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KEIPER v. UNITED AUTO. WORKERS' UNION

October 27, 1994

BARRY D. KEIPER
v.
UNITED AUTOMOBILE WORKERS' UNION, LOCAL 677 and MACK TRUCKS, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BY THE COURT; EDWARD N. CAHN

 Cahn, C.J.

 Plaintiff Barry D. Keiper ("Keiper" or "plaintiff") brought this action against Mack Trucks, Inc. ("Mack"), his previous employer, and the United Automobile Workers' Union, Local 677 ("Local 677")(collectively the "defendants"). Keiper claims that Mack breached its contract (the "Master Agreement") with Local 677. Keiper also alleges that Local 677 violated his rights under Section 301 of the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947 ("Section 301"), 29 U.S.C. § 185, by breaching its duty of fair representation. Currently before the court are defendants' motions for summary judgment.

 Jurisdiction is based on 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 29 U.S.C. § 185. For the reasons below, defendants' motions will be granted.

 I. Facts

 On January 24, 1978, Keiper began working for Mack as a member of Local 677. Shortly thereafter, Keiper's right hand was injured by one of Mack's machines and three of his fingers were crushed.

 Pursuant to Article X of the Master Agreement which existed between Local 677 and Mack at the time ("Article X"), an employee who lost the use of three fingers on either hand was provided "super seniority" status. Super seniority status effectively prevented the layoff of any qualified employee. Keiper was acknowledged to have an injury which satisfied Article X, and for over 14 years he received the benefits of super seniority.

 Keiper initiated grievances against Mack regarding the loss of his super seniority status. Keiper claimed that his termination violated Article X, and was in retaliation for his opposition to the mandatory overtime agreement reached by Local 677 and Mack. The Shop Committee of Local 677 ("Shop Committee"), however, refused to pursue Keiper's grievances against Mack.

 On August 27, 1992, Keiper wrote a letter to Local 677 seeking to institute "intra-union grievance proceedings in accordance with our constitution and by laws" in order to challenge the Shop Committee's decision not to pursue Keiper's grievance. In this letter, Keiper asked for information regarding the proper procedures to follow when instituting such proceedings.

 On September 9, 1992, Carl Breininger ("Breininger"), Vice President of Local 677, replied in writing to Keiper's request. Breininger informed Keiper that the procedures for challenging union activity were set out in Article 31 and Article 33 ("Article 33") of the United Automobile Workers' Union ("UAW") constitution ("constitution"), and Articles 18 and 19 of Local 677's by-laws. *fn1" Breininger also provided Keiper with a copy of the constitution and by-laws.

 Keiper appealed the Shop Committee's decision to the Local 677 membership working at Mack. The membership denied his appeal. On November 12, 1992, Keiper appealed the membership's decision to Local 677's Executive Board. This appeal stated in part: "According to our constitution, I am asking that the appeal be brought before the next local union Executive Board Meeting . . ." Local 677's Executive Board considered Keiper's appeal and denied it on April 6, 1993.

 On April 12, 1993, Keiper appealed to the International Executive Board of the UAW. In this appeal, Keiper stated that he was "attempting to follow through on intra-union grievance procedure." The International Executive Board assigned Keiper's case to an Appeals Committee for resolution, and on October 12, 1993, the Appeals Committee held a hearing at Local 677's union hall in Allentown, Pa. On March 9, 1994, Keiper was notified that the Appeals Committee had denied his appeal. This notification did not inform Keiper that he had any further avenues of appeal.

 On June 13, 1994, Keiper wrote a letter to Owen Bieber ("Bieber"), President of UAW, requesting information regarding the procedure for appealing the Appeals Committee's decision to UAW's Public Review Board ("PRB"). In this letter, Keiper stated that he had not received a copy of the constitution until June 8, 1994, and had not learned that he could appeal the Appeals Committee's decision until May 31, 1994.

 On June 20, 1994, Bieber responded to Keiper's letter. Bieber noted that Keiper had received a copy of the constitution on September 9, 1992, and had received the Appeals Committee's decision on March 9, 1994. Bieber also wrote that under Article 33, Section 4(c) of the constitution Keiper's appeal to the PRB was untimely. *fn2"


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