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KLEPPICK v. PENNSYLVANIA TEL. GUILD

March 19, 1986

CINDY KLEPPICK, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA TELEPHONE GUILD, GALE DREVES, JAMES BRYNE, JOHN ZAWACKIS, JOHN PETRINI, FRANCES ROTKISKE, and DIANA McCRACKEN, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SIMMONS

PAUL A. SIMMONS, United States District Judge.

 MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

 I. Introduction

 This cause was heard on motion for a temporary and permanent injunction at hearings on October 8, and 15, 1985. Plaintiffs seek to enjoin a referendum presented to members of the Defendant Pennsylvania Telephone Guild (PTG) on the question of whether the PTG should or should not affiliate with the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

 Pursuant to the agreement of the parties and approval of this Court, said referendum was submitted to the PTG membership on October 9, 1985. The ballots, however, were not counted and were immediately impounded pending the outcome of this case.

 II. Procedural Background

 On October 2, 1985, Plaintiffs filed a complaint along with a motion for preliminary injunction in the above-captioned case. The complaint is based on §§ 101, 102 and 501 of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, 29 U.S.C., §§ 411, 412 and 501 *fn1" and essentially seeks to enjoin the referendum on CWA affiliation or any other referendum and also seeks to enjoin the counting of any ballots which resulted from the referendum of October 9, 1985, unless and until the PTG made full disclosure of all material facts to PTG members and until PTG complied with all applicable provisions of the PTG Constitution. Plaintiffs further prayed that this court award them compensatory damages, punitive damages, and reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

 A status quo was thus created, preserving to plaintiffs their right to pursue their claim in this Court without prejudice, while, at the same time, the defendants' alleged right to have a referendum was not infringed.

 On October 15, 1985, a full hearing was held on the merits of this case. At the October 15th hearing the parties proffered extensive evidential materials, including exhibits and depositions and affidavits of parties and witnesses. On the basis of all the evidence and arguments of counsel this Court will now proceed to consider the issues presented.

 III. Undisputed Facts

 The PTG is a Pennsylvania union of telephone workers with approximately 3,800 members which has existed since the 1940's. In early 1985, the leadership of the PTG entertained and considered affiliation proposals from the CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). After meeting with representatives of both unions and negotiating affiliation proposals with both unions, the PTG Executive Board, consisting of the six individual defendants in this action, decided to recommend that the membership of the PTG affiliate with the CWA.

 The question of whether the CWA affiliation agreement should be put to a referendum vote of the membership was discussed at regional division council meetings. The Western Regional Division council meeting was held on July 10, 1985, at the Northway Mall on McKnight Road near Pittsburgh. In attendance at this meeting were Plaintiffs Carol Coultas, Mary Palfy and Mary Ann Pranic. Mary Palfy attended the meeting in the place of Plaintiff Cindy Kleppick who was ill. All three of the plaintiffs in attendance at the meeting and, in fact, all of the Western Division representatives voted that the CWA affiliation proposal be put to a referendum vote. (Defendants' Exhibit 7) Similarly, all of the Union's regional divisions authorized the Executive Board to proceed with the referendum vote. (Defendants' Exhibits 3 & 4) The vote was then scheduled for October 9, 1985, in order to give the membership ample opportunity to be informed on the relevant issues and to debate the wisdom of affiliation with the CWA.

 Thereafter, pursuant to the authorization of the Western Division Council and other regional division councils and pursuant to the PTG Constitution, the Executive Board began to make preparations for the affiliation referendum vote and to disseminate information. Each member was mailed a copy of the affiliation agreement along with explanations of various provisions. (Defendants' Exhibit 13) A number of subsequent mailings by the Executive Board specifically addressed the proposed dues increase and further explained various provisions of the proposed agreement. (Defendants' Exhibits 5 and 40) The Executive Board also distributed copies of the rejected IBEW affiliation agreement so that the members could consider it when making their decision about affiliation with CWA. The PTG Division leaders attended a series of meetings and received additional mailings with information about the affiliation proposal so that they could be in a position to explain the affiliation proposal to the membership and to answer questions. (Defendants' Exhibits 11, 15, 23) All of the plaintiffs, with the exception of Plaintiff Palfy who was not a division chairperson, attended such meetings, and participated in the discussions. There were also a series of membership meetings where the PTG members had the opportunity to meet with union leadership to discuss the CWA proposal and to ask questions.

 When it appeared to the plaintiffs and the IBEW that their attempts at persuasion of the members and their attempts at delaying the Union's democratic process were doomed to fail, the IBEW agreed to finance this lawsuit against the PTG and the six members of the Executive Board. (Defendants' Exhibit 25).

 The plaintiffs then brought this action requesting that the referendum on CWA affiliation be enjoined. The complaint also leveled serious charges of bad faith, fraud, illicit expenditures of union funds and breaches of fiduciary duty against the six individual defendants.

 IV. Discussion

 Plaintiffs base their claims primarily on two separate statutes, both of which are part of the Landrum-Griffin Act, or the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). The first, 29 U.S.C. § 411(a) provides in pertinent part:

 
§ 411. Bill of rights; constitution and bylaws of labor organizations
 
(a)(1) Equal rights. Every member of a labor organization shall have equal rights and privileges within such organization to nominate candidates, to vote in elections or referendums of the labor organization, to attend membership meetings, and to participate in the deliberations and voting upon business of such meetings, subject to reasonable rules and regulations in such organization's constitution and bylaws.
 
(2) Freedom of speech and assembly. Every member of any labor organization shall have the right to meet and assemble freely with other members; and to express any views, arguments, or opinions; and to express at meetings of the labor organization his views, upon candidates in an election of the labor organization or upon any business properly before the meeting, subject to the organization's established and reasonable rules pertaining to the conduct of meetings: Provided, that nothing herein shall be construed to impair the right of a labor organization to adopt and enforce reasonable rules as to the responsibility of every member ...

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