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Washington Teachers' Union, Local #6 v. American Federation of Teachers

October 22, 2010

WASHINGTON TEACHERS' UNION, LOCAL #6, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, AFL-CIO, PLAINTIFF/COUNTER-DEFENDANT,
v.
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, AFL-CIO, DEFENDANT/COUNTER-PLAINTIFF.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case involves a dispute between the Washington Teachers' Union, Local #6, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO (the "WTU") and its parent union, the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO (the "AFT") relating to the WTU's failure to conduct a timely election for its officers prior to July 1, 2010. On September 1, 2010, the Court issued an order preliminarily enjoining the AFT from imposing an emergency administratorship on the WTU for the purpose of conducting the WTU's election. However, that preliminary injunction expired on September 16, 2010, when the AFT Executive Council ratified an administratorship following a hearing pursuant to Article VI, Section 15 of the AFT Constitution. On September 17, 2010, the parties filed a [25] Joint Status Report indicating that "the parties had an agreement in principle in which WTU will consent to the administratorship and to take such steps as are necessary to conduct the election in accordance with the rules set forth in the [AFT's] Decision and to cooperate with the appointed administrator in developing the voter eligibility list and such other steps as are necessary to the conduct of a prompt and fair election." See [25] Joint Status Report at 2. The WTU indicated that "in accordance with the terms of the agreement in principle with the AFT," it "will not contest the administratorship in further proceedings before this Court." Id. The parties indicated that they anticipated filing a stipulation of dismissal by the end of the following week, i.e., by September 24, but the parties have not filed any such stipulation.

Presently pending before the Court is the [26] Motion of Nathan Saunders for Conditional Intervention, filed on September 30, 2010. Nathan Saunders ("Saunders") moves to intervene in this action "or the limited purpose of enforc[ing] the stipulation entered into by the parties in the Joint Status Report." See Mot. for Conditional Intervention at 1. That motion is opposed by both the WTU and the AFT, each of which has filed a brief in opposition, to which Saunders has filed a single brief in reply. Also pending before the Court is the WTU's [28] Motion for Dismissals. The WTU asks that the Court conditionally dismiss the WTU's complaint without prejudice and dismiss as moot the AFT's counterclaim. Saunders has filed an opposition to the WTU's motion, to which the WTU has filed a reply. The AFT has filed a [34] Consent Motion for Extension of Time to Respond to Motion to Dismiss, which is still pending before the Court.

For the reasons explained below, the Court shall DENY Saunders' [26] Motion for Conditional Intervention and GRANT the AFT's [34] Consent Motion for Extension of Time to Respond to Motion to Dismiss. The Court shall HOLD IN ABEYANCE the WTU's [28] Motion for Dismissals.

I. BACKGROUND

The Court assumes familiarity with the facts of this case, which are laid out more thoroughly in its September 1, 2010 Memorandum Opinion. The Court shall limit its recitation of the facts to those most relevant to the pending motions.

A. The WTU's 2010 Elections for Officers

The WTU is a subordinate body of the AFT and an autonomous labor organization representing teachers employed by the District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS"). Compl. ¶ 3. Pursuant to the WTU Constitution and By-Laws, the WTU was to have completed its 2010 elections in time for newly elected officers to be installed in May and assume office on July 1, 2010. However, the WTU failed to conduct a timely election because it did not have a valid elections committee in place in the spring of 2010. With assistance from the AFT, the WTU certified a new elections committee on May 27.

On June 4, AFT President Randi Weingarten sent an e-mail to declared WTU presidential candidates George Parker, Nathan Saunders, Elizabeth Davis, and Elections Committee Chair Claudette Carson stating in part:

AFT's limited role in monitoring and assisting with the election of the Election Committee ended with the certification of the results by AAA. The duly-elected Election Committee now has responsibility for conducting the election of officers as described in the WTU constitution and bylaws. Therefore, it is neither necessary nor appropriate to include me and other AFT staff in each communication about the local's internal election process.

