only over suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization... "The collective bargaining agreement and the arbitration which resulted therefrom constituted no more than a backdrop for the plaintiffs' claims...
Medlin v. Boeing Vertol Co., No. 79-1027, slip op. at 8-10 (3d Cir. April 22, 1980).
However, in the case at bar plaintiff has alleged a breach of the collective bargaining agreement. Although the breach could have been more artfully pleaded, plaintiff did allege that the unions "failed to adequately represent [him] in his grievance... as set forth in the collective bargaining agreement". This statement alleged a breach of a duty implied by law into the collective bargaining agreement.
Hence, charging the unions with unfair representation sufficiently alleged a breach of the collective bargaining agreement. Adams and Leskiw, cited by defendants as controlling authority, established a standard for completely different situations. Plaintiffs in those cases complained that the unions failed to represent them adequately during contractual negotiations. Here, by contrast, plaintiff did not allege that the collective bargaining agreement did not adequately reflect his interests; rather, he alleged a failure on behalf on the union to comply with the terms of the existing agreement. In other words, plaintiff did not complain that the bargain struck failed to protect his rights and interests. Instead he charged that the union racially discriminated against him in performing or failing to perform its duties under the existing contract. An allegation of this type supports a § 301(a) action.
However, plaintiff's failure to exhaust internal union remedies bars reaching the merits of his claim. Generally, a union member charging unfair representation
must exhaust available internal union remedies prior to filing suit against the union. Brady v. Trans World Airlines, 401 F.2d 87 (3d Cir. 1968), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 1048 (1969), Hubicki v. ACF Industries, Inc., 484 F.2d 519 (3d Cir. 1973). Of course, under extraordinary circumstances or where exhaustion would be futile, this requirement is excused. Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171 (1967), Aldridge v. Ludwig-Honold Manufacturing Company, 385 F.Supp. 695 (E.D. Pa. 1974), aff'd, 517 F.2d 1397 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 937 (1975).
Dezura v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 470 F. Supp. 121, 124 (E.D. Pa. 1979), aff'd, 612 F.2d 571 (3d Cir. 1980). Exhaustion is also excused where internal union remedies are inadequate. Kobielnik v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 470 F. Supp. 125 (E.D. Pa. 1979).
Plaintiff does not contest the adequacy any availability of internal union remedies. Article 33 of the International Union Constitution sets forth both the available substantive internal union remedies and the procedures required to pursue them. Article 33 permits an aggrieved member to appeal to the membership of his local union
, and if unsuccessful, to appeal to the International Union's Executive Board
A further appeal lies with the Appeals Committee of the Constitutional Convention or the independent Public Review Board.
Throughout this entire appeals procedure the aggrieved union member may retain and be represented by counsel, produce witnesses, submit briefs and present evidence
In short, the internal appeal procedures of the International Union appeal full and fair. Not surprisingly, several courts have so hold.
Contending, however, that the futility of pursuing his internal union remedies excused the requirement plaintiff pointed to supposed hostility of union officers and delay in pressing his grievance. Plaintiff also complained that union officials told "fish stories" and did not prepare plaintiff adequately for hearings.Complete satisfaction with the degree of representation union members receive can hardly be expected in every case. The pertinent question, however, is not whether a union member feels content with the manner is which the union handled the matter; rather, the inquiry focuses on whether the union acted in bad faith. And even assuming union officers treated plaintiff discriminatority because of his race and deliberately procrastinated in acting upon his complaint, plaintiff still had the duty to exhaust the appeal procedure. Plaintiff contractually bound himself to do so when he joined the union. Aldridge v. Ludwig-Honold Manufacturing Company, 385 F. Supp. 695 (E.D. Pa. 1974), aff'd, 517 F.2d 1397 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 937 (1975). Just because local officers and members may shelter loathsome racial prejudices does not mean that the appellate union bodies feel likewise. Plaintiff's claim of racial discrimination is just the type of situation for which unions created appellate bodies, to provide a neutral forum manumiatted from the invective of a possibly hostile workplace and the peccadillos of possibly bigoted supervisors and colleagues. In other words, "animus by the local union cannot be imputed to the international body". Dezura v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 470 F. Supp. at 124. Plaintiff never gave the international union an opportunity to hear or act upon his grievance. Nor has plaintiff alleged or offered any direct evidence of such hostility by the international union. Plaintiff never embarked upon an available and adequate avenue of redress. In fact, he never even attempted to initiate the first step of the internal union procedure. To accept plaintiff's proffered excuse would allow him to act as a self-appointed judge and jury deciding the merits of his own charges against the unions. Sanctioning plaintiff's circumvention of this requirement also permits him to rewrite his contractual duties and responsibilities unilaterally. By sidestepping these procedures plaintiff deprived the appellate union bodies of an opportunity to resolve an intraorganizational dispute without the delay, expense and harrassment of litigation. Plaintiff wrenched from their control a chance to continue a uniform method for the orderly settlement of employee grievances.
These inauspicious consequences further undermine the "strong federal policy of judicial deference to a labor organization's prior opportunity to resolve internal disputes". Dezura v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 470 F. Supp. at 125. Accordingly, the union's motion for summary judgment will be granted.
AND NOW, this 12th day of June, 1980, IT IS ORDERED that the motion for summary judgment by defendants International Union, United Automobile Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America and Local 677 is GRANTED.