Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Seybert v. Lowen

decided: May 29, 1980.

JOHN R. SEYBERT AND VICTOR SOTO, PLAINTIFFS, VICTOR SOTO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
ROBERT LOWEN, AS INTERNATIONAL SECRETARY-TREASURER OF THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF MASTERS, MATES AND PILOTS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, AND THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF MASTERS, MATES AND PILOTS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Plaintiff-appellant, a member of the Offshore Division Local of the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots of America, AFL-CIO, claiming that a per capita tax levied by the International upon the Local and collected from 1974 through 1977 was an unauthorized dues increase, sought return of the monies so paid. The action was heard below in the Southern District of New York, Motley, J., and judgment entered there dismissing the complaint. Judgment affirmed.

Before Lumbard, Waterman and Feinberg, Circuit Judges.

Author: Waterman

This action was commenced in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by John R. Seybert and Victor Soto, two members of the Offshore Division of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots of America, AFL-CIO ("International" or "IOMM&P"), seeking the return of monies paid to the IOMM&P during the period 1974 through 1977 by virtue of an allegedly unauthorized per capita tax levied on the Offshore Division.*fn1 Plaintiff-appellant Soto appeals from a judgment entered on June 29, 1979 by the Honorable Constance Baker Motley, dismissing the complaint against defendants-appellees IOMM&P and that organization's Secretary-Treasurer, Robert Lowen. For the reasons we detail below, we affirm that judgment.

The allegedly unauthorized per capita tax here challenged was imposed as a result of certain actions taken at the International's Conventions held in 1973 and 1974. To provide the necessary factual background for the issues raised in this litigation, we outline the key events which occurred in the relevant time period.

By 1973, due primarily to depressed economic conditions, both the International and the Offshore Division were experiencing grave financial difficulties.*fn2 Consequently, when the IOMM&P held its regular Convention in October, 1973, the fiscal crises facing both the IOMM&P and the Offshore Division were prime agenda items. The delegates to the Convention were made aware that some source of increased revenues had to be located in order to stave off the impending bankruptcies of both bodies.

During this 1973 Convention the IOMM&P's Finance Committee met to consider alternative ways of assuring the future solvency of the IOMM&P and the Offshore Division, and decided that an increase in the dues of Offshore Division members provided the best solution. In the past, Offshore Division members paid quarterly dues of $75 ($300 annually) to the Offshore Division, which in turn made quarterly per capita payments of $7.50 ($30 annually) per member to the IOMM&P. Under the Finance Committee's proposal, the annual dues for Offshore Division members would be increased by an amount equal to 6% of each member's annual vacation pay, and the Finance Committee also contemplated that 10% of this increased amount would accrue to the IOMM&P in the form of an increased annual per capita assessment.

To implement these proposals, certain provisions of the IOMM&P Constitution and of the Offshore Division By-Laws required amendment. Under the existing IOMM&P constitutional provisions quarterly per capita payments were to be of fixed amounts. The proposed amendment was designed to restate these payments as minimum amounts rather than as fixed amounts,*fn3 and it was submitted to the IOMM&P membership. Also, a proposed amendment designed to increase the annual dues payable by members of the Offshore Division in an amount equal to 6% of each member's annual vacation pay was submitted to the membership of that body.*fn4 Each proposed amendment obtained the approval of its respective constituency in separate 90 day secret mail ballot referenda.

In August, 1974, the IOMM&P held another Convention, during which the Finance Committee examined various reports and projections relating to the fiscal condition of the IOMM&P and the Offshore Division. These documents incorporated the 6% vacation pay increase in the annual dues payable by members of the Offshore Division, and the 10% of this sum that was to be paid by the Offshore Division to the IOMM&P as an addition to the annual per capita assessment. The Finance Committee found that these documents were in order and fairly represented the fiscal condition of the IOMM&P and the Offshore Division. A "partial report," embodying in very general terms these conclusions of the Finance Committee, was read to and approved by the delegates at the Convention. At some later point in 1974, both the increase in Offshore Division membership dues and the additional per capita tax assessed by the IOMM&P against that body were implemented.

