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Taylor v. American Postal Workers Union AFL-CIO Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 8, 2019

DAVID W. TAYLOR Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION AFL-CIO PHILADELPHIA, PA AREA LOCAL 89 Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          C. Darnell Jones, II J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the court is Defendant American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO, Philadelphia, PA Area Local 89's (“APWU Local”) Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendant's Motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and for the reasons that follow, shall be granted in part and denied in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff filed his original Complaint on August 28, 2015. After several rounds of motions to dismiss, Plaintiff filed a Third Amended Complaint in June 2016. Defendants[1] subsequently filed a Motion to Dismiss, Motion to Strike, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. This Court granted one portion of Defendants' Motion, resulting in dismissal of all individually-named defendants and APWU National from the case.

         After engaging in protracted discovery and mediation proceedings, Plaintiff motioned for leave to file yet another Amended Complaint on September 4, 2018. Said Motion was assigned to United States Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski for disposition, and because Defendant did not oppose Plaintiff's Motion, Judge Sitarski granted Plaintiff leave to amend. Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint was filed of record, followed by the instant Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim “pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or in the alternative, for Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.” (Def.'s Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 1, ECF No. 129-1.) Defendant's Brief also contains a Motion to Strike Punitive Damages. (Def.'s Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 18-20.)

         B. Factual History

         Plaintiff is an employee of the United States Postal Service and a member of the APWU Local. (SUF ¶ 1; CSUF ¶ 1.) The Constitution and Bylaws of the American Postal Workers Union AFL-CIO, as amended July 25, 2014, provide in pertinent part that “All locals and area locals will be members of their APWE state organization under the criteria established by the respective state constitution.” (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. B, Art. 20, § 1.) The constitution applicable to the American Postal Workers Union Philadelphia PA Area Local, AFL-CIO provides in pertinent part that “[t]his local Union shall meet on the third Thursday of each month, except July, August and December, at such time and place as the Executive Board may decide.” (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. A, Art. XIII, § 1.)[2] Said constitution further provides that “[w]henever the financial need arises, a dues increase will be recommended by the Executive Board and must be approved by a majority vote by secret ballot at a general membership meeting. Such action must be in compliance with the Landrum-Griffin Law.” (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. A, Art. XII, § 3.)

         On February 19, 2015, at a general meeting held on the third Thursday of the month, [3] a vote by secret ballot was held to increase Union dues by $2.00 per pay period. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. E.) On March 11, 2015, a letter was sent to all Union members informing them of the dues increase. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. E.) Plaintiff commenced a civil action in this Court on or about August 28, 2015, challenging the February 19, 2015 dues increase on the bases of lack of notice to the Union members and improper voting procedures. (SUF ¶ 8; CSUF ¶ 8.) On or about October 29, 2015, the Union sent out a letter informing members that on November 19, 2015, at the next General Membership Meeting, the Union would be voting on the previously approved dues increase of two dollars ($ 2.00) per pay period, retroactive to U.S. Postal Pay Period 07-2015. (SUF ¶ 11, Ex. F; CSUF ¶ 11.)

         Since commencing suit four years ago, the parties have engaged in extensive motion practice and Plaintiff has amended his Complaint numerous times. Currently, Count 1 of Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint sets forth a claim for the “Violation of Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act Definitions Section 3(k) Secret Ballot by APWU-Local.” Count 2 sets forth a claim for the “Violation of Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act Title I. Bill of Rights Section 101(a)(3)(A) by APWU-Local.” (Fourth Am. Compl. 4-5.)

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         As noted above, Defendant has filed the instant Motion as one for dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), or alternatively, one for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a motion to dismiss to be converted to one for summary judgment if a court considers matters outside the pleadings. When reviewing a motion to dismiss, “courts generally consider only the allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record.” Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993) (internal citations omitted). Courts “may consider ‘legal arguments presented in memorandums or briefs and arguments of counsel' when deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss without invoking Rule 56 summary judgment.” Fastener Sys. v. MBNA Am., 48 Fed.Appx. 418, 420 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Pryor v. NCAA, 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. 2002)). Additionally, the court may consider documents attached to the Complaint without converting a motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment. Pryor, 288 F.3d at 560.

         In this case, exhibits were relied upon that were not referenced in, or attached to, Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint, and were not of public record. As such, this Court gave Plaintiff notice that the motion was being treated as one for summary judgment, and provided him with additional time to respond to the motion as such. (ECF No. 138.) Plaintiff has done so. (ECF No. 142.)

         Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court shall grant summary judgment “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine [dispute] as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “If the moving party meets its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Santini v. Fuentes, 795 F.3d 410, 416 (3d Cir. 2015) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Therefore, in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must establish that the disputes are both (1) material, meaning concerning facts that will affect the outcome of the issue under substantive law, and (2) genuine, meaning the evidence must be such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Summary judgment is mandated “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. “At the summary judgment stage of proceedings, courts do not ‘weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations,' but, instead, leave that task to the fact-finder at a later trial if the court denies summary judgment.” Halsey v. Pfeiffer, 750 F.3d 273, 287 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Petruzzi's IGA Supermarkets v. Darling-Del. Co., 998 F.2d 1224, 1230 (3d Cir. 1993)).

         A party asserting that a fact is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by citing to particular parts of materials in the record, which may include affidavits. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). However, “conclusory, self-serving affidavits are insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment.” Kirleis v. Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, P.C., 560 F.3d 156, 161 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Blair v. Scott Specialty Gases, 283 F.3d 595, 608 (3d Cir. 2002)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Instead, an affiant must set forth specific facts that reveal a genuine issue of material fact. Id. If a party fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact, a court may consider the fact undisputed and grant summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2)-(3); see also Judge C. Darnell Jones II Chambers Policies and Procedures (rev'd Dec. 2, 2016), http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/procedures/jonpol.pdf (“The Court will not consider any description of a fact that is not supported by citation to the record. Statements of Material Facts in support of or in opposition to a motion for summary judgment must include specific and not general references to the parts of the record that support each of the statements, such as the title of or numbered reference to a document, the name of a deponent and the page(s) of the deponent's deposition, or the identity of an affidavit or declaration and the specific paragraph relied upon. Pinpoint citations are required.”) With this standard in mind, this Court shall address each dispute in turn.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Preliminary Matters

         i. Paragraphs 21 & 22 of ...


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