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Pawlak v. Greenawalt

decided: August 20, 1980.

JOHN A. PAWLAK AND JAMES STAFFORD
v.
CHARLES E. GREENAWALT; LOCAL UNION NO. 764, TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS; TEAMSTERS JOINT COUNCIL NO. 53; AND INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA, CHARLES E. GREENAWALT AND LOCAL UNION NO. 764 TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS, APPELLANTS



ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA (C.A. No. 78-1035)

Before Adams, Van Dusen and Higginbotham, Circuit Judges.

Author: Adams

Opinion OF THE COURT

The principal issue presented on this appeal is whether the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 401-531 (1976), prevents a union from fining one of its members, pursuant to a provision in the union's constitution, for suing the union without first exhausting internal union procedures. The district court, in granting summary judgment for the plaintiffs, held that such a fine is invalid under the Act. We affirm.

I.

John Pawlak, a member of Local Union No. 764, Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen & Helpers, filed an action three years ago in the district court contesting a change in the working conditions at his place of employment. He alleged that his employer, in instituting the change, had violated the applicable collective bargaining agreement under which Pawlak worked. Pawlak further charged that Local 764 had violated its duty of fair representation by failing to process his grievance concerning the change in conditions. The district court dismissed the complaint on the ground that Pawlak had not exhausted internal union remedies before filing suit. Pawlak v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, Local Union No. 764, 444 F. Supp. 807 (M.D.Pa.1977); aff'd mem. 571 F.2d 572 (3d Cir. 1978).

Pawlak then attempted to pursue his grievance through the union's internal channels, but his charges were dismissed by the Executive Board of Local 764, and he did not pursue them further. Thereafter, Local 764 filed internal charges against Pawlak, accusing him of violating Article XIX § 6(1) and 12(b) of the Constitution of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.*fn1 Specifically, Pawlak was charged with having sued Local 764 without exhausting internal remedies, thereby causing the union to expend $2,635 defending the suit. Following a hearing before the Local Union Executive Board, Pawlak was fined the sum of $2,635. On appeal, both the Joint Council and General Executive Board of the Union affirmed the imposition of the fine.

On October 23, 1978, Pawlak and James Stafford, also a member of Local 764, filed a complaint in the district court against Local 764, Charles Greenawalt, President of the Local, the Teamsters Joint Council, and the International Union. The complaint challenged the validity of the fine on the grounds that: (1) the fine unlawfully limited Pawlak's right to sue under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act § 101(a)(4) and (2) Pawlak had been denied a fair hearing by the union tribunals. Pawlak and Stafford also sought injunctive relief against enforcement of § 12(b) of the Constitution of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, an order requiring that notice of the decision be published in the monthly International Teamsters magazine, and punitive damages.

The district court denied a motion by Local 764 and Greenawalt to dismiss Pawlak's complaint, although it did dismiss the fair hearing allegations. As to the latter point, the court believed that because the underlying facts were not in dispute, a transcript of the proceedings was not necessary for the court to decide whether Pawlak's statutory rights had been violated. Pawlak v. Greenawalt, 464 F. Supp. 1265, 1271 (M.D.Pa.1979).*fn2 Local 764 then filed a counterclaim seeking an order directing Pawlak to pay the fine of $2,635 that had been imposed.

All parties thereafter moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the plaintiffs' motion and denied the defendants' motion. Pawlak v. Greenawalt, 477 F. Supp. 149 (M.D.Pa.1979).

II.

Section 101(a)(4) of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(4) (1976), also referred to as the Landrum-Griffin Act, specifically protects the right of a union member to sue his union. The Act provides that:

No labor organization shall limit the right of any member thereof to institute an ...


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