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VITRANO v. MARSHALL

January 22, 1981

Peter VITRANO et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Ray MARSHALL, Secretary of Labor, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court on the motion of the defendant, the Secretary of Labor (hereinafter "the Secretary"), to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. In response, the plaintiffs, members of various local unions of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America ("IBT" or "the Union"), filed a cross-motion for summary judgment.

 The complaint in this action relates that plaintiffs Greco and Rollins were members of the class represented by plaintiffs Vitrano, Berryhill, and others in their petition to the Secretary. It is contended that Greco attempted unsuccessfully to intervene in the proceedings before the Union and that Rollins "executed a petition subscribing to disciplinary charges seeking Mr. Fitzsimmons' removal from union office." Complaint, para. 5.

 On October 22, 1979, the Secretary issued a Statement of Reasons for Dismissing the Petition, without investigation of the allegations, asserting that the Secretary lacked authority to grant any relief because § 401(h) of the Act does not cover the removal of an officer of an international labor organization.

 Plaintiffs then filed suit asking this Court to declare that the Secretary's interpretation of § 401(h) is erroneous in that that section of the Act does give the Secretary authority to initiate and conduct recall proceedings for union officials who do not hold "local" union positions, that is, for officials of national and international labor organizations.

 Finding that the Secretary's interpretation of § 401(h) is consistent with the plain meaning of its language, its legislative history, and the purpose of the LMRDA, the complaint must be dismissed.

 Although plaintiffs argue that acceptance of the Secretary's interpretation would run counter to Congress' avowed intent in passing the LMRDA, to eliminate corruption as much as possible at all levels of union activity, their contention is contrary to the plain meaning of the statutory words. By its clear language, § 401(h) limits its application to officials of local labor organizations. § 401(h) provides:

 
If the Secretary, upon application of any member of a local labor organization, finds ... that the constitution and bylaws of such labor organization do not provide an adequate procedure for the removal of an elected officer guilty of serious misconduct, such officer may be removed, for cause shown and after notice and hearing, by the members in good standing voting in a secret ballot conducted by the officers of such labor organization in accordance with its constitution and bylaws insofar as they are not inconsistent with the provisions of this subchapter.

 29 U.S.C. § 481(h) (emphasis supplied).

 Precisely and unambiguously stated, only a member of a local organization may invoke this section. The term "labor organization," twice repeated in this section, is each time modified by the word "such," undoubtedly referencing the first mention of the term "labor organization" where it is boldly modified by the word "local." The procedure set out then applies, by its own terms, to local labor organizations.

 The parties vigorously dispute the impact of legislative history on the question before the Court. Plaintiffs argue that Congress did not intend to limit so narrowly the Secretary's power to order a recall election. The defendant contends that the Congressional activity strongly supports his interpretation of the final legislation. The LMRDA, it must be recalled, was the product of a conference between the Houses of Congress, each of which had passed separate labor reform bills (S.1555 and H.R.8342). With regard to the provision for removal of union officials which became § 401(h) of the Act, the conferees adopted verbatim the language of the Senate bill. The House version differed substantially in that it covered all labor organizations and provided for enforcement by private court action rather than through the Secretary of Labor, *fn1" a distinction not unnoticed by the conferees.

 Perhaps the most useful document illuminating Congressional purpose is a Conference Report which bears on the final draft that is used by the conferees in explaining to the entire Congress why the bill should pass. See American Jewish Congress v. Kreps, 574 F.2d 624, 629 n. 36 (D.C.Cir.1978). The Statement of the Managers on the part of the House attached to the Conference Report acknowledges the differences between the two bills under discussion here:

 
Subsection (b) of the conference substitute deals with removal of officers guilty of serious misconduct. The Senate bill provides that where the Secretary, upon application of a member of a local union, finds after a hearing that the constitution and bylaws of the local union do not provide an adequate procedure for the removal of an elected officer guilty of serious misconduct, such officer may be removed, for cause shown and after notice and opportunity for a hearing, by the members of the union voting in a secret ...

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