WTU's Mot. for Prelim. Inj., Parker Decl. ¶ 24 & Ex. 8 (6/4/10 E-mail). AFT General Counsel David Strom later informed George Parker and Nathan Saunders that "AFT does not become involved in local internal election issues until it is clear that the parties have exhausted their avenues for redress at the local level." Id. ¶ 23 & Ex. 7 (6/14/10 E-mail).

Following the certification of the WTU Elections Committee on May 27, there was a dispute within the WTU about whether the Executive Board or the Elections Committee should set the new dates for the election, since the dates provided for in the WTU Constitution had already passed. Parker Decl. ¶ 21. The WTU sought advice from its legal counsel, who rendered an opinion on June 9 that it was the Executive Board, not the Elections Committee, that was empowered to set new deadlines for nominations and elections of WTU officers. See Parker Decl., Ex. 2 (6/9/10 Letter from Lee W. Jackson to George Parker). At a meeting held on June 9, the WTU Executive Board passed a resolution setting the WTU's internal election of officers for the fall of 2010. Compl. ¶ 6. The Executive Board's resolution called for the notice of nominations to be sent out by September 30, with election balloting ending by November 30, 2010. Id. ¶¶ 7-8.

On June 23, AFT President Weingarten sent a letter to WTU President Parker and the members of the WTU Executive Board expressing concern over the election process for officers, writing "there is no reason why three weeks after the Committee has been seated, the nominations and elections process has not been commenced." See AFT's Mot. for TRO & Prelim. Inj., Weingarten Decl., Ex. C (6/23/10 Letter from Randi Weingarten to WTU Executive Board). On June 25, 2010, Parker replied to Weingarten, informing her of the Executive Board's action establishing a new elections schedule. See Parker Decl., Ex. 6 (6/25/10 Letter from George Parker to Randi Weingarten).

B. The AFT Investigates the WTU

Following the WTU's failure to proceed with an election immediately after the Elections Committee wasput in place, the AFT Executive Council voted to initiate an investigation of the WTU pursuant to its authority to investigate local elections under Article VI, Section 14(b) of the AFT Constitution. Weingarten Decl. ¶ 9. On July 9, President Weingarten sent a letter to George Parker, Nathan Saunders, Elizabeth Davis, and Claudette Carson informing them of the AFT's investigation. Weingarten Decl., Ex. D (7/9/10 Letter). In the letter, Weingarten wrote, "It is manifestly apparent that under the current circumstances of internal struggle that [sic] a timely and proper election for the officers of the WTU is not possible. Therefore, it is necessary and required that the national union step in to ensure an open, transparent and fair election for the WTU members." Id. at 2. The AFT Executive Council appointed three AFT Vice-Presidents to conduct the investigation. Weingarten Decl. ¶ 9.

On July 14, AFT General Counsel David Strom sent a Notice of Hearing letter to Parker, Saunders, Davis, and Carson on behalf of the AFT investigatory committee informing them that the committee would conduct a fact-finding hearing on July 21. See Parker Decl., Ex. 11 (Notice of Hearing). The Notice of Hearing indicated that the committee would investigate the following issues:

1) When should the internal elections for officers and members of the Executive Board of the WTU take place in light of the fact that the precise dates set out in the WTU Constitution and Bylaws for the election could not be met because there was not a duly constituted Elections Committee in place to start the process in the spring of 2010?

2) Whether the April 30th deadline for submitting nominations petitions set forth in the WTU Constitution and Bylaws should be followed in light of the fact that there was no duly constituted Elections Committee at that time and the Committee had not sent out the Notice of Nominations to the membership?

3) What is the universe of WTU members who should be eligible to participate in the internal WTU election and should that universe include individuals who were excessed on June 30, 2010?

4) Whether the recent suspension of salary and leave actions by the WTU President and Executive Board against First Vice President Saunders improperly impair ...


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