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PAWLAK v. INTERNATIONAL BHD. OF TEAMSTERS

April 26, 1977

John A. Pawlak, et al., Plaintiff
v.
International Brotherhood Of Teamsters, Local 764, et al., Defendants


Muir, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MUIR

Currently pending is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, Local Union No. 764 (the "Local"). For purposes of the motion, the Court will accept as true all well-pleaded allegations contained in the Complaint and will construe it in the light most favorable to Plaintiff Pawlak in order to determine whether, under any circumstances, he might be entitled to relief. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 94 S. Ct. 1683, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90 (1974); Helstoski v. Goldstein, 552 F.2d 564 (3d Cir. 1976). Consequently, any statement of fact contained in this Opinion indicates only that it has been well-pleaded, not that it has been proven.

 Pawlak belongs to the Local and drives truck "over the road" for Defendant Interstate Motor Freight System, Inc., a trucking concern engaged in interstate commerce. Pawlak also holds the position of "shop steward" for the over-the-road drivers represented by the Local and employed by Interstate at its terminal located near the intersection of U.S. Route 15 and Interstate 80 in Union County, Pennsylvania and known as the White Deer terminal. In this action under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, Pawlak seeks preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, costs, attorney's fees, and "such other and further relief as may be deemed to be just and proper".

 On April 1, 1976, the Local and Interstate consummated a collective bargaining contract known as the "National Master Freight Agreement and Central Pennsylvania Over-the-Road Cartage Supplemental Agreement" (hereinafter "NMFA"), which continues to cover the over-the-road drivers at the foregoing terminal. Under Article 6, § 1 of the NMFA, which provides that all conditions of employment relating to "general working conditions" are to be ". . . maintained at not less than the highest standards in effect at the time of the signing of this Agreement . . .", a September 25, 1975 "Method of Dispatch" agreed to by the Local and Interstate remained in effect.

 In March, 1976, Interstate broached a new Method of Dispatch to the Local's officers. However, in August, 1976 and October, 1976, the rank-and-file voted not to accept the company's proposal.

 In November, 1976, the Local's President, Charles E. Greenawalt unilaterally executed a new Method of Dispatch with Interstate in complete disregard of the prior balloting and § 26 of the Local's By-Laws, which requires ratification by the membership of such action. Implementation of the new dispatch procedures violated Article 6, § 1 of the NMFA by lowering the general working conditions which were in effect under the September 25, 1975 Method.

 Pawlak alleges that the Local breached its duty of fair representation by consummating the November, 1976 Method of Dispatch agreement in violation of the Local's By-Laws, by participating in a violation of the NMFA, and by failing to prosecute his grievance. Pawlak charges Interstate with a violation of the NMFA for its part in the creation of the new Method of Dispatch. Pawlak contends that the Defendants' action "seriously threatens and jeopardizes the amicable relations theretofore existing between the parties" and inflicts on him and other over-the-road drivers "immediate and irreparable harm and injury far beyond the loss of money involved". The areas affected by the new Method of Dispatch are ". . . right to exercise seniority, free time, classification, availability of required time after rest, regulation of foreign drivers, earnings, bid days, time off, service time, trip choice, combination runs, method of choosing trip, and earning power."

 In order to maintain a Section 301 suit against his employer based on an alleged breach of the collective bargaining agreement, a union member must fully utilize the contract's grievance and arbitration procedures. Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 184-185, 17 L. Ed. 2d 842, 87 S. Ct. 903 (1967); Hubicki v. ACF Industries, Inc., 484 F.2d 519 (3rd Cir. 1973). Repudiation of the grievance procedure by the employer or refusal to process a grievance by a Union which controls the procedural machinery excuses a plaintiff's failure to exhaust. Pawlak contends that he falls within the second exception.

 The Local's rejection of Pawlak's grievance frustrated his initial efforts to challenge the new Method of Dispatch through the channels created by the NMFA. However, he was not justified in immediately filing this action. Whenever a union member has been mistreated by his bargaining representative, he must also avail himself of his intra-union remedies before turning to the courts for relief. Cf. Brady v. Trans World Airlines, 401 F.2d 87, 104 (3rd Cir. 1968), cert. den. 393 U.S. 1048, 89 S. Ct. 680, 21 L. Ed. 2d 691 (1969); Ruzicka v. General Motors Corp., 523 F.2d 306, 311 (6th Cir. 1975); Imel v. Zohn Mfg. Co., 481 F.2d 181, 184 (10th Cir. 1973), cert. den. 415 U.S. 915, 39 L. Ed. 2d 469, 94 S. Ct. 1411 (1974). Pawlak has made no attempt whatsoever to challenge the flouting of his grievance by invoking the steps through which a rank-and-file employee can bring charges against a local Union officer. See International Constitution Article XIX and the Local's By-Laws, § 20. To rationalize his omission, Pawlak cites the International Union's bias, the prejudice inflicted by a delay, his ignorance of the procedures, and the inadequacy of the available remedies.

 If every union member who disagreed with some action taken by a local union official could invoke the alleged unfairness of the international union to rationalize his failure to follow intra-union avenues of relief, the exhaustion of remedies doctrine would be emasculated. Federal labor policy, which precludes premature judicial interference with the internal affairs of a labor organization, Cf. Brady v. Trans World Airlines, 401 F.2d 87, 104 (3d Cir. 1968), cert. den. 393 U.S. 1048, (1969), implicitly sanctions such self-regulation by unions, notwithstanding the wholly plausible argument that the union's upper echelon is predisposed to favor local officers over members.

 Pawlak's allegations of irreparable injury do not suffice to convince the Court that he is without an adequate remedy at law. Certainly, money damages can rectify much of the alleged prejudice. His other purported injuries -- the loss of certain "fringe benefits" and work-related amenities -- if in fact not compensable in dollars, are not substantial enough to overcome the policy considerations which militate against this Court's jurisdiction. Consequently, the delay attendant Pawlak's pursuit of the Union channels will not inflict irreparable harm.

 A fine or suspension of Local President Greenawalt for his refusal to process the grievance would be inadequate to rectify Pawlak's underlying complaint -- the new Method of Dispatch. The intra-union relief available to him is not, however, so limited. In addition to being fined or suspended, a local officer may be commanded ". . . to do or perform, or refrain from doing or performing, specified acts", which would include the processing of a grievance. International Constitution, Article XIX, Section 9(a). Therefore, the Union's internal ...


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