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RUMORE v. BELK

November 27, 1995

ANTHONY RUMORE, Plaintiff,
v.
AARON BELK, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LAMBERTH

 This matter comes before the court on defendant's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff, Anthony Rumore, brought this action alleging that defendant Aaron Belk violated his rights to free speech and assembly under Title I of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C.A. ยง 401-531 (1985). Although no discovery has taken place, in light of the affidavits submitted by both parties, the court shall grant defendant's motion for summary judgment, finding that defendant's actions did not impinge upon plaintiff's free speech rights.

 I.

 BACKGROUND

 The present action arises out of the apparently intractable conflict between the current leadership of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("IBT") and its affiliated entities. Plaintiff in this case, Anthony Rumore, is a member of the IBT and the Soft Drink and Brewery Workers Union, Local 812. Additionally, he is president of the IBT Joint Council Number 16. Joint Council 16 is an intermediate governing body within the IBT, and it is comprised of some 59 IBT locals in and around New York City. Defendant Belk, also a member of the IBT, is the Vice President of the IBT and the Executive Assistant to the IBT General President, Ron Carey.

 Prior to the events of this suit, the IBT imposed trusteeships on some of the locals of Joint Counsel 16 as a result of IRB recommendations. Plaintiff and other members of Joint Council 16 believe that the trusteeships were politically motivated. In a few instances, officers of other trusteed locals and subordinate IBT entities have challenged the trusteeships in court; none of these challenges has been successful. *fn2"

 The instant action arose in the spring of 1995. In January of that year, Joint Council 16 decided to conduct an "educational seminar" for its local unions on the issue of trusteeships. On January 24, 1995, plaintiff Rumore sent a letter to all of the principal officers of the local unions within Joint Council 16 via TITAN, the communications or e-mail network for the IBT. The letter stated as follows: *fn3"

 
Prompted by a significant number of requests from local unions, Joint Council 16 will conduct an educational seminar on trusteeships. The speakers will include attorneys involved in litigation over trusteeships on both sides of the issues and trustees, as well as members who will describe their experiences under trusteeship. The speakers will attempt to take the terror and mystery out of the trusteeship process by explaining the legal and constitutional grounds for trusteeship, how to challenge a trusteeship, and in general, how to avoid a trusteeship.
 
It is important that all local unions attend this meeting.

 On February 27, 1995, defendant Belk responded to Rumore's letter via a Titan letter of his own. Belk sent copies of the letter to the same people to which Rumore had sent his message. Belk's response read as follows:

 
Your Titan message of January 24, 1995, to all Joint Council 16 local unions represents an apparent attempt to interfere with the clean-up of corruption in the Teamsters Union.
 
Since Ron Carey became General President, local unions in the New York area have been put in trusteeship for violations of the IBT Constitution such as organized crime ties, racketeering, and misuse of dues money and pension funds.
 
I would think you would applaud the International Union's efforts to enforce the constitution and eliminate corruption. Instead, you call for a training session on how to challenge such trusteeships.
 
Lawyers who receive union dues money apparently will come to your seminar to explain how to avoid a trusteeship. Dues money has been paid to lawyers to challenge many trusteeships established in the past three years. In each case, the courts have rejected those wasteful challenges to reform.
 
At a time when working people are facing many difficult challenges, the dues money you are now about to waste on this training session would be better spent on training to maintain strong local unions that involve the membership. The International's education department assists interested locals with such training.
 
It sends the wrong signal to our members and our honest local union leaders when you give the impression that you plan to train officials on how to walk the fine line between permissible activity and corruption.
 
The way to avoid a trusteeship is to avoid unconstitutional and illegal activity. If any local union officer has questions about how to meet their obligations under our constitution, they need only contact the International union for assistance.
 
Your announcement states that trusteeships have created "terror" and "mystery." If you want to describe how a corrupt official feels when they have been caught as "terror," that is up to you. But the real terror in this union has been felt by members who were threatened, intimidated, or otherwise had their rights violated and their money misused by certain corrupt officials.
 
There is no "mystery" about trusteeships. They are invoked when our constitution has been violated and action is necessary to protect members' rights. To me, the only "mystery" is why someone would spend dues money ...

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