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COLLINS v. PENNSYLVANIA TEL. UNION

June 28, 1976

Frances Collins, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Pennsylvania Telephone Union, Local No. 1944, IBEW, AFL-CIO, and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO, Defendants


Weber, J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER

This is an action by local union officers and other members against their local and international union brought under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (hereinafter "LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. Two plaintiffs were officers who were removed from office after a trial in accordance with the union constitution. The decision of the union's International Vice President barred them from seeking office for two years. After this suit was filed, the union's International President restored their eligibility to run for office but sustained the removal. All plaintiffs seek injunctive relief by way of restoration to office, declaratory relief, and compensatory damages.

 Defendants move for Partial Summary Judgment on the issue of injunctive relief on the grounds that (1) the action is now moot and, (2) Collins and Preston are not entitled to be restored to office.

 At its root, the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment presents the issue of whether the removal of a union officer from her office is actionable under § 609 of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C.A. § 529, which makes it illegal to "fine, expel . . or otherwise discipline " a member for exercising any of the rights guaranteed by the Act.

 The decisions of the Third Circuit demand that the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted.

 In Sheridan v. United Brotherhood of Carpenters, 306 F.2d 152 (3d Cir. 1962), Sheridan was the elected business agent of a local union for a two year term. Sheridan was removed from office after a trial before the Union trial committee on the grounds of injuring the reputation of a fellow union member by having him arrested for assault and voted to remove Sheridan from office.

 The Circuit Court held that the LMRDA provides no protection to the "union-officer" relationship. The court specifically emphasized the removal of an officer for disciplinary reasons as a distinguishing factor.

 
Our inquiry on this score is therefore narrowed to the question whether the removal of plaintiff from office was a form of "discipline" as that term is used in Section 609. As earlier noted, the Section declares it unlawful for a labor organization to "fine, suspend, expel, or otherwise discipline any of its members" for exercising a right protected by the Act. The word "discipline" is not defined in the statute. This term appears to have been selected as a catchall to cover various sanctions other than fine, suspension, and expulsion. But to say that a word is a catchall does not "define what it catches." Flora v. United States, 362 U.S. 145, 149, 80 S. Ct. 630, 4 L. Ed. 2d 623 (1960).
 
The language of the Section affords no support for the view that the term "discipline" encompasses removal from office. The three disciplinary sanctions that are specifically enumerated in that section -- fine, suspension and expulsion -- manifest an intention by Congress to protect members qua members. Removal from office, on the other hand, is a sanction that can be directed only against the limited group of members who happen to be officers. We see no violation of Section 609 in plaintiff's removal from his office.
 
Neither does Section 101(a)(4), the right-to-sue provision, support plaintiff's claim that the Act protects his status as an officer. Section 101(a)(4) is part of Title I of the Act. This title, captioned "Bill of Rights of Members of Labor Organizations" and particularly Section 101, are designed to protect the rights of union members. The rights are repeatedly described as the rights of "any member" or "every member ". No mention is made of rights of union officers or employees. It is of particular interest to note that the right-to-sue provision of the bill that was originally passed by the Senate provided that a labor organization shall not limit "the right of any member or officer thereof to institute an action in any court * * * (emphasis added). (footnotes omitted).
 
Thus, neither under the "Bill of Rights" provisions of Title I, nor under Section 609 proscribing disciplinary sanctions against union members, is plaintiff's status as business agent protected by the Act. It is the union-member relationship, not the union-officer or union-employee relationship that is protected. 306 F.2d at 156-7.

 In Martire v. Laborers' Union No. 1058, 410 F.2d 32 (3rd Cir. 1969) cert. denied, 396 U.S. 903, 90 S. Ct. 216, 24 L. Ed. 2d 179. Martire was a member and business manager of the defendant Union and an elected union delegate. Martire was tried by the Union trial board for "negligence and incompetence" in discharging his duties as business manager. The Union Trial Board found Martire guilty as charged and suspended him from his position as business manager of the Local ...


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