United States District Court, District of Columbia
C. LAMBERTH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case pits two union members against their union's
leadership. After former D.C. employees Devin Hillman and
Tara Blunt wrote a letter criticizing the president of the
local American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)
chapter, the union stripped their membership, ejected them
from officer positions, blocked them from future meetings,
and thwarted their participation in an upcoming election. So
Hillman and Blunt sued, bringing three claims under the
Labor-Management Reporting & Disclosure Act, 29 U.S.C.
§§ 411-503 (LMRDA), one claim under the Labor
Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 141-197
(LMRA), and two claims under D.C. common law.
and its Local 2741 seek dismissal for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. The Court will
grant the union's motion to dismiss for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction for one of Hillman and Blunt's LMRDA
claims, for their LMRA claim, and for their common law
claims. But the Court will deny the union's motion to
dismiss the remaining two LMRDA claims since each states a
legally sufficient claim properly before the Court.
their part, Hillman and Blunt ask the Court to reconsider its
previous denial of a preliminary injunction. The Court
they were hired as assistant pool managers with D.C.'s
Department of Parks and Recreation, Hillman and Blunt joined
AFGE and Local 2741, which represents current and former D.C.
government employees. Hillman was even elected chief shop
steward. But the Department fired them for insubordination,
leaving their membership in flux while they appealed to
D.C.'s Office of Employment Appeals.
and Blunt attempted to pay dues while their appeals were
pending. But Local 2741 president David Brooks refused to
accept them. Compl. ¶¶ 29-32, 130.
and Blunt next contacted AFGE. National Vice President Eric
Bunn responded and confirmed they could maintain Local 2741
membership pending their appeals if they paid dues, which
Bunn agreed to accept directly (ordinarily, local chapters
collect dues). Id. ¶ 33-37.
Brooks refused to recognize Hillman and Blunt's
membership. Id. ¶ 40. When
Hillman and Blunt came to a meeting, Brooks called the
police. Id. ¶ 44. And when the
police refused to get involved, Brooks and two others
canceled the meeting and fled the building. Id.
¶ 45. The remaining attendees
reconvened the meeting, reinstated Hillman and Blunt,
restored Hillman as chief shop steward, and made Blunt the
interim secretary-treasurer. Id.
¶¶ 46-53. AFGE later
suspended Brooks as local president in part because he
"refus[ed] to acknowledge the membership of or accept
dues tendered on behalf of Hillman and Blunt." AFGE
named Barbara Jones the new local president. Id. at
and Blunt's troubles persisted. When Blunt moved to
appoint Hillman to serve out Jones's unexpired term as
vice president, Jones refused to call a vote on the properly
seconded motion. Id. ¶ 81.
After Jones refused to put other properly seconded motions to
a vote, id. ¶ 84, Blunt wrote
a letter criticizing her behavior. Id.
¶ 85. The letter vented that,
despite Blunt's position as interim secretary-treasurer,
Jones had not yet provided access to Local 2741's bank
accounts. Id. ¶ 86. Blunt
further accused Jones of being "dictatorial."
Id. ¶ 87.
days later, Nate Nelson-the national representative for the
AFGE district encompassing Local 2741-summarily removed Blunt
from the secretary-treasurer role, calling her letter
"unprofessional" and claiming her "attempt
to appoint Devlin Hillman to the Vice President position
without an election by the members"' violated local
bylaws. Id. ¶ 88. In response,
Blunt objected to AFGE president J. David Cox that her
removal violated the national and local constitutions.
Id. ¶ 91. Cox never responded.
the next meeting, Nelson notified the local executive
committee that AFGE barred Hillman and Blunt from attending.
Id. ¶ 92. Nelson also removed
Hillman and Blunt from the local executive committee. Id.
¶ 93. But Nelson blinked after
Hillman and Blunt's counsel warned that his actions could
violate the LMRDA, permitting them to attend as partially
reinstated members. Id. ¶ 95.
meeting, Jones announced that AFGE disavowed the minutes from
the prior meeting, and thus the votes for Hillman as chief
shop steward and Blunt as secretary-treasurer did not count.
Id. ¶ 103. She claimed that
AFGE instructed her to remove Hillman and Blunt from their
officer positions as a result. Id.
continued depositing her and Hillman's dues into Local
2741's bank account, even though she was no longer
secretary-treasurer. Id. ¶
107. With hours before the next general membership meeting.
Nelson told Hillman and Blunt they could neither attend nor
participate in the upcoming triennial elections because they
had not paid dues to the local treasurer, an executive
officer, or the chapter's mailing address, as local
policy required. Id. ¶ 110.
When Hillman and Blunt protested, Nelson allowed them to
prove they deposited their dues in the local's bank
account. Id. ¶ 112. And Nelson
retreated after Hillman and Blunt produced receipts, deeming
them members in good standing. Id.
¶ 113-116. But he quickly reversed
himself again, changing his mind after "additional
research" and concluding Hillman and Blunt remained
ineligible. Id. ¶ 117-118.
Hillman and Blunt went to the meeting and tried to pay their
dues. Jones claimed AFGE told her to remove them and to
refuse their payment. Id. ¶
121. And just before the election, Local 2741's
Nominations Committee chair confirmed Hillman and Blunt could
neither vote nor run for office. Id.
and Blunt sued AFGE and Local 2741 with days before the
election. Though untangling their complaint takes work, the
Court can tease out six different claims for relief:
1. that taking adverse actions against Hillman and Blunt
without requisite process violated the LMRDA ("the
2. that taking adverse action against Hillman and Blunt for
criticizing Jones violated the LMRDA ("the retaliation
3. that barring Hillman and Blunt from the chapter election
violated the LMRDA ("the ...