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Murray v. Amalgamated Transit Union

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 6, 2016

JANICE MURRAY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JAMES E. BOASBERG United States District Judge.

         On September 2, 2016, this Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and separate Order granting Defendant Amalgamated Transit Union's Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. See ECF Nos. 74-75. Plaintiffs Janice Murray and Alnett (Tim) Queen now move under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) to alter or amend that judgment. They contend that, in part because of new evidence, the Court erred in its prior ruling.

         Although the Court concludes that the evidence is neither new nor persuasive, it does agree that one of Plaintiffs' arguments warrants a revisiting of part of the Court's decision. It thus will grant the Motion as to Plaintiff Queen only, reinstating what remains of his suit.

         I. Background

         As the present Motion challenges the Court's Opinion granting the ATU's Motion to Dismiss, the Court presumes the reader is familiar with that decision and the background information contained therein. See Murray v. Amalgamated Transit Union (Murray IV), 2016 WL 4594222 (D.D.C. Sept. 2, 2016). A more expansive recounting of the factual background and procedural history can be found in the Court's first and second summary-judgment Opinions. See Murray v. Amalgamated Transit Union (Murray III), 2016 WL 1664775 (D.D.C. Apr. 26, 2016); Murray v. Amalgamated Transit Union (Murray I), 2014 WL 11281392 (D.D.C. Dec. 19, 2014).

         In short, this lawsuit emerged because of a controversial union election. Plaintiffs Murray and Queen sought to become officers of Local 1300, a local affiliate of Defendant Amalgamated Transit Union. Murray I, 2014 WL 11281392, at *1. The ATU represents nearly 200, 000 individuals employed in the public and private sectors of the transportation industry, and Local 1300 represents public-sector workers employed by the Maryland Transit Administration. Id. In June 2013, Murray and Queen ran for President and Vice President, respectively, and won. Id. at *3. One month later, the runner-up for President, David McClure, challenged the election, arguing that Plaintiffs had been ineligible to run for office because they were not members in good standing, having failed to reimburse the union for certain payments. Id.

         In September 2013, while McClure's challenge was pending, Murray traveled to the ATU Convention, intending to participate as a delegate. See ECF No. 69-2 (Affidavit of Janice Murray, July 6, 2016), ¶¶ 15, 19. The ATU refused to permit Murray and other Local 1300 officers in attendance to sit as delegates because the ballots Local 1300 had used to elect them did not feature the words “and Convention Delegate” or “and Alternate Delegate” next to the offices being voted upon. Id., ¶¶ 13-29.

         Several months later, in February 2014, the ATU's then-President made a decision regarding McClure's challenge, concluding that Plaintiffs had not been in good standing at the time of the June 2013 election and thus invalidating the election results, stripping Plaintiffs of their offices and causing a re-run election that McClure won. Murray III, 2016 WL 1664775, at *4.

         Murray and Queen responded by filing suit in this Court in March 2014, alleging that the ATU had violated Title I of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA), 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(5), and breached its contractual duties under the ATU Constitution. See ECF No. 23 (Amended Complaint), ¶¶ 34-42. More than two years later, after a motion for a temporary restraining order, a motion for a preliminary injunction, two periods of discovery, two summary-judgment motions, and one reconsideration motion, the Court independently identified potential jurisdictional defects in the suit and ordered the parties to consider whether section 403 of Title IV of the LMRDA stripped the Court of subject-matter jurisdiction over the case. See ECF No. 64 (Order of May 2, 2016).

         In addressing the jurisdictional question, the Court explained the relationship between Title I and Title IV of the LMRDA. See Murray IV, 2016 WL 4594222, at *3-5. To briefly recap, Title I is “designed to guarantee every union member equal rights to vote and otherwise participate in union decisions, freedom from unreasonable restrictions on speech and assembly, and protection from improper discipline.” Local No. 82, Furniture & Piano Moving v. Crowley, 467 U.S. 526, 536-37 (1984). Among other things, it prohibits “labor organization[s]” from “fin[ing], suspend[ing], expel[ling], or otherwise disciplin[ing]” its members, “except for nonpayment of dues, ” absent notice and a hearing. See 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(5). Title IV protects similar rights: it “regulates the conduct of elections for union officers, ” Crowley, 467 U.S. at 539, and gives “every member in good standing” the right to “be eligible to be a candidate and to hold office (subject to . . . reasonable qualifications uniformly imposed) . . . without being subject to penalty, discipline, or improper interference or reprisal of any kind by such organization or any member thereof.” 29 U.S.C. § 481(e).

         Although they concern similar rights, Title I and Title IV have distinct enforcement mechanisms. Title I grants to individual members a federal cause of action that may be brought in federal court. See id. § 412. Title IV, by contrast, requires a union member to file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor, who then may sue the union in federal court if he or she determines such intervention is warranted. See id. § 482(a)-(b). Title IV also contains “an exclusivity provision, ” which explains when a Title IV remedy will preempt a plaintiff's ability to seek relief under other laws, including Title I. See Crowley, 467 U.S. at 540; 29 U.S.C. § 483. As relevant here, because Title IV claims can only be brought by the Secretary, Title IV's exclusivity provision divests federal courts of subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate claims brought by individual union members after a completed union election that, in substance, seek to challenge the already-conducted election itself. See Crowley, 467 U.S. at 541 & n.16, 544.

         Finally, one further wrinkle: the LMRDA generally does not apply to unions whose membership consists entirely of public-sector employees. See 29 U.S.C. § 402(e), (i). But when a non-covered local union (like Local 1300) has a mixed-union parent (like the ATU) - i.e., a parent body comprised of private- and public-sector locals - Title I “protect[s] members of such locals in their dealings with [the] parent union.” Murray I, 2014 WL 11281392, at *6 (citing Wildberger v. Am. Fed'n of Gov't Employees, AFL-CIO, 86 F.3d 1188, 1192-93 (D.C. Cir. 1996)). And when a non-covered local union “participate[s] in the election of officers of a national or international labor organization . . . through delegates to the convention” of the mixed-union parent body, Title IV applies “to the election of such delegates.” 29 C.F.R. § 452.124; see also id. § 451.3(a)(4); id. § 452.12.

         In early September 2016, after considering the parties' briefing on the jurisdictional issue, the Court concluded that because Plaintiffs' election challenge properly fell under Title IV, it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction and granted Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. See Murray IV, 2016 WL 4594222, at *14. A few weeks later, Plaintiffs timely filed this Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). The ATU opposed the Motion, arguing that reconsideration was not warranted. Briefing is now complete.

         II. ...


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