The next IOMM&P Convention was not held until 1977. During this Convention, the first one at which plaintiff-appellant Soto was a delegate, a proposal was made to increase the annual per capita assessment payable by the Offshore Division to the IOMM&P from 10% to 25% of the amount of Offshore Division membership dues. Allegedly, at this time, plaintiff-appellant Soto and others first learned that since 1974 the IOMM&P had been receiving 10% of all Offshore Division dues, including the 6% vacation pay increase.*fn5 Accordingly, in March, 1977, the present action was instituted, seeking the return of the increased per capita assessments collected by the IOMM&P from the Offshore Division between 1974 and 1977, on the theory that such payments constituted a dues increase that could not be implemented absent compliance with the mandatory provisions of § 101(a)(3)(B) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(3)(B).

After considering the stipulated facts and the evidence offered at trial, the District Court dismissed the complaint and rendered judgment for the defendants. The District Court advanced three alternative rationales in support of its decision: (1) the application of the 10% per capita assessment to the vacation pay increase in Offshore Division membership dues did not impose any additional financial burden on the members of that subordinate body, and therefore could not be regarded as an increase in membership dues governed by the mandatory provisions of 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(3); (2) the increase in the per capita assessment had received the approval of the delegates at the August, 1974 IOMM&P Convention; and (3) the increase in the per capita assessment was effected pursuant to a proper interpretation of the IOMM&P Constitution by officers of the IOMM&P. We base our affirmance on the first rationale advanced by the District Court, and hence find it unnecessary to place reliance on the other two.

The issue on this appeal principally involves the proper interpretation of 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(3), the statute which sets forth the procedures that must be followed by both local and international labor organizations when those bodies seek to increase the "rates of dues" payable by their members.*fn6 Obviously the District Court was correct in holding that the "rates of dues" payable by Offshore Division members had been increased by the additional appropriation of 6% of each member's annual vacation pay. However, the District Court also properly found that this dues increase was submitted to, and received the approval of, the membership of the Offshore Division in a process that complied with 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(3)(A). Thus the dispute centers around whether the District Court correctly held that the additional per capita assessment levied by the IOMM&P on the Offshore Division and payable out of the dues increase was not an increase in the "rates of dues," and that consequently the IOMM&P was not required to comply with the provisions of 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(3)(B) prior to taking such action.

In so classifying the additional per capita assessment, the District Court relied on the test laid down in King v. Randazzo, 234 F. Supp. 388 (E.D.N.Y.1964), aff'd, 346 F.2d 307 (2d Cir. 1965), for determining whether a particular assessment constitutes a dues increase: "Whether there has been an increase in dues must be determined not by who imposed the exaction but by the nature of the imposition and its direct effect upon the financial burden of the individual members." Id. at 394. After applying this test to the per capita assessment at issue here, the District Court concluded that "the (IOMM&P's) imposition of (the per capita assessment) had no effect whatsoever upon the financial burdens of the individual members of the Offshore Division." Although we agree with the approach so taken by the District Court, and the conclusion thereby reached, we acknowledge that the result reached here is in seeming conflict with the holding in Local 2, International Brotherhood of Telephone Workers v. International Brotherhood of Telephone Workers, 362 F.2d 891 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 385 U.S. 947, 87 S. Ct. 321, 17 L. Ed. 2d 226 (1966). Accordingly, we will set forth our reasons for not adopting the holding of Local 2.

The notion that there is a distinction between "rates of dues," which may be increased only after compliance with the relevant provisions of 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(3), and "per capita taxes," which may be assessed without regard for the procedures mandated by 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(3), was first enunciated in Ranes v. Office Employees International Union, Local 28, 317 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1963).

In Ranes, a "per capita tax" was defined as "(t)he charge per member payable periodically, usually monthly, by a local union to the national or international union with which it is affiliated. The per capita tax is a charge against the local union, not its members, collected by the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.