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Barnes v. Sanzo

decided: May 17, 1982.

WILLIE BARNES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LOUIS SANZO, AMADIO PETITO AND DON MAGLIONE, JR., JOINTLY AND SEVERALLY, BOTH IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL AND REPRESENTATIVE CAPACITIES AS PRESIDENT, SECRETARY AND VICE-PRESIDENT, RESPECTIVELY OF LOCAL 29 OF THE LABORERS" INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA/BLASTERS, DRILLRUNNERS, AND MINERS UNION AND LOCAL 29 OF THE LABORERS" INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA/BLASTERS, DRILLRUNNERS, AND MINERS UNION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Ward, J., dismissing appellant's complaint which challenged the collection by a union local of certain dues payments. Affirmed.

Before Waterman, Friendly and Meskill, Circuit Judges.

Author: Meskill

Willie Barnes appeals from an order of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Ward, J., dismissing his complaint which challenged the receipt by local 29, Laborers' International Union of North America/Blasters, Drillrunners, and Miners Union ("Union"), of certain dues payments from members. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

In 1972, Union officials increased membership dues by ten cents per hour of employment. Union officials also increased dues by five cents per hour of employment in each of 1975, 1976 and 1977. It is undisputed that because the Union failed to conduct secret ballot votes of the membership, each of the increases violated section 101(a)(3)(A) of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(3)(A) (1976).

On December 31, 1979, Barnes, a Union member who paid the unlawfully increased dues, filed suit seeking injunctive relief, an accounting, and a refund. By pre-trial order, Judge Ward directed that a retroactive ratification vote be taken on each of the challenged increases. The court limited the voting on each of the challenged increases to workers who were Union members on the dates that the increases took effect, including members who had since retired. These voting classes approved all of the dues increases, each by slightly less than a two-to-one margin. The court then entered an order dismissing Barnes' complaint and Barnes filed this appeal.

Barnes claims that the votes taken at the district court's direction could not retroactively cure the defects in the illegal dues increases and that the district court's order improperly denied some present Union members the right to vote.

Discussion

I. The Retroactive Vote

Barnes first claims that a membership vote approving dues increases cannot be applied retroactively. He argues that if dues increase were improperly implemented, a subsequent, properly conducted ratification vote can apply prospectively only. To support his position, Barnes cites several cases, including Landry v. Sabine Independent Seamen's Association, 623 F.2d 347, 350 (5th Cir. 1980); Local No. 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); White v. Local 942, Laborers' International Union, 90 F.R.D. 368, 373 (D.Alaska 1981); Gates v. Dalton, 441 F. Supp. 760, 764-65 (E.D.N.Y.1977) (Neaher, J.); Peck v. Associated Food Distributors, 237 F. Supp. 113, 115 (D.Mass.1965).

We find Barnes' argument unpersuasive. Each of the cases he cites is distinguishable on the important ground that the ratification vote challenged was initiated by the union without judicial sanction. In this case, the district court, pursuant to section 102 of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 412, ordered the ratification vote as a remedy for an LMRDA violation. Section 102 provides in pertinent part:

Any person whose rights secured by the provisions of this subchapter have been infringed by any violation of this subchapter may bring a civil action in a district court of the United States for such relief (including injunctions) as may be appropriate.

In construing section 102, the Supreme Court has said:

(Section) 102 was premised upon the fact that Title I litigation necessarily demands that remedies "be tailored to fit facts and circumstances admitting almost infinite variety," and § 102 was therefore cast as a broad mandate to the courts to fashion "appropriate" relief. Indeed, any attempt on the part of Congress to spell out all of the remedies available under § 102 would create the "danger that those (remedies) not listed might be proscribed with the result that the courts would be fettered ...


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