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Legutko v. Local 816

decided: August 5, 1988.

MICHAEL A. LEGUTKO, PATRICK WALTERS, STEVEN AGNOSTAKIOS, JOHN T. GOLINSKI, MICHAEL COZIER, ARTHUR MASON, RONALD MARTINI AND GERALD BAUER, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
LOCAL 816, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, AND INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, AND WALLACK FREIGHT LINES, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from decisions rendered by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Wexler, J., dismissing plaintiffs-appellants' causes of action alleging violations of section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a), and section 101(a)(1) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(1). Relying on DelCostello v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 76 L. Ed. 2d 476, 103 S. Ct. 2281 (1983), the district court concluded that the six month statute of limitations established in section 10(b) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 160(b), applied to the causes of actions, and that the causes of actions were time barred because no proper basis for tolling the statute of limitations had been established, and the causes of actions were brought more than six months after they had accrued. Affirmed.

Feinberg, Chief Judge, Meskill and Pierce, Circuit Judges.

Author: Meskill

MESKILL, Circuit Judge:

In this action, we must determine whether certain causes of action claiming that a provision of a labor contract was executed and implemented in violation of a union constitution are time barred. Plaintiffs-appellants, employees or former employees of defendant-appellant Wallack Freight Lines (Wallack), assert several causes of action based upon the alleged improper ratification of a provision to a collective bargaining agreement between Wallack and defendant-appellee Local 816, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (Local 816). In a series of decisions, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Wexler, J., held that the six month statute of limitations adopted in DelCostello v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 76 L. Ed. 2d 476, 103 S. Ct. 2281 (1983), applied to the causes of action that alleged violations of section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a) (1982) (LMRA), and section 101(a)(1) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(1) (1982) (LMRDA). These causes of action were then dismissed as time barred.

For the following reasons, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

Although the parties disagree on certain factual points, the critical facts on which this case turns are not in dispute. According to plaintiffs, from March 1, 1982 to March 31, 1985, the drivers at Wallack were employed pursuant to the National Master Freight Agreement and the New Jersey-New York Area General Trucking Supplemental Agreement (the Supplemental Agreement) entered into by defendant-appellee International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and various national employer associations to which Wallack belonged. Article 52, Section 2(a)(1) of the Supplemental Agreement provided that "[a]ll hours worked in excess of eight (8) hours per day, Monday to Friday inclusive, shall be paid for at the rate of time and one-half (1 1/2) . . . ." See J. App. 106.

In June 1982, Wallack proposed a one year rider to the Supplemental Agreement that provided that employees would receive straight time pay, rather than overtime pay at the rate of time and one-half, for the first ten hours worked in a single day. Local 816 conducted a vote on this proposal, and the vote was twelve in favor of adoption and either twenty or twenty-three opposed. Another vote was conducted on the rider several days later, allegedly without advance notice. The vote this time was eighteen to seventeen in favor of the rider with at least three union members not present. Local 816 then executed and implemented the rider. The plaintiffs claim that the ratification process violated Article 16, Section 4 of the Teamsters International Constitution (the International constitution), which provides that "[i]f amendments to local or area supplements or riders to the Master Agreement are voluntarily negotiated during the term of such Agreement, such amendments must be approved by a secret ballot majority vote of the affected members . . . ." See J. App. 109.

According to the defendants, in 1983 Wallack and Local 816 negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement, which was presented to employees for a ratification vote in early June. The portion of the new agreement dealing with the overtime proposal was separately submitted to the employees for a vote, and was rejected by a majority but not two-thirds of the employees. Defendants concluded that the overtime provision was consequently ratified under Article 12, Section 1(b) of the International constitution, which provides in part:

Contracts may be accepted by a majority vote of those members involved in negotiations and voting, or a majority of such members may direct further negotiations before a final vote on the employer's offer is taken. . . . When, in the judgment of the Local Union Executive Board, an employer has made a final offer of settlement, such offer must be submitted to the involved membership and can be rejected only by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the members. . . . If a settlement cannot be reached, the Local Union Executive Board shall order a secret ballot to be taken and it shall require a two-thirds (2/3) majority of those members of the Local Union involved in such negotiations and voting to adopt a motion to strike . . . . The failure of such membership to authorize a strike upon rejecting the employer's last offer shall require the Local Union Executive Board to accept such last offer or such additional provisions as can be negotiated by it.

See J. App. 145. Thus, because Local 816 considered the overtime provision to be part of a new single employer agreement negotiated and agreed to on an individual basis between Local 816 and Wallack, it concluded that it was able to accept the overtime proposal unless it was rejected by two-thirds of the Local's members.

In June 1983, Local 816 conducted a vote on whether to extend the rider for another year, and a majority of the workers, but less than two-thirds, voted to reject the extension. Local 816 then executed a one year extension of the provision.

Plaintiff Legutko, whose employment by Wallack terminated on May 31, 1983, wrote to the International union on August 16, 1983, requesting that the rider be rescinded and that the pay lost by the Local 816 membership over the past fifteen months be recovered. The IBT undertook an investigation concerning Legutko's charges. The investigation terminated in September 1983, although Legutko did not receive any notice of the probe or its termination.

On April 5, 1984, plaintiffs commenced this suit alleging several causes of action against Local 816, the IBT and Wallack based on the alleged violations of the International constitution in connection with the ratification of the overtime proposal. In May 1984, Local 816 conducted another vote on extending the rider, with twenty-three employees voting against the extension and eighteen voting for it. Apparently the President of Wallack had insisted on majority approval of the overtime provision, and so Local 816 announced that the extension of the rider had not been approved. Starting in July 1984, Wallack resumed paying its employees for all overtime work at time and one-half. In September 1984, however, another vote was ...


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