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HART v. USW

November 13, 1972

William J. Hart et al., Plaintiffs
v.
United Steelworkers of America et al., Defendants


McCune, D.J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCCUNE

MCCUNE, D.J.:

This is a suit for injunctive relief brought by two prospective candidates for International elective office of the 1,400,000 member United Steelworkers of America (hereafter the Union). They seek to enjoin the enforcement of a provision of the Union constitution which would prevent their candidacies because of their age contending that the constitution violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621-634, *fn1" (hereafter the Act).

 Plaintiff William J. Hart is presently the Director of District 19 of the Union and desires to run for the office of International President. Plaintiff Paul A. Stackhouse is currently a Staff Representative of the Union in District 19 and seeks to run for the office of Director of District 19.

 International elections are held every four years and the next election is scheduled to be held on February 13, 1973. According to the constitution's election timetable, *fn2" nomination certificates will be sent by the International Secretary-Treasurer's office to the Locals by November 14, 1972, and must be returned to the International Secretary-Treasurer's office by the Locals by December 15, 1972. Plaintiffs and defendant both agree that the end of the "nominating period" referred to in Article IV, Section 3 *fn3" is December 15, 1972.

 Plaintiff Hart will become 65 years of age on December 7, 1972, and plaintiff Stackhouse will reach 65 on December 8, 1972. Since both will become 65 before the end of the "nominating period" (December 15, 1972) Union President I.W. Abel has ruled that under Article IV, Section 3, they are ineligible to become candidates for the offices they seek.

  Plaintiffs argue that since they can theoretically, if not in fact, secure the number of nominations they need to become candidates *fn4" before they turn 65 (i.e., between November 14 and December 7 and 8 respectively) they should be permitted to run. They contend that the Union by not permitting them to run is acting in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act since they are being denied an employment opportunity because of their age.

 The threshold question which we must consider is whether the coverage of the Act extends to the plaintiffs. There is no dispute that the Union falls under the provisions of § 623(c) and that running for an International office is an "employment opportunity" for purposes of § 623(c) (2). Section 631, however, specifies that the Act is intended to cover only persons in the 40 to 65 year old age category. *fn5" We think that this section effectively denies plaintiffs the protection of the Act.

 This is the same interpretation of the Act given by the Solicitor of Labor on behalf of the Secretary of Labor. In a letter to the plaintiffs dated October 13, 1972, the Solicitor concluded that:

 
" . . . the Age Discrimination in Employment Act does not cover persons 65 and over. Since Mr. Hart and Mr. Stackhouse will both be 65 before February, 1973, the earliest time they could take office, the age limitation on eligibility for nomination contained in the Union's Constitution does not result in a substantive violation of the Act. Under these circumstances, the Secretary must decline to give the notifications or to initiate the conciliation procedures provided by section 7(d) (§ 626) of the Act." Letter from Paul A. Schubert, Solicitor of Labor, to Paul A. Simmons, Esq., Attorney for plaintiffs, a copy of which is attached to plaintiffs' complaint.

 This ruling by the Secretary of Labor is entitled to be given great weight by the court in deciding the proper interpretation of the Act, especially where, as here, the case is one of first impression:

 
When faced with a problem of statutory construction, this Court shows great deference to the interpretation given the statute by the officers or agency charged with its administration. . . . "Particularly is this respect due when the administrative practice at stake 'involves a contemporaneous construction of a statute by the men charged with the responsibility of setting its machinery in motion, of making the parts work efficiently and smoothly while they are yet untried and new.'" Udall v. Tallman, 380 U.S. 1, 16, 13 L. Ed. 2d 616, 85 S. Ct. 792 (1965), quoting Power Reactor v. Electricians, 367 U.S. 396, 408, 81 S. Ct. 1529, 6 L. Ed. 2d 924 (1961).

 We think the Secretary's ruling is correct.

 Nevertheless even if § 631 did not remove this case from the operation of the act, we do not think plaintiffs have a good cause of action. Plaintiffs argue that they should be treated as "applicants" for the union offices and urge us to rule that since they could conceivably "qualify" for jobs (i.e. secure the requisite number of Local nominations to be certified as a candidate) before turning 65 they cannot be discriminated against in the "hiring" process even though they will be 65 when they begin work.


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