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NELSON v. INTERNATIONAL ASSN.

January 15, 1988

Daniel Nelson, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GASCH

 Oliver Gasch, Judge

 FACTUAL BACKGROUND

 Two plaintiffs in this action, Daniel Nelson and John McClusky, are members respectively of Locals 505 and 627 of the International. The third plaintiff is Local 505, which is a local union of the International and, like the International, a labor organization within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act and the LMRDA. The parties' dispute arises from article XXI, section 26, of the International's constitution, which provides:

 
No Local Union shall circulate, publish or communicate to another Local Union or to members of the [International] any statement reflecting on the character, official conduct or good repute of any officer or member of the [International], or relating to matters of general interest to the membership, or resolutions to the International Convention, or requesting financial aid without first submitting the same to the General Executive Board and obtaining its approval.

 Sometime in early 1986, plaintiff Nelson attempted to communicate with another Local of the International concerning a proposal he intended to make at the International's 1986 convention. Shortly after his speech began, Nelson was silenced by that Local's president, who ruled that section 26 of the International's constitution precluded this sort of communication. Nelson's proposal was rejected at the 1986 convention. *fn1" These events constitute the alleged injury to Nelson and a violation of section 101(a)(2).

 Plaintiffs further contend that Local 505 was injured when its request for permission to communicate regarding a 1986 convention proposal was apparently ignored by the International's General Executive Board ("GEB"). As a result of the GEB's failure to respond to Local 505's request, the Local refrained from communicating with other locals, fearing disciplinary action for violation of section 26. *fn2" Finally, McClusky contends that he remained silent despite a desire to communicate because he also feared reprisal from the International for communicating without receiving the permission required under section 26 and expected that the International would not grant him that permission. *fn3" In response, defendant apparently contends that if plaintiffs remained silent, they did so at their own choosing and not because of anything that the International did. *fn4"

 Interpretation of Section 26

 Defendant has responded with an affidavit from the General President of the International, Juel Drake. As summarized by defendant's counsel, the General President justifies section 26 on four grounds:

 
1. A desire to prevent subversion of the due process protections contained in the trial and charges procedures of the [International's] Constitution;
 
2. A desire to resolve disputes between Local Unions internally, and to prevent knowledge of those disputes from getting into the hands of employers and others who are not friendly to the Union which could then be used against the best interests of the Union and its members;
 
3. To prevent knowledge of conflicting interpretations of collective bargaining agreements between Local Unions from becoming public, which conflicting interpretations could then be used against the best interests of the members of the [International] in grievance handling, negotiations and lawsuits; and
 
4. To prevent Unions qua Unions from abusing their access to membership mailing lists for solicitations of financial support and aid that may not be in the best interests of the members.

 Defendant's Memorandum in Support of Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment at 14 (footnote omitted) ("Defendant's Memorandum"). Defendant adds that section 26 protects not only International officers but members as well. Consequently, defendant argues that plaintiffs' understanding of section 26 is "simply wrong."

 Another element of the section 26 interpretation dispute focuses on the first phrase of section 26, which provides: "no Local Union shall circulate, publish or communicate to another Local Union or to members of the Association" concerning a broad array of issues. (Emphasis added). The presence of plaintiffs Nelson and McClusky in this case indicates that plaintiffs believe that section 26 precludes communication by locals and their members.

 Defendant notes, however, that section 26 states only that a local shall not communicate. The plain language of section 26, defendant argues, contradicts plaintiffs' interpretation and substantially undermines their contention that any union member, whether it is Nelson, McClusky or someone else, could be injured by section 26. Indeed, in his affidavit, General President Drake insists that section 26 has never been understood by the International to apply ...


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