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Noble v. National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 4, 2018

DAVID W. NOBLE, Plaintiff,


          DABNEY L. FRIEDRICH United States District Judge

         This dispute arises from a membership ratification vote held in the summer of 2017 by Defendant National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO (“NALC”). Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Counts I, II, III, IV, and V of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. Dkt. 19. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         In May 2017, NALC and the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) agreed to a tentative collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) to replace their expired agreement. First Am. Compl. ¶ 6, Dkt. 18. Under the terms of NALC's constitution, NALC members must ratify a new CBA before it goes into effect. Accordingly, NALC held a ratification vote. NALC mailed ballots to certain members in late June 2017, with completed ballots due by July 29, 2017. Id. ¶¶ 5, 9; Def.'s Mem. in Support of Mot. to Dismiss at 3, Dkt. 19-1. Before the ratification vote was completed, however, NALC member and retired letter carrier David W. Noble (“Noble”), acting pro se, challenged the vote, alleging various violations of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (“LMRDA”).[2]

         A. The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act

         The LMRDA applies to votes held by Defendant NALC, the exclusive bargaining representative for city letter carriers employed by USPS. The LMRDA provides that members of labor organizations “shall have equal rights and privileges” to participate in the organization's elections and referendums, “subject to reasonable rules and regulations in such organization's constitution and bylaws.” 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(1). The LMRDA also states that members shall have the right to “assemble freely with other members, ” “express any views, ” and “express [views] at meetings of the labor organization, ” 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.” Id. § 411(a)(2). In addition, labor organizations must “comply with all reasonable requests of any candidate to distribute by mail or otherwise at the candidate's expense campaign literature in aid of such person's candidacy to all members in good standing of such labor organization.” Id. § 481(c).

         B. Procedural History

         1. Original Complaint

         Plaintiff Noble, with Thomas Houff, filed the original complaint in this action on June 27, 2017. Original Compl. ¶ 4, Dkt. 1. The original complaint asserted five counts. Count I alleged that NALC “concealed from the membership” the number of non-career City Carrier Assistants (“CCAs”) that USPS could employ under the proposed CBA. Id. ¶¶ 23-24. By not releasing this information “until after the ratification ballots were mailed, ” NALC allegedly violated the LMRDA. Id. Count II also asserted an LMRDA violation by alleging that “[u]known supporters of [NALC President] Rolando interfered with and prevented” Noble from internet live-streaming a “rap session” meeting held in Atlantic City, New Jersey on June 14, 2017. Id. ¶¶ 27-28. Likewise, Counts III and IV asserted that NALC violated the LMRDA by publishing false information about the tentative CBA before the ratification vote and unlawfully excluding retired members from the ratification vote. Id. ¶¶ 31-32, 35-36. Finally, Count V alleged that NALC “refus[ed] to permit opponents of ratification to use NALC's email list, ” thus violating the LMRDA. Id. ¶¶ 38-40.

         For relief, the plaintiffs requested that the Court “[o]rder NALC to cancel the ratification referendum begun during the week of June 19, 2017, ” “[o]rder NALC to permit plaintiffs to use NALC's list of members' email addresses” to oppose ratification, and issue a declaratory judgment stating that NALC violated the LMRDA. Id. ¶ 41.

         2. TRO and Preliminary Injunction Motion

         On July 10, 2017, the plaintiffs moved for a temporary restraining order requiring NALC “to refrain from opening the [ratification] ballots” and for a preliminary injunction requiring NALC “to cancel that ratification referendum.” Pls.' Mot. for TRO & Prelim. Inj. at 1, Dkt. 5. At the motion hearing, the Court found that the plaintiffs “ha[d] not established a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims, ” nor had they established that the balance of harms weighed in their favor or that “it [was] in the public interest for the Court to enjoin the counting of the ratification vote.” Tr. of Mot. Hr'g at 127-28, July 28, 2017, Dkt. 15.

         The Court acknowledged that plaintiffs could suffer irreparable harm because “the Court assumes, along with the parties, that the challenged ratification vote on the proposed agreement [cannot] be undone if the instant case proceeds on the merits.” Id. at 142 (emphasis added); see also Id. at 128 (acknowledging potential harm because “there can't be a do-over” of the ratification vote). Because that concern “d[id] not outweigh the other preliminary injunction factors, ” the Court denied the motion. Id.; see also Order, Dkt. 14.

         As a result, the ratification vote continued as scheduled. On August 7, 2017, NALC announced that voters ratified the CBA by a vote of 78, 935 in favor and 4, 732 ...

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