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Hudson v. American Federation of Government Employees

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 25, 2018

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

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JAMES E. BOASBERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Eugene Hudson, former National Secretary-Treasurer for Defendant American Federation of Government Employees, challenges his removal from that office under two federal statutes and D.C. contract law. This case has now wound its way through three preliminary-injunction motions, a motion to dismiss, and an amended complaint. In this iteration of the litigation, AFGE again moves to dismiss. Finding that Plaintiff has stated a facially plausible claim on all but one count, the Court will largely deny the Motion.

         I. Background

         The facts of this case have been thoroughly detailed in several prior Opinions. See Hudson v. Am. Fed. of Gov't Empls., 292 F.Supp.3d 145, 149-52 (D.D.C. 2017) (AFGE I), vacated, Jan. 12, 2018; Hudson v. Am. Fed. of Gov't Empls., 289 F.Supp.3d 121, 123-25 (D.D.C. 2018) (AFGE II); Hudson v. Am. Fed. of Gov't Empls., 2018 WL 1587473, at *1-3 (D.D.C. Apr. 2, 2018) (AFGE III). The Court, accordingly, will only briefly describe the factual and procedural background here.

         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 three full-time national officers - National President, National Secretary-Treasurer (NST), and 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 NST beginning in 2012. Id., ¶ 7. The Union will hold its triennial convention in August 2018, where Convention delegates will elect the national officers. Id., ¶ 8.

         On August 19, 2016, Hudson sent his assistant a letter declaring his intent to run for national office at the upcoming Convention -which was later forwarded to AFGE's General Counsel - but he did not specify a particular position. Id., Exh. 6 (Committee of Investigation File) at 10. Three subsequent communications from Plaintiff to AFGE members form the crux of the disagreement between the parties.

         Using AFGE-supplied mailing labels, he first sent a letter announcing his still-unspecified candidacy to AFGE local officers on August 26, and he followed that up with a postcard to the same group of people in October using mailing labels he purchased from AFGE. Id. at 7-8, 11, 13; Amend. Compl., ¶¶ 22-23. In November, one week after the American presidential election, Hudson directed an AFGE staff member to send his third communication: an email to a group of AFGE members detailing his views about the incoming Trump administration. Id., ¶ 32. He warned that the new administration would have a “bull's eye planted on the backs of federal workers and the unions that represent them” and questioned whether AFGE was “ready for this assault.” Id., ¶ 31.

         B. Procedural History

         Nearly one month later, on December 21, 2016, National Vice-President Keith Hill filed an internal charge against Plaintiff. Id., ¶ 39. 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.

         Pursuant to Article 13 of the AFGE Constitution, a Committee of Investigation was appointed on February 7, 2017, to consider the charges. Out of the five charges, the COI recommended that the NEC proceed only on the charge related to the post-election email, “find[ing] probable cause exists for the specific charge of malfeasance of office.” Amend. Compl., Exh. 11 (COI Findings) at 1. Despite Hudson's request that several NEC members be recused for potential bias, the full 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., ¶ 55. Hudson has appealed the ruling to the National Convention, which, as noted, will take place this August. Id., ¶ 59.

         Hudson then filed this suit, following his Complaint with a preliminary-injunction motion. See ECF Nos. 1, 4. After the Court granted the injunction on the ground of bias and ordered him reinstated, the Union convened another COI to reprocess the charges against Plaintiff without tainted members. Before those proceedings had concluded, however, Plaintiff withdrew the count upon which the Court had relied in its injunction, leading it to vacate that Opinion and Hudson's reinstatement. See Minute Order, Jan. 12, 2018. AFGE then filed a motion to dismiss, and Hudson followed shortly after with another motion for preliminary injunction. See ECF Nos. 21, 30. The Court largely granted the former and then denied the latter as moot. See AFGE II, 289 F.Supp.3d at 130-31; Minute Order, Feb. 7, 2018.

         The internal Union machinery, meanwhile, plodded on. The second COI found, in addition to the violations via the November 2016 email, probable cause existed that Hudson had “violated AFGE Policy and Practice” in sending the August 2016 letter, and it referred both of those charges to the NEC. See COI File at 1. On February 6, 2018, the NEC found that Hudson had violated the AFGE Constitution in obtaining mailing labels for his August missive without announcing his candidacy for a specific office. The NEC also concluded that the November email was “campaign literature[, ] as it was his third mass distribution in the brief period following his” candidacy announcement. See ECF No. 35-1 (NEC Decision). Because the November email “focused on a political topic, ” and he directed a Union staff member to distribute it “on AFGE's email server and computer system at the [U]nion's cost, ” the NEC determined that Hudson had violated the AFGE Constitution and Department of Labor regulations. Id. The Council then voted to suspend him from office as NST for the rest of his term.

         Focusing on this second removal, Hudson filed an Amended Complaint with the Court's permission, and a third motion for preliminary injunction, which the Court denied. See AFGE III, 2018 WL ...


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