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MAOILO v. KLIPA

March 11, 1987

Vincent A. Maoilo, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
Ray Klipa; Local 1408, United Steelworkers of America; Lynn Williams; United Steelworkers of America; United States Steel Corporation, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER

 Plaintiffs, members of defendant Union Local, seek to set aside the July 7, 1985 vote of the membership approving a special local agreement negotiated to sustain the life of U. S. Steel's National Works. Plaintiffs allege a laundry list of irregularities which, it is argued, cumulatively establish a violation of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA), 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(1) and the Union's duty of fair representation under the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. § 185. Plaintiff also alleges that the International ratified and approved the Local's improper conduct, and that U. S. Steel implemented the new contract despite knowledge of the flaws in its approval. Plaintiffs also seek damages from all defendants.

 The parties have now filed cross motions for summary judgment addressing a host of issues. We consider several of these to be dispositive and we address them below.

 FACTS

 U. S. Steel operates the National Steel Works at McKeesport, PA, and Local 1408 of the USWA is the collective bargaining unit for employees of the plant. At the times relevant here, U. S. Steel and the USWA were parties to a nationwide basic labor agreement (BLA) which covered the National Works.

 National's recent history has not been a happy one. U. S. Steel has scaled down operations at the plant in recent years, resulting in sharply declining employment. Heavy losses continued, however, and in early 1985, U. S. Steel demanded concessions from Local 1408, including a further reduction in force and restructuring of the seniority system. The Company threatened the complete shutdown of National works as the consequence of refusal.

 Under the pressure of U. S. Steel's ultimatum and a June 28, 1985 deadline imposed by the Company, Local 1408's newly-elected President, Ray Klipa, began negotiations with the Company on a local agreement for the National Works. When the June 28 deadline passed, the Damoclean sword of a shutdown did not fall, but U.S. Steel kept it dangling over the Union's head as negotiations continued.

 Naturally the negotiations were of great interest to membership and late in June 1985, several members, including one named-plaintiff, requested a meeting. In accordance with union by-laws requiring a meeting within 10 days of the request, local leadership scheduled the meeting for July 7, 1985.

 Notice of the meeting was effected in several ways. The following Notice was posted on plant bulletin boards and handed to employees as they reported for work:

 Local Union - 1408

 SPECIAL MEETING

 SUNDAY - July 7, 1985

 TIME - 12:00 NOON TO 4:00 PM

 PLACE - LOCAL 1408 UNION HALL

 SUBJECT OF DISCUSSION

 THE PENDING SENIORITY, MANNING

 AGREEMENT, AND MUTUAL PENSIONS FOR

 NATIONAL WORKS.

 Klipa also granted an interview to a reporter of the McKeesport Daily News, a newspaper of general circulation in the communities surrounding the National Works. The stories appeared in the paper in the week preceding the meeting, one of them on the front page. While the notice posted at the plant did not mention a vote, the newspaper articles indicated that a vote would be taken, and Klipa orally advised members of the vote as he handed out notices at the plant entrance.

 It is undisputed that all active employees received notice of the meeting, either by one of the above methods or by word of mouth. However, plaintiffs complain that many laid-off employees, those supposedly with the most to lose under the new agreement, did not receive any notice of the meeting. Plaintiffs also complain that Local Union officials made telephone calls to several employees likely to favor the proposal, urging their attendance and votes in favor.

 The meeting was held as scheduled on July 7, 1985 at the union meeting hall. Turn-out was especially heavy and the meeting room was inadequate to hold the crowd. Some members, the number is disputed, had to stand in an adjoining room during the meeting. Plaintiffs allege that these members were unable to hear some or all of the proceedings.

 At the meeting, local union officials made available to members copies of those provisions which had been worked out with the Company. There is no dispute that this was represented as part, but not all of a potential agreement. Due to the large crowd, the supply of copies of the proposed agreement ran out. However, President Klipa opened the meeting by reading each of the provisions aloud. This ...


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