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DUDEK v. PITTSBURGH CITY FIRE FIGHTERS (04/25/67)

decided: April 25, 1967.

DUDEK
v.
PITTSBURGH CITY FIRE FIGHTERS, LOCAL NO. 1, APPELLANT



Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Jan. T., 1965, No. 1900, in case of Henry G. Dudek, on his own behalf and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Pittsburgh City Fire Fighters, Local No. 1.

COUNSEL

Stanford A. Segal, with him Gatz, Cohen & O'Brien, for appellant.

Ben Paul Jubelirer, with him Stuart E. Savage, for appellee.

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

Author: Musmanno

[ 425 Pa. Page 234]

Henry G. Dudek, and 17 others, plaintiffs in this case, are employed as firemen by the City of Pittsburgh and are members of the Pittsburgh City Fire Fighters, Local Union No. 1. Because of differences between the union and the City of Pittsburgh over the scale of wages, the union detailed pickets to patrol the entrance to the City-County Building in Pittsburgh, where the mayor and the city council maintain executive and legislative offices.

[ 425 Pa. Page 235]

After this picketing had continued for an unspecified time, the union, on September 27, 1963, adopted a motion which required all members of the organization to picket, in addition to the City-County Building, all "Democratic candidates for City Council every time they address a Ward meeting." Charles Franciscus, a candidate for alderman in the 29th Ward of the city, and a member of the union, moved, at a general meeting of the union, that the members of the local not picket in the 29th Ward where no elected councilman or the mayor was appearing as a candidate for re-election. The motion was defeated. Throughout the entire period of the disagreement between the city and the defendant union, no incumbent councilman appeared as a candidate for re-election in the 29th Ward. Nevertheless the defendant caused Democratic rallies in that ward to be picketed.

When the union informed the plaintiffs they were to appear on certain dates and at certain places to picket city ward meetings, the plaintiffs refused to make such an appearance, asserting that picketing of the character indicated went beyond the proper scope of the union since it involved the harassment of persons not involved in the city-union quarrel, that it encompassed infringement of the plaintiffs' rights under the Constitution, and that the order, under which the union was acting, was void because of unreasonableness.

Charges were brought by the union against the plaintiffs for failure to abide by its order, the men were tried under union procedure, and found guilty of violating an order of the union, which now imposed a fine of $75 against each of the plaintiffs, except two who were sentenced to pay $60 each. The plaintiffs, after posting $50 each, in accordance with union rules, appealed to the International President of the International Union. The president reversed the decision of

[ 425 Pa. Page 236]

    the local union which, in turn, appealed to the International Executive Board and to the International Convention. The decision of the president was reversed, and the plaintiffs filed a complaint in equity in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, asking for an injunction against the union to restrain the collection of the fines and the carrying out of the union order of September 27, 1963.

The court of common pleas granted the injunction and the defendant union has appealed to this Court, asserting that a labor organization or any organization has the right to "enforce the lawful demands of the majority" by placing fair and reasonable penalties on those of its members who do not accept the decision of the majority.

It cannot be disputed that a union may require its members to cooperate in the achievement of its legitimate objectives. The success of any organization is dependent upon the cohesiveness of efforts of those who compose it. But the modus operandi in achieving the objectives must conform to the law of the land. In order to compel the obedience to the order of September 27, 1963, the union threatened the members with imposition of fine, or suspension and expulsion of union membership. This order of the union is not sustainable in the law.

The provisions of the International Constitution, under which the plaintiffs were convicted, provided that members were amenable to discipline under ยงยง 1, 10 and 12 of Article XV, if they refused to abide by the provisions of the constitution, by-laws and decisions of the union. But this disciplinary right of the union is not absolute.

The very article of the union's constitution, under which it proceeded in its prosecution of the plaintiffs, places a limitation on the slavish obedience of union members by saying that it is only refusal or failure

[ 425 Pa. Page 237]

    to obey orders " without justifiable cause " which will subject the member to penalties. Obviously, if there is justifiable cause for refusal, no sanctions may follow.

The plaintiffs contended throughout the union procedure, and in the proceedings in the court below, that they had "justifiable cause" to refuse to comply with the order of September 27, 1963. Did that order meet the criterion of reasonableness? In the case of Spayd v. Ringing Rock Lodge, 270 Pa. 67, this Court said: "We have often said that the by-laws, rules and regulations of these artificial bodies will be enforced only when they are reasonable ; and they never can be adjudged reasonable when, as here, they would compel the citizen to lose his property rights in accumulated assets, or forego the exercise of other rights which are constitutionally inviolable. Defendant lodge is part of a beneficial organization, and there is a finding that plaintiff has a substantial property interest therein; under these circumstances, it will not do to say that he can freely regain full liberty of action, at any time, by disassociating himself from the order; but, even if he could, the rule, as construed by defendants, would still be discountenanced, and void in law." (Emphasis supplied.)

The defendant union argues that the plaintiffs could have regained their full liberty of action by withdrawing from the union. But a person's legal rights may not be summarily disposed of by saying to him that if you don't like our ship you may get off. No one has the right to impose a condition, the refusal to accept which will deny the refuser invested rights, -- property, as well as academic.

The plaintiffs have very valuable rights in their union. In the first place, union membership is a giltedged security for tenure. Membership entitles the member to ...


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