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TRANSPORT WORKERS, LOC. 234 v. TRANSPORT WORKERS

January 11, 2001

TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION OF PHILADELPHIA, LOCAL 234,
V.
TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bechtle, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before the court are plaintiff Transport Workers Union of Philadelphia, Local 234's ("Local 234") and defendant Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO's ("TWU" or the "International") cross motions for preliminary injunctive relief. For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant TWU's motion.

I. BACKGROUND

TWU and Local 234 are unincorporated labor organizations. In June 2000, TWU President Sonny Hall sent a fact finding team to investigate reports of misconduct by members of Local 234's Executive Board and staff.*fn1

On August 25, 2000, Hall filed a Notice of Trusteeship containing twenty-four charges against Local 234's Executive Board. (Joseph J. Vitale Decl. dated Dec. 1, 2000, ("Vitale Decl.") Ex. 1 at 1.) The charges alleged financial malpractice, subversion of union democracy and discord among the members of Local 234's Executive Board.*fn2 On August 28, 2000, TWU appointed a Subcommittee of the International Executive Council to hear the charges.*fn3 Id. at 2.

On September 22, 2000, Local 234 filed a Complaint, seeking to enjoin the hearing scheduled before the Subcommittee by asserting that it would not be "fair" under 29 U.S.C. § 464.*fn4 By Order dated September 29, 2000, United States District Judge Bruce W. Kauffman denied Local 234's motion to enjoin the hearing.*fn5

The Subcommittee's hearing on the charges began on October 3, 2000 and ended November 3, 2000, continuing for 18 days. (Vitale Decl. Ex. 1 at 3.) Hearing sessions were scheduled to accommodate the medical condition of Brookens and were open to the membership. Id. Ex. 1 at 3-4. TWU, represented by Bakalo, presented 11 witnesses and 87 exhibits in support of the charges. Id. Ex. 1 at 3. Local 234, represented by Vice President Bruce Bodner, who also happens to be an attorney, presented 15 witnesses and 150 exhibits in defense. Id. Ex. 1 at 3-4.

On November 21, 2000, the Subcommittee issued Findings of Fact, Conclusions and Recommendations to the International Executive Council, finding Local 234 guilty of 15 of the charges against it.*fn6 On November 30, 2000, the International Executive Council convened to discuss and deliberate on the Subcommittee's report, issued a Resolution unanimously adopting it in its entirety, and imposed an immediate trusteeship over the affairs of Local 234.*fn7 On December 1, 2000, Harry Lombardo, who was appointed as Trustee, appeared at Local 234's offices to begin carrying out his duties.*fn8 However, Local 234 informed him that it was refusing to comply with the trusteeship and that it would comply only if Lombardo secured a court order.

On December 1, 2000, TWU filed a counterclaim to Local 234's Complaint and requested a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to enforce the trusteeship. On the same date, Local 234 filed a Second Complaint, alleging that TWU imposed the trusteeship in violation of the LMRDA. On December 4, 2000, Judge Kauffman heard oral argument on TWU's request for a temporary restraining order and denied relief. Before the court are cross-motions for preliminary injunctive relief: TWU seeks an injunction enforcing the trusteeship and Local 234 seeks an injunction to prevent it. This court held a status conference on the matter on December 18, 2000 and preliminary injunction hearings on December 27, 2000, December 28, 2000 and January 5, 2001.

II. DISCUSSION

To obtain a preliminary injunction, "plaintiffs must show both (1) that they are likely to experience irreparable harm without an injunction and (2) that they are reasonably likely to succeed on the merits." Adams v. Freedom Forge Corp., 204 F.3d 475, 484 (3d Cir. 2000). If relevant, the court should also consider the likelihood of irreparable harm to the non-moving party and whether the injunction serves the public interest. Id. However, the statutory scheme permitting trusteeships in the labor organization context "clearly evidences an expectation that disputes over trusteeships would be litigated with the trusteeship in effect" and "if this burden were rigidly imposed on a parent union seeking to enforce a trusteeship against one of its resisting locals, the local, by failing to comply with its obligation under the union constitution to accept a trusteeship lawfully imposed, could turn the statutory scheme for handling the trusteeship problem on its head." Nat'l Ass'n of Letter Carriers v. Sombrotto, 449 F.2d 915, 920-21 (2d Cir. 1971); Int'l Bhd. of Boilermakers v. Local Lodge D238, 678 F. Supp. 1575, 1583 (M.D.Ga. 1988) (stating that "applying this standard to the trusteeship situation places the burden upon the parent international when the statutory scheme clearly provides that the local affiliate must by clear and convincing evidence show the invalidity of the trusteeship").

