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GEORGE v. LOCAL UNION NO. 639

June 8, 1993

DANIEL A. GEORGE, Plaintiff, and ERNEST R. COOPER, Intervenor Plaintiff,
v.
LOCAL UNION NO. 639, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, AFL-CIO, et al., Defendants.


Oberdorfer


The opinion of the court was delivered by: LOUIS F. OBERDORFER

This suit arises out of a long and bitter dispute between plaintiff, Daniel George, and Local Union No. 639, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (the "Union"), of which he was formerly president. On June 28, 1990, summary judgment was entered for defendants on all but plaintiff's First Amendment claim. Plaintiff then filed two additional amended complaints, alleging Union misconduct subsequent to the filing of the initial complaint. In particular, plaintiff claims that he was improperly issued a withdrawal card from the Union when his unit was terminated from Union representation and that the Union manipulated the rules of its referral hall to deny plaintiff access to Union employment. On August 23, 1991, defendants filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the remaining First Amendment claim from George's original complaint and the new issues raised in the third amended complaint. On September 16, 1991, plaintiff George filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. On November 22, 1991, defendants were granted leave to conduct further discovery on plaintiff's First Amendment claim, and on January 8, 1992, defendants filed a supplemental memorandum in support of their motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, an accompanying Order grants defendants' motion for summary judgment and denies plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment.

 I.

 In the remaining count of his original complaint, George claims that the Union, and particularly Phillip Feaster, its current president (who unseated George as Union president), systematically denied George the right to speak at Union meetings. Specifically, George contends that Feaster adjourned the February 19, 1989 membership meeting rather than allow him to speak, in violation of the Bylaws of Local 639 and § 101(a)(2) of the Landrum-Griffin Act, 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(2). Defendants counter that George was out of order, making adjournment of the meeting both necessary and proper. The facts are as follows.

 On February 19, 1989, the Union held a meeting for its members employed by Ryder/Jacobs (George's unit). Feaster chaired the meeting from a dais on a stage facing approximately twenty members seated below. Feaster spoke for nearly thirty minutes. When he finished speaking, Feaster recognized George, who was seated in the second row of the hall on the center aisle. George rose and began to speak, apparently challenging what Feaster had just said. At some point during his remarks, George began turning from side to side to address his comments to the membership. The parties dispute whether George actually turned his back on the Chair, but they agree that he did turn from side to side. Feaster advised George several times to direct his comments to the Chair. George responded that his comments were not addressed to Feaster, but to the general membership. After George ignored Feaster's warnings that he would adjourn the meeting if George did not address his comments to the Chair, the meeting was adjourned.

 Defendants claim that adjournment was necessitated by George's repeated failure to follow the Rules of Order, resulting in the Chair's loss of control over the meeting. George claims that he "turned his body and face to his right and left in order to insure that members to his left and rear could hear what was being said, as well as to accommodate Feaster." Plaintiff's Mem., at 2. George claims that Feaster ordered him to address the Chair only when his remarks became critical of Feaster's leadership. George argues that no Rule of Order requires that a speaker face the Chair and, even if there is such a Rule, it was discriminatorily applied and did not warrant Feaster's adjournment of the meeting.

 Title I of the Landrum-Griffin Act protects the rights of union members within a union. In particular, it guarantees the members' right to free speech:

 
Every member of any labor organization shall have the right to meet and assemble freely with other members; and to express any views, arguments or opinions; and to express at meetings of the labor organization his views . . . upon any business properly before the meeting, subject to the organization's established and reasonable rules pertaining to the conduct of meetings: Provided, That nothing herein shall be construed to impair the right of a labor organization to adopt and enforce reasonable rules as to the responsibility of every member toward the organization as an institution and to his refraining from conduct that would interfere with its performance of its legal or contractual obligations.

 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(2); see also International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots v. Brown, 498 U.S. 466, 111 S. Ct. 880, 112 L. Ed. 2d 991 (1991); Carothers v. Presser, 260 U.S. App. D.C. 277, 818 F.2d 926, 929 (D.C. Cir. 1987).

 Section 23 of Local 639's Bylaws contain Rules of Order for the conduct of union meetings. The Rules of Order state in relevant part:

 
Rule 2. The Chairman of the meeting shall enforce these rules and regulations and may direct that members be removed from the meeting for violation of these rules.
 
* * *
 
Rule 6. When a member wishes the floor, he shall rise and respectfully address the Chair, and if recognized by the Chair, he shall state his name.
 
* * *
 
Rule 8. Every member, while speaking, shall adhere to the question under debate and avoid all invective and indecorous language, but all members shall have the right to express their views, arguments and opinions upon candidates and upon any business properly before the meeting.
 
Rule 9. No member shall interrupt another member while speaking except for a point of order . . . and the Chair shall decide the point without debate.
 
* * *
 
Rule 11. If any member shall feel himself aggrieved by a decision of the Chair, he may appeal from the decision of the Chair to the meeting without debate immediately after the Chair has decided against him.
 
* * *
 
Rule 22. A motion to adjourn shall always be in order except: (1) when a member has the floor; (2) when members are voting; (3) when a motion is pending.
 
* * *
 
Rule 27. Any question on procedure and debate, not provided for herein, shall be governed by Roberts' ...

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