The court below granted this motion reasoning that "Section 101(a) (1) in its provisions for equal rights and privileges, presumed membership in a particular labor organization, and for the purposes of this suit that would be Local No. 11. But the difficulty with which we are met is whether or not the plaintiff is a member of this Local. Formally he is not as he is still carried on the roster of Local 489. However, he contends that he must be considered as a member of Local 11 since he has 'fulfilled the requirements for membership in that organization, as membership is defined in Section 3(o) of the Act, 29 U.S.C.A.§ 402(o).*fn2

"It seems to this court that Section 3(o) refers only to such persons as are or have been members of the specific organization, and has no relation to extrinsic matters such as the right to transfer to or from an organization. That right is determined by the constitution of the International and is not included in the rights specifically protected by Section 101(a)(1) above referred to." The court dismissed the complaint, 183 F. Supp. 552. The appeal at bar followed.

Initially, we must point out that a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction was not proper under the circumstances. Section 102 of the Act, 29 U.S.C.A.§ 412,*fn3 provides that an action for appropriate relief may be brought in a United States district court by "Any person whose rights . . . have been infringed. . . ." The court below apparently read this language as granting it jurisdiction to adjudicate only valid claims arising under the Act.Under such a construction a district court could not determine that it had jurisdiction until it had judgment for the plaintiff, and a judgment for the defendant would necessarily result in a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction.

The well established practice, on the other hand, has been that the assertion of a substantial claim under a federal statute gives a United States court jurisdiction of that claim even though that court may determine ultimately that no cause of action on which relief could have been granted was alleged. See, e. g., Romero v. International Terminal Operating Co ., 358 U.S. 354, 359 (1959); Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. v. Northwestern Public Service Co ., 341 U.S. 246, 249 (1951). The language of Section 102 is not such a clear statement to the contrary to demonstrate an intention on the part of Congress to create an exception to the general and long standing practice as to the power, the jurisdiction of a United States district court to determine a controversy pending before it. We hold, therefore, that a United States district court has jurisdiction to determine the validity of any substantial claim asserted under the "Bill of Rights" subchapter of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 even though it may determine ultimately that the claim is not one upon which relief may be granted.

It follows that the order of the court below must be treated on this appeal as one dismissing Hughes' complaint on the ground that it does not assert a claim upon which relief can be granted. This court has held that "there is no justification for dismissing a complaint for insufficiency of statement, except where it appears to a certainty that the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under any state of facts which could be proved in support of the claim." Continental Collieries, Inc. v. Shober, 130 F.2d 631, 635 (3 Cir. 1942).

Section 101(a)(1) of the Act, pursuant to which the plaintiff, Hughes, claims relief. secures certain equal rights and privileges to members of a labor organization within such organization. Hughes, in seeking membership in Local 11 is asking for the rights and privileges of a member of a labor organization within such labor organization. The plaintiff's allegations that he has not been recognized by Local 11 as one of its members must be deemed to be the equivalent of an assertion that he is not being accorded the equal rights and privileges within Local 11 secured to members of labor organizations by Section 101(a)(1). But this is not the critical question. The pivotal issue in the present case, as the court below clearly recognized, is whether Hughes has sufficiently alleged that he is a member of Local 11, the labor organization in which he demands equal rights and privileges. If Hughes is a member of Local 11 there can be no doubt that he is entitled within that organization to the rights secured to members by Section 101(a)(1).