Thus, in keeping with the intent of Congress, a preliminary injunction is presumptively valid to impose a trusteeship if: (1) the trusteeship was established in accordance with the provisions of the union's constitution and bylaws; (2) the trusteeship was authorized or ratified after a fair hearing; and (3) the trusteeship was installed for a permissible purpose.*fn9 29 U.S.C. § 462 & 464; Regan v. Williams, Civ.A. No. 86-643, 1986 WL 8413, at *2 (W.D.Pa. May 16, 1986) (citations omitted); Int'l Bhd. of Boilermakers v. Local Lodge D31, 694 F. Supp. 1203, 1207-08 (Md. 1988) (citations omitted); Local Lodge D238, 678 F. Supp. at 1580 (same). Enforcement of trusteeships "by way of preliminary relief not merely does not violate equitable principles but is the resolution most consistent with the legislative scheme here at stake." Sombrotto, 449 F.2d at 921. The "parent is entitled to a preliminary injunction imposing a trusteeship on application unless the local comes forward with adequate proof that the trusteeship is not being sought in good faith." Id.

In this case, it is not contested that the trusteeship was established in accordance with the provisions of the union's constitution and bylaws.*fn10 However, Local 234 asserts that it did not receive a "fair hearing" and that the trusteeship was not installed for a permissible purpose. (Compl. dated Dec. 1, 2000 ("Compl.II") ¶¶ 15-17.) Local 234 alleges that it did not receive a fair hearing because it was: denied the right to have outside counsel; denied pre-hearing discovery; denied more than one continuance; and denied an adequate opportunity to cross examine witnesses. Id. ¶ 16. Local 234 also asserts that the hearing was not fair because relevant evidence was excluded and because Bakalo, who was initially appointed to serve as a member of the Subcommittee, instead served as prosecutor. Id. In the Order dated September 29, 2000, which the court incorporates herein by reference, the court addressed Local 234's objections regarding the presence of outside counsel, discovery and time to prepare for the hearing. Local 234 v. TWU, No.Civ.A.00-4815, 2000 WL 1521507, at *1-2 (E.D.Pa. Sept. 29, 2000). Further, as the court has already recognized, the LMRDA "does not require formal quasi-trial procedures at a trusteeship hearing." Id. at *2. Under 29 U.S.C. § 464, the minimum requirements for a fair hearing are: notice of the charges; presentation of evidence and witnesses; and an opportunity for cross examination. Int'l Bhd. of Boilermakers v. Local Lodge D461, 663 F. Supp. 1031, 1034 (M.D.Ga. 1987).

Local 234 does not contest that it received notice of the charges or that evidence and witnesses were presented at the hearing before the Subcommittee. The record shows that written notice identified the charges; that Local 234 was notified of the date, time and location of the hearings; that the hearings were open to Local 234's membership; and that evidence was presented supporting the imposition of the trusteeship. There is no evidence in this record to suggest, as Local 234 asserts, that the proceedings before the Subcommittee were a mere "formality." Although Local 234 alleges that it did not have an "adequate" opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, the record shows that it had ample opportunity to do so. For example, TWU's first witness, John Kerrigan, produced approximately 39 pages of transcript on his direct testimony and 109 pages on cross-examination; likewise, Harry Knittel produced 126 pages of direct testimony and 313 on cross; Al Miller produced 50 pages of direct testimony and 174 on cross; and Sabin Rich produced 30 pages of direct testimony and 211 on cross. (Joint Exs. 2, 3, 4 & 5.) Although Local 234 argues that TWU's prosecutor attempted to limit its cross-examination of witnesses, Bruce Bodner, Local 234's advocate at the hearing, stated that Bakalo ...


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