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Hudson v. American Federation of Government Employees

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 2, 2018

EUGENE HUDSON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JAMES E. BOASBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Eugene Hudson was elected in August 2015 to serve a second three-year term as National Secretary-Treasurer for Defendant American Federation of Government Employees. The Union's governing body, the National Executive Council, has now twice voted to remove him from office, including once after this Court reinstated him. In his First Amended Complaint, Hudson challenges both removals, alleging that they violated his member rights under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, the Labor Management Relations Act, and D.C. contract law. Now before the Court is his third Motion for Preliminary Injunction, again requesting reinstatement to his NST position. Because the Court finds that he is unlikely to succeed on the merits of any of his claims, it will deny the Motion.

         I. Background

         Although the parties agree that only the most recent discharge is relevant to this preliminary-injunction Motion, the Court finds it necessary, in relating the history of the case, to begin at the beginning.

         A. Factual History

         AFGE is a national labor organization representing over 1000 federal and D.C. government employees. See ECF No. 36 (Amended Complaint), ¶ 2. The National Executive Council (NEC) consists of a National President, National Secretary-Treasurer, National Vice-President for Women and Fair Practices, and National Vice-Presidents for each of the twelve AFGE districts. Id., ¶ 3. Hudson was elected to two consecutive three-year terms as National Secretary-Treasurer beginning in 2012. Id., ¶ 7. In August 2018, Convention delegates will elect a National President, a National Secretary-Treasurer, and the National Vice-President for Women and Fair Practices. Id., ¶ 8.

         On August 19, 2016, Hudson sent his assistant a letter declaring his intent to run for national office at the 2018 Convention, but not specifying a particular position. Id., Exh. 6 (Committee of Investigation File) at 10. His assistant sent the declaration of candidacy to AFGE's General Counsel on August 29. Id. at 9. Three communications from Hudson in 2016 subsequent to his declaration are pertinent to the case.

         First, Plaintiff sent a letter announcing his candidacy to AFGE local officers on August 26. Id. at 7-8, 13. In addition to announcing that he “will be a candidate for National Office at the 2018 Convention, ” the letter sought to “outline the structural problems” Hudson had faced as NST. Id. at 7. These challenges mostly concerned Plaintiff's view that the NST office was not strong enough, leaving the Union open to financial abuses by officers. Second, on October 3, Hudson sent a postcard to the same group of people, “provid[ing] some examples of expenses that have been approved, ” but that he did not believe served a valid Union purpose. Id. at 11. In the postcard, he promised to “set out a plan to correct these abuses” in “subsequent letters.” Id. Finally, one week after the American presidential election, Hudson directed an AFGE staff member to send an email to a group of AFGE members. See Amend. Compl., ¶ 29. Sent from the staff member's email on behalf of Hudson, the three-and-a-half-page email was entitled, “AFGE, the Trump administration, and the attack on the way” and included as a by-line, “From the Desk of National Secretary-Treasurer Eugene Hudson, Jr.” Id., ¶ 31. Hudson warned that the new administration would have a “bull's eye planted on the backs of federal workers and the unions that represent them.” Id. He questioned whether AFGE was “ready for this assault” and listed four items for consideration: 1) “Recognize that we must fight; we have no choice”; 2) “Rethink the way that we operate as an organization”; 3) “We need to build our support within the larger community”; and 4) “[T]his is a time for AFGE to join with other unions operating in the federal sector in coordinated responses to the attacks.” Id. No. one reviewed the email prior to Hudson's distribution.

         This last communication immediately sparked concern within AFGE leadership. One NVP found it “outrageous” that “an Afge [sic] policy statement [would] be sent out to the membership without knowledge and consent of the NEC, ” to which Hudson responded that the email was his “personal opinion and [not] an official statement from AFGE.” COI File at 30. AFGE's General Counsel and its President also expressed concern with the email. Id.

         B. Procedural History

         Nearly one month later, on December 21, 2016, National Vice-President Keith Hill filed an internal charge against Plaintiff pursuant to the AFGE National Constitution. Id. at 5-6. Hill asserted that Hudson had violated their Constitution by: (1) sending the August 2016 letter; (2) sending the October 2016 postcard; (3) maintaining a public website containing Union information; (4) directing his subordinate to send the November 15 email; and (5) referring to an AFGE staff member as the “Nigerian Nightmare” at a training. Id.

         1. Plaintiff's First Discharge

         Pursuant to Article 13 of the AFGE Constitution, a Committee of Investigation was appointed on February 7, 2017, to consider the charges. That Committee found that the letter, postcard, and website were forms of protected speech and that the verbal incident was not properly before it. See Amend. Compl., Exh 11 (COI Findings) at 1. The COI, conversely, did recommend that the NEC proceed on the charge related to the post-election email, “find[ing] probable cause exists for the specific charge of malfeasance of office.” Id The Committee then sent its report to the NEC, which met on August 8, 2017. Before both the COI and the NEC, Hudson maintained his innocence of any wrongdoing and asked that several NEC members be recused for potential bias because, as NST, he had challenged their reimbursements and use of AFGE financial resources. Id., Exh. 14.

         With no member recusing, the NEC adopted the Committee's report, deliberated, and found Hudson guilty of the referred charge. Id., Exh. 15. It then voted to remove him from his position as NST but did not restrict his Union membership rights. Id., ΒΆ 55. Hudson has appealed the ...


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