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SPICA v. INTERNATIONAL LADIES GARMENT WORKERS' UNION (03/22/66)

decided: March 22, 1966.

SPICA, APPELLANT,
v.
INTERNATIONAL LADIES GARMENT WORKERS' UNION



Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas No. 2 of Philadelphia County, Sept. T., 1954, No. 8678, in case of Josephine Spica v. International Ladies Garment Workers' Union, William Ross and Philadelphia Dress Joint Board.

COUNSEL

Peter P. Liebert, 3rd, for appellant.

Michael F. Walsh, with him Bernard N. Katz, and Meranze, Katz, Spear & Bielitsky, for appellees.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno. Concurring and Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.

Author: Musmanno

[ 420 Pa. Page 428]

Josephine Spica, member of the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union, and business agent of Local 15, Philadelphia Dress Joint Board, filed in the court of common pleas, Philadelphia, an amended complaint in equity against the ILGWU, Philadelphia Dress Joint Board and William Ross, business manager of the board, averring that Ross interfered with her conduct as a business agent, that on July 27, 1954, she was brought before the board of the Philadelphia Dress Joint Board for a hearing, that the board ordered her discharged from her position and that this decision was affirmed on October 8, 1954, by the executive board, ILGWU. She alleged that the hearing and the affirmance of decision were in violation of the union's constitution and by-laws, and a deprivation of her rights as an elected officer and member of the union. She averred further that as a result of being improperly removed from office and from membership in the union, she was deprived and will continue to be deprived of her salary and expense account as business agent; that her reputation and good name as a union official has been damaged with injury to her future opportunities to procure like positions; she has suffered humiliation and embarrassment in her relation with members of the union and the community in general; has been deprived of union pension benefits, has

[ 420 Pa. Page 429]

    been deprived of her right to work in other positions in the industry, subject to agreement between the union and its employers' association, and that these deprivations have caused and will cause her to lose large sums of money as well as $21,000 which she claims, inter alia, as loss of earnings to date.

The defendants filed preliminary objections, stating that she had not exhausted her remedies within the union and that the National Labor Relations Board had exclusive jurisdiction of the matter raised in her complaint. The court sustained the objections and dismissed the complaint, stating: "The complaint alleges that she has failed to exhaust her remedies within the union's constitutional processes because they are unreasonable. This assumes the very question at issue, therefore until she has attempted the remedies provided she has no basis for the allegation that the decision will be adverse or that the appellate procedure provided is unreasonable.

"Plaintiff has slept on her rights for seven and one-half years and if her complaint is well founded she has accrued additional loss of income to the prejudice of the defendants. No explanation for the delay of seven years was offered."

The rule that a complaining union member must first seek redress within the procedures afforded by the Union's rules is now part of the very fabric of our labor law. In Falsetti v. Local Union No. 2026, United Mine Workers of America, 400 Pa. 145, 163, this Court said: "We are hopefully entering a new era in union self-discipline and responsibility. Rather than adopt judicial rules that would discourage resort to union processes which now must meet detailed elementary standards of fairness, we will attempt in every way to encourage the steady evolution of internal democracy. A strict adherence to the rule of exhaustion will go far toward placing the initial responsibility where it rightfully

[ 420 Pa. Page 430]

    belongs -- on the association itself. It is only when an issue has become fully 'ripe' for adjudication that ...


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