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SIPE v. LOCAL UNION NO. 191

March 19, 1975

Harry Sipe, Plaintiff,
v.
Local Union No. 191 , United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, et al., Defendants


Sheridan, D.J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHERIDAN

SHERIDAN, D.J.:

This action arises as a result of the removal of plaintiff from his office as Business Representative of Local 191, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners (Local), the imposition of a fine, and the prohibition to run for or to hold any Union office for three years. Plaintiff contends: the Union's adjudicative procedure was fraudulent and inadequate, both legally and within the context of the Union Constitution and Laws; the trial and review tribunals were biased; there was an unlawful conspiracy to violate plaintiff's rights under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (the LMRDA) and under the Union Constitution and Laws; and there was an unlawful conspiracy to deprive plaintiff of his employment as a carpenter. All individual defendants are charged with participation in each of these combinations, and through certain of them, the defendants Local and International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners (International) are also charged. Plaintiff claims that he was damaged in the following ways: loss of salary as a Business Representative and as a carpenter, loss of his right to qualify for a pension, prohibition against running for or holding union office, fine, anguish, humiliation, embarrassment and severe trauma to his nerves and nervous system. Plaintiff also seeks punitive damages.

 Each defendant has filed motions to dismiss under Rule 12. The primary question is whether the complaint states a claim.

 
". . . In appraising the sufficiency of the complaint we [should] follow . . . the accepted rule that a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 1957, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99.

 I. Federal Question Jurisdiction

 The only federal question jurisdiction rights here relevant which a plaintiff may seek to redress originally in a United States District Court under the LMRDA are those given in its Title I, sections 101, 102 and 609, 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 411, 412, 529. The first two are designated the labor "bill of rights" sections of the LMRDA and protect union members in their rights of free speech and elections and safeguard against improper disciplinary action. The third section prohibits disciplinary action against any union member for the exercise of his rights under the bill of rights. Section 102, 29 U.S.C.A. § 412, provides for a civil action in the United States District Court by any member whose § 101, 29 U.S.C.A. § 411, rights have been violated. See Grove v. Glass Bottle Blowers Ass'n, W.D. Pa. 1971, 329 F. Supp. 337.

 The other remedy, here irrelevant, created by the LMRDA is in Title IV, 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 481 and 482. There, Congress sought to affect the affairs of labor organizations. Section 401, 29 U.S.C.A. § 481, covers, inter alia, the election and removal of union officers while § 402, 29 U.S.C.A. § 482, provides an enforcement mechanism. Under this provision a member of a labor organization who feels aggrieved files a complaint with the Secretary of Labor setting forth the violation. After an investigation, the Secretary may bring suit in a district court. See McDonough v. Local 825 Operating Engineers, 3 Cir. 1972, 470 F.2d 261, 263-64. This mechanism, with one exception not here relevant, *fn1" is the exclusive method for protecting Title IV rights. *fn2" Calhoon v. Harvey, 1964, 379 U.S. 134, 140, 13 L. Ed. 2d 190, 85 S. Ct. 292.

 For subject matter jurisdiction, therefore, this inquiry must first address itself to whether the rights plaintiff alleges to have been violated are in Titles I or IV. Since this suit is brought by a member of a union, rather than the Secretary of Labor, it must find its jurisdictional basis in Title I.

 In Sheridan v. Carpenters Local 626, 3 Cir. 1962, 306 F.2d 152, in what has been accepted as the definitive statement of the law in this circuit, see Martire v. Laborers' Local 1058, 3 Cir. 1969, 410 F.2d 32, 35, cert. denied 1969, 396 U.S. 903, 90 S. Ct. 216, 24 L. Ed. 2d 179, the court held, "It is the union-member relationship, not the union-officer or union-employee relationship, that is protected" by Title I. 306 F.2d at 157. Thus, when a right of an individual as a union member is violated, Title I, properly invoked, provides jurisdiction, and the aggrieved member may become the plaintiff in a federal suit. On the other hand, when some other right -- such as an individual's rights as an employee or as an officer of a union -- is asserted to have been breached, some other jurisdictional nexus must be found. Sheridan v. Carpenters Local 626, supra, 306 F.2d at 156.

 Sheridan held that the removal of a business agent, prior to the expiration of his term, did not create a cause of action under Title I. *fn3"

 Martire adhered to this ruling. 410 F.2d at 35. This case went on to hold, however, the imposition of a penalty which barred a deposed union officer from again holding an office in the union for a period of years did affect his rights as a union member. Id.; accord, Schonfeld v. Penza, 2 Cir. 1973, 477 F.2d 899, 904. Thus, such a penalty provides a cause cognizable in a district court in a suit brought by the former officer.

 In addition, Martire also held that the imposition of a fine on a deposed officer, could under certain circumstances constitute an interference with his rights as a union member. The determinant, said the court, was whether the sanction for failure to pay the fine was expulsion. If so, the penalty would affect membership rights protected by Title I. 410 F.2d at 35.

 In the present case, plaintiff was removed from his position as business representative of the Local. This concededly could be the basis of a Title IV -- not Title I -- action. Additionally, however, plaintiff was barred from running for office for a period of three years and fined $100 on pain of expulsion. These, it is clear, do interfere with plaintiff's ...


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