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FORD v. METROPOLITAN DIST. COUNCIL OF PHILADELPHIA

December 29, 1970

Linwood T. Ford, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
Metropolitan District Council of Philadelphia and Vicinity of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Defendant


Troutman, D.J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: TROUTMAN

The plaintiffs, members of Local 845 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and also members of the defendant District Council, in their own behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated, seek an injunction restraining the defendant from collecting dues from the plaintiffs and other members and seeking damages and other appropriate relief. They contend that dues have been increased without a majority vote by secret ballot in violation of and as required by Section 101 and Section 102 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (Landrum-Griffin Act), 29 U.S.C. §§ 411 and 412. Pertinent to this case, that Act provides that labor organization dues payable by members thereof shall not be increased or levied except by a majority vote by secret ballot at an appropriate meeting or by a majority vote in a membership referendum conducted by secret ballot. A referendum by secret ballot was here used. *fn1"

 
"(1) Shall the District Council negotiate a new 3-year agreement with a wage increase of at least $1.00 per hour plus a 2% gross wage assessment?"

 The single issue thus presented contained multiple questions. The voter was faced with a package proposition which presented a dilemma. He could not approve the negotiation of a wage increase without simultaneously approving a two per cent assessment against his wages. He could not reject a wage assessment without rejecting a wage increase. The issue was so framed as to preclude a meaningful vote on the dues issue alone. The Court so held.

 Here, an extended and elaborate letter (Exhibit B attached to the complaint) was submitted to each member explaining in detail the wage increase already negotiated by the defendant Council with the General Building Contractors. It further explained that General Building Contractors had agreed to a "dues check-off" and that such a 5 cent check-off" was designed to eliminate an increase in "per capita tax", to eliminate a possible nine-dollar increase in monthly dues and equitably relieve unemployed and pensioned members of the burden of paying higher dues. *fn2" Having thus been informed in detail as to the wage package and the dues check-off and its purpose, it becomes crystal-clear that there was no intent to mislead the membership in the submission of the ballot. The purpose of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (29 U.S.C. § 411) is to assure that labor organizations adhere to the highest standard of responsibility and ethical conduct in administering the affairs of their organizations. Brooks v. Local No. 30, D.C., 187 F. Supp. 365, 367 (1960). The letter addressed to the membership (Exhibit B) reflects a great deal of effort, thought and attention designed to fully inform the membership and facilitate the casting of an intelligent ballot.

 The ballot itself (Exhibit A attached to plaintiffs' complaint) again makes reference to the wage package, the details of the increase, the date of each increase, vacation benefits, health and welfare benefits, fringe benefits, etc., and a "District Council Field Dues Check-off of 5 cents per hour worked effective May 1, 1969".

 Then follows the first issue or question as follows (Exhibit A):

 
To Vote For the Agreement Outlined Above Place "X" in Proper Place as Per Your Choice
 
Yes () No ()

 Had the ballot contained nothing more, the voting member might well have been faced with a situation similar to that existing in the Sertic case, supra. However, to formalize and effect the actual "check-off" of dues, an amendment to the By-laws of the District Council (Exhibit E attached to plaintiffs' complaint) was required and, accordingly, a second question appeared on the ballot as follows:

 
BY-LAW REFERENDUM
 
Your Delegates to the District Council voted unanimously in favor of changing our By-laws to provide for the Field Dues Check-off. If you accept the above Agreement, do you also vote to ...

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