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PACKER v. INTERNATIONAL BHD. OF TEAMSTERS

March 9, 1977

MELVIN PACKER and WILLIAM CHERILLA, Plaintiffs,
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA, LOCAL NO. 249, a Labor Organization, and RICHARD PELUSO, an officer of Local No. 249 and an individual, THOMAS L. FAGAN, an officer of Local No. 249 and an individual, and DAVID SCRAPCHANSKY, a member of Local 249 and an individual, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: TEITELBAUM

 This is an action for injunctive relief brought by plaintiffs Melvin Packer and William Cherilla under Sections 101, 102 and 609 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, 29 U.S.C. §§ 411, 412 and 529.

 Plaintiffs are members in good standing of defendant Local 249 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; they are also active members of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), a dissident rank and file Teamster organization which has been sharply critical of the Union leadership both on a national and local level.

 Packer and Cherilla currently are the focus of internal union disciplinary proceedings commenced pursuant to the filing of certain charges against them by one David Scrapchansky, a Union member named as an individual defendant herein. The essence of these charges is that plaintiffs violated the Union's International Constitution and By-Laws by making certain statements to local news media representatives on April 1, 1976, at the height of a nationwide freight strike called after expiration of the National Master Freight Agreement the preceding month.

 It appears that Scrapchansky's employer was one of those freight companies which had signed an interim agreement with a Teamster Local (here, Local 249) in order to avoid the strike. The charges preferred by Scrapchansky allege that plaintiffs' public and widely-disseminated statements of April 1 impermissibly operated to interfere with the valid collective bargaining agreement between his employer and Teamster Local 249 by causing employees covered by the contract to disregard their express no-strike obligations thereunder. *fn1"

 These charges were referred to a Union trial board constituted pursuant to the Teamster's International Constitution and By-Laws, scheduled for hearing and eventually heard. In compliance with this Court's request, the Union has refrained from issuing any decision or imposing any possible punishment with respect to this matter pending resolution of the federal lawsuit sub judice.

 It is thus apparent from the posture of this case that plaintiffs do not ask the Court to review an adverse decision of the Union's trial board or to enjoin the imposition of any sanctions that might flow therefrom. Rather, plaintiffs ask that the Court, inter alia, enjoin the internal trial board proceedings themselves, and thereby judicially preclude the Union from hearing and determining the charges filed against Packer and Cherilla.

 Plaintiffs argue entitlement to such injunctive relief on three grounds: first, that plaintiffs' public statements are patently protected by the free speech provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(2), and therefore cannot constitute the basis of Union disciplinary proceedings; second, that procedural aspects of the internal proceedings involving plaintiffs offend those traditional concepts of due process embodied in 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(5); *fn2" and third, that certain pertinent sections of the Union Constitution and By-Laws are "broad, vague, ill-defined and inconsistent" with 29 U.S.C. § 411, and are therefore without force or effect under 29 U.S.C. § 411(b).

 I have examined these arguments carefully and with a necessary regard for the fact that a paramount right -- that of free speech -- is here in issue. It is incumbent upon me to state candidly that serious questions have been raised concerning both the Union's right to discipline plaintiffs for the subject statements and the procedural adequacy of this specific trial board hearing. *fn3" Such questions notwithstanding, however, I have concluded that it would not be appropriate at this juncture for a federal court to intervene in this controversy. In my view, the instant lawsuit is premature; accordingly, we do not reach or determine the merits of plaintiffs' complaint.

 Section 101(a)(4) of LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(4), provides as follows:

 
" Protection of the Right to Sue. No labor organization shall limit the right of any member thereof to institute an action in any court, or in a proceeding before any administrative agency, irrespective of whether or not the labor organization or its officers are named as defendants or respondents in such action or proceeding, or the right of any member of a labor organization to appear as a witness in any judicial, administrative, or legislative proceeding, or to petition any legislature or to communicate with any legislator: Provided, that any such member may be required to exhaust reasonable hearing procedures (but not to exceed a 4-month lapse of time) within such organization before instituting legal or administrative proceedings against such organizations or any officer thereof. . . ." (Emphasis added.)

 There has been no evidence presented in the instant case to indicate that plaintiffs have taken any action within the procedures available to them under the Union Constitution challenging the propriety or fairness of the internal hearing on the charges filed against them by Scrapchansky.

 I do not agree. As to satisfaction of the exhaustion requirement in this case, I do not think it enough absent an adverse decision by the Union trial board that a hearing on Scrapchansky's charges was not held within the four-month period. If the exhaustion clause is to be at all meaningful, it must be deemed to contemplate at least some affirmative action or complaint by plaintiffs within the intra-Union framework prior to resort to the federal courts. Here, all that has transpired is that plaintiffs have waited more than four months for a hearing on Scrapchansky's charges. No trial board decision has issued and plaintiffs have lodged no formal internal challenge ...


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