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ROTA v. BROTHERHOOD OF RY.

January 18, 1972

Henry Rota, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Brotherhood of Railway, Airline And Steamship Clerks et al., Defendants


Higginbotham, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: HIGGINBOTHAM

Background

 HIGGINBOTHAM, District Judge.

 Plaintiff is in the unenviable position of having pled a cause of action but having failed to establish that he may pursue his cause of action in this district. He claims that the defendant union has, in a most flagrant manner, breached that Bill of Rights which was written into the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. Plaintiff's substantive allegations, if true, clearly establish a breach of § 101 (29 U.S.C. § 411), but he must pursue his claim in another forum because of the venue requirements of § 102 (29 U.S.C. § 412).

 Plaintiff starts his scholarly brief by noting a Congressional Report which states:

 
"The relationship of the leaders of . . . some trade unions to their members has in some instances become impersonal and autocratic. In some cases men who have acquired positions of power and responsibility within unions have abused their power and forsaken their responsibilities to the membership and to the public". (H.R. Rep. on Landrum Griffin Act, 86 U.S. Code Cong. & Ad. News p. 2428 (1956))

 But, though the Congressional Committees were "shocked . . . at the corruption, greed and abuse of power found in parts of the American labor movement" ( Nelson v. Johnson, 212 F. Supp. 233 (1963) commenting on Sen. Rep. No. 187, 86 Cong. 1st Session, pp. 5-7, 1959), that same Congress did not give plaintiff the venue rights he now needs. Thus, Congress limited his right, under the facts of this case, to prosecute his claim to either Illinois, the principal office of the international union, or at Miami, Florida, where the Convention took place.

 In his behalf and purportedly for thousands of other union members, plaintiff claims that his "labor Bill of Rights" was breached flagrantly by events which took place at the twenty-fourth regular and tenth quadrennial convention of the Brotherhood of Railway, Airline and Steamship Clerks (hereinafter referred to as BRAC). The BRAC convention was held from May 24 through May 28, 1971, at Miami Beach, Florida; the principal office of BRAC, an international union, is 6300 River Road, Rosemont, Illinois. Henry Rota, the plaintiff, is a member of Victory Lodge 2151 (hereinafter referred to as the local lodge, or "local") of BRAC, brings this action on his own behalf individually and as a class action pursuant to rule 23 of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; plaintiff is a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 Pursuant to Article 7, Section 1, of its Constitution, BRAC conducts its regular convention every four years, where matters of the utmost importance affecting the entire membership of over 200,000 are decided. Voting at the regular convention is conducted by a weighted voting system, whereby a voting delegate casts not only his vote, but the representational strength and size of his local membership. At the Miami Convention there were 1,235 delegates. They had been elected pursuant to the provisions of Article 6, Section 2(a) of BRAC's Constitution, which provides:

 
"Lodges of one hundred and fifty (150) or more members shall be entitled to elect one (1) delegate and one (1) alternate. The delegate to have the voting power of the lodge electing him, based on one (1) vote for the first one hundred and fifty (150) members and one (1) additional vote for each additional one hundred and fifty (150) members or major fraction thereof."

 Thus, all delegates had a voting power commensurate with the size of their local lodge's total active membership.

 Plaintiff maintains that on or about Friday afternoon May 28, 1971, at the Regular Convention a motion to amend the BRAC Constitution to increase the membership dues from the present $5.50 to $12.00 by July 1, 1973 was rejected at the Convention and was resubmitted to committee. Later, on Friday evening May 28, 1971, the motion to increase dues was again presented to the delegates in amended form which provided for a minimum increase to $11.00 per month, effective July 1, 1971.

 Plaintiff further alleges that the latter dues increase was "gavelled" through in an undemocratic and dictatorial fashion, in violation of Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, popularly known as the "Landrum-Griffin Act", specifically, Title I, Section 101, 29 United States Code, Section 411 (a)(3)(b). *fn1" Plaintiff asserts that a roll call should have been taken but was refused by International President and Convention Chairman, C.L. Dennis. Defendants deny that such a roll call was required under the specific provisions of the BRAC constitution; on the contrary they argue that the "Special Convention" rule 14(b), gave the Chair the power to call a roll call vote at any time, but required a two-thirds vote of the delegates to hold a roll call against the wishes of the Chair.

 II.

 Jurisdiction and Venue

 A. Cause of Action

 Plaintiff has asserted his Cause of Action under Section 101 (29 United States Code § 411(a)(3)(B), which reads in pertinent part:

 
"Equal rights. -- Every member of a labor organization shall have equal rights and privileges within such organization to nominate candidates, to vote in elections or referendums of the labor organization, to attend membership meetings, and to participate in the deliberations and voting upon the business of such meetings, subject to reasonable rules and regulations in such organization's constitution and bylaws.
 
(3) Dues, initiation fees, and assessments. -- Except in the case of a federation of national or international labor organizations, the rates of dues and initiation fees payable by members of any labor organization in effect on September 14, 1959 shall not be increased, and no general or special assessment shall be levied upon such members, except --

 Section (a)(1) of this section, the so-called "Bill of Rights" section, is an attempt to guarantee to each member an active and real voice in the decisional process of his Union. The purpose of this subsection is to preserve and protect a Union member's right to determine the amount of dues that he will pay; Subsection delineates the methods by which an international union can lawfully increase its dues, that is, "by majority vote of the delegates voting at a regular convention", or majority vote of the membership on a referendum conducted by secret ballot.

 This section was thoroughly discussed in American Federation of Musicians v. Wittstein, 379 U.S. 171, 85 S. Ct. 300, 13 L. Ed. 2d 214 (1964). The issue in Wittstein was whether or not Section 101(a)(3)(B) prohibited the use of a weighted voting ...


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