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Dodd v. Fleming

August 5, 2002


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Judge

Document No. 32



This case comes before the court on the plaintiffs' complaint and second motion for a preliminary injunction alleging violations of sections 101(a) and 501 of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 411 and 501, by the defendants, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees ("BMWE"), Mac A. Fleming (the BMWE's President), and William LaRue (the BMWE's Secretary-Treasurer) (collectively, "the defendants"). The seven individual plaintiffs in this action, Jed Dodd, William Manning, Joseph Crandley, George Davidson, and Bruce Glover, are current members of the BMWE holding elected positions in its local federations. The other two plaintiffs are the Pennsylvania Federation, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees ("Penn. Federation") and the Burlington Northern System Federation, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees ("Burlington") (collectively, "the plaintiffs"). Penn. Federation and Burlington are both unincorporated voluntary associations and labor organizations within the meaning of section 3(i) of the LMRDA, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 402(i). The dispute arises out of a 2001 membership referendum held on the possibility of a merger between the BMWE and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers ("Boilermakers"). The plaintiffs' asserted violations of the LMRDA include the defendants' denying the plaintiffs access to the BMWE's membership address databases and denying them an opportunity to express opposition to the merger in the BMWE newsletter. Because a majority of referendum voters opposed the merger, the BMWE and Boilermakers negotiated a new agreement.

The BMWE plans to hold another merger referendum at a time as yet undetermined. The plaintiffs have filed the instant motion for a preliminary injunction claiming it is likely that the same alleged LMRDA violations will occur in the second merger referendum. After consideration of the parties' submissions and the relevant law, the court denies the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction because the plaintiffs fail to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits and that they will suffer irreparable harm.


A. Factual Background

The BMWE represents nearly 50,000 workers in the railway industry throughout the United States and Canada for the purposes of collective bargaining. Compl. at 5. The top BMWE organizational division is the International Union, also known as the Grand Lodge, which consists of all BMWE members. Id. The BMWE and Grand Lodge are governed by a constitution and bylaws. Id.

Article I, Section 1 of the constitution and bylaws provides, in part, that "[t]he Grand Lodge shall not merge itself with any other labor organization without first obtaining approval of the majority of the ballots returned by the active membership in good standing through a referendum ballot." Id. Additionally, Section 4 provides, in pertinent part, that:

[e]very . . . candidate for Grand Lodge office shall have certain rights with respect to the distribution of campaign literature and freedom from discrimination. The Grand Lodge will comply with all reasonable requests of all such candidates to distribute by mail or otherwise, at the candidate's expense, campaign literature in aid of his candidacy to all members . . . Whenever the Grand Lodge . . . authorize[s] distribution to members . . . of campaign literature on behalf of any . . . candidate . . . or on behalf of the Grand Lodge itself with reference to elections, similar distribution shall be made by the Grand Lodge . . . for any other candidate if so requested by such candidate, and equal treatment will be accorded as to the expense of such distribution to be borne by such candidate. Every candidate . . . shall have the right, upon request, . . . to inspect the list containing the names and . . . addresses of all members[,] . . . which lists shall be maintained by the Secretary-Treasurer . . . The brotherhood may, however, expend its funds for notices, factual statements and other expenses necessary for the conduct of its elections so long as such activities do not involve promotion of candidates for office. Dodd Aff. dated August 22, 2001, Ex. 1.

On June 25, 2001, the Grand Lodge officers voted to accept a newly negotiated merger agreement with the Boilermakers and to submit the issue for ratification to the BMWE membership. Compl. at 6. During the June 25th meeting, plaintiff Dodd asked defendant Fleming when the defendants would mail the ballots to the BMWE members. Id. Defendant Fleming did not provide a date for the mailing until August 16, 2001, the day after the defendants mailed the ballots to the members. Id. at 7.

The defendants led a campaign to convince members to vote in favor of the proposed merger. Id. The plaintiffs opposed the proposed merger and tried to communicate the reasons for their opposition to BMWE members but claim that the actions of the defendants hampered the plaintiffs' efforts. Id. In order to campaign against the merger, the plaintiffs wish to gain access to the BMWE member mailing list *fn1 but cannot obtain access to that information without the defendants' consent. Id. at 10.

The 2001 ballot package sent by the BMWE to its members contains, in part, the following articles: (1) a two-page letter from defendant Fleming urging members to vote in favor of the proposed merger; (2) a nine-page overview of the merger agreement; and (3) an additional one-page letter from defendant Fleming addressing the opponents of the proposed merger by stating that the opponents have "misrepresented facts" and that "[i]n the event this merger does not occur, it is a fact that BMWE members are facing a dues increase in the amount of $5 to $10 per month in order to maintain services. The majority of BMWE officers concur on this point." Id. at 15.

On September 24 and 25, 2001, the referendum ballots were counted and the results finalized because the plaintiffs withdrew their first motion for a preliminary injunction. Mem. of Law in Support of Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 3. The final count revealed that less than half of the membership returned their mail-in ballots and, of those voting, a majority comprising 52.49 percent voted against the merger. Id. As such, the plaintiff's views opposing the proposed merger ...

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