In determining whether Hughes, assuming the truth of his allegations, is a "member" of Local 11 we cannot look only to the ordinary meaning of the term or solely to its meaning as derived from its context in the section but must look first to the definition of the word "member" provided by the Act. Section 3(o) states, in substance, that a "member" of a labor organization is any person who has fulfilled the requirements for membership in that organization. This definition of the term "member" does not impart to that term, as it is used in the Act, its ordinary, everyday meaning. Ordinarily, we would not conclude that every person who has fulfilled the requirements for membership in an organization is in fact a member of that organization. Numerous examples of this could be drawn from common experience. We tend, rather, to recognize as members of an organization only those persons who have been formally admitted to membership, persons who are recognized by the organization as being members. Congress did not, however, limit the protection of Section 101(a)(1) to those persons who have been admitted to membership in a labor organization and who are recognized as members by that organization. Indeed, it provided that equal rights and privileges be secured to any person who has fulfilled the requirements of membership.Thus, the Act's protection is extended to those who are everything that members are, to those who are in substance members, despite the fact that the officials of the particular labor organization have not performed the ministerial acts precedent to formal admission and recognition.

Has the plaintiff sufficiently alleged the fulfillment of all of the requirements for membership in Local 11? He has alleged that all of the requirements for membership in Local 11 are contained in the constitution of the International and he alleges compliance with all of these requirements.*fn4 Moreover Hughes alleges that Local 11 is required by the International's constitution to formally admit him to membership. These allegations must be deemed sufficient to describe Hughes as a member of Local 11 within the meaning of the Act.

Hughes' case is considerably strengthened by the fact that he alleges membership, as that term is ordinarily defined, in the International of which Local 11 is also a member. As members of the International both Local 11 and Hughes are alleged to have certain rights and duties. One of Hughes' rights, it having accrued upon his admission to membership in the International, is alleged by him to be an absolute right of transfer upon the performance by him of certain acts, all of which he has allegedly performed. One of the obligations allegedly imposed on Local 11 by the constitution of the International is to recognize formally as one of its members any member of the International who has fulfilled the requirements for transfer as set forth in the International's constitution. It can therefore be argued that a contingent membership relationship between Hughes and Local 11 has persisted during Hughes' membership in the International and that the happening of the contingencies enumerated in the constitution of the International automatically made Hughes a member of Local 11 in every sense of the word. Taking this view of the relationship between Hughes and Local 11 it would seem that the denial by Local 11 of Hughes' application for transfer is, in effect, the denial to a member of his vested rights of membership. Moreover, the alleged fact that the constitution of the International sets forth each and every requirement for transfer is, in effect, an allegation that Local 11 has no discretionary power to refuse membership to persons fulfilling the constitutional requirements. Thus, this case may be distinguished from the ordinary case of an application for membership in a voluntary association on the ground that there was not in this case a reservation of power by the organization to refuse membership, in its discretion, to those who have fulfilled its standard membership requirements.

Local 11 has asserted vigorously that the legislative history of the Act is contrary to the result which we now reach. In support of this contention our attention is called to statements made on the floor of the House that indicate that the managers of the bill which ultimately prevailed, H.R. 8400, the Landrum-Griffin Bill, did not intend that the bill impair the rights of labor organizations to prescribe their own rules with respect to the requirements for membership.These statements were made during the debate on the rejected Powell amendment which, had it passed, would have forbidden labor organizations to "refuse membership to any person on the grounds of race, religion, color, sex or national origin. . . ."*fn5 In opposition to this amendment, Representative Landrum, one of the co-sponsors of the Act, made the following remarks at 105 Cong. Rec., 86th Cong., 1st Sess., 15722 (1959):

"I think the membership should be completely informed as to what we are doing here. We do not seek in this legislation, in no way, no shape, no guise, to tell labor unions of this country whom they shall admit to their unions. No part of this legislation attempts to do that. I would direct your attention to a careful reading of section 101(a) of the amendment which I have proposed, which says this: 'Every member of a labor organization shall have equal rights within that organization,' and then it enumerates the things: to nominate candidates and to vote in elections or referendums . . . This law is designed only to say that, if he is a member of a union, he shall have equal rights . . . Moreover, there is a provision now in the Taft-Hartley Act, section 8(b)(1)(A), which says this: Provided, that this paragraph shall not impair the right of a labor organization to prescribe its own rules with respect to the acquisition and retention of membership therein. We do not here seek to repeal that. We do not here withdraw or take away from the unions the right to fix their ...


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