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KIEPURA v. LOCAL UNION 1091

March 13, 1973

GEORGE KIEPURA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LOCAL UNION 1091, UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA, AND INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McMILLEN, District Judge.

  DECISION ON TRIAL

Section 101 of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act provides in pertinent part as follows (29 U.S.C. § 411):

  (a)(1) Equal rights. — Every member of a labor
  organization shall have equal rights and privileges
  within such organization . . . to attend membership
  meetings, and to participate in the deliberations
  and voting upon the business of such meetings,
  subject to reasonable rules and regulations in such
  organization's constitution and bylaws.
  (a)(2) Freedom of speech and assembly. — Every
  member of any labor organization shall have the
  right to meet and assemble freely with other
  members; and to express any views, arguments, or
  opinions; and to express at meetings of the labor
  organization his views, upon candidates in an
  election of the labor organization or upon any
  business properly before the meeting, subject to
  the organization's established and reasonable rules
  pertaining to the conduct of meetings: Provided,
  That nothing herein shall be construed to impair
  the right of a labor organization to adopt and
  enforce reasonable rules as to the responsibility
  of every member toward the organization as an
  institution and to his refraining from conduct that
  would interfere with its performance of its legal
  or contractual obligations.
  (a)(5) Safeguards against improper disciplinary
  action. — No member of any labor organization may
  be fined, suspended, expelled, or otherwise
  disciplined except for nonpayment of dues by such
  organization or by any officer thereof unless such
  member has been (A) served with written specific
  charges; (B) given a reasonable time to prepare his
  defense; (C) afforded a full and fair hearing.

This being a remedial statute, it should be liberally but reasonably applied. In the context of the case at bar, we believe a full and fair hearing requires that an impartial tribunal, selected in accordance with the Union's bylaws, arrive at its decision on the basis of evidence which the accused member can see and hear and has an opportunity to rebut. This court is not empowered to inquire into the merits of the charges brought against the plaintiff, so long as he receives a "full and fair hearing" on them. International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, etc. v. Hardeman, 401 U.S. 233, 91 S.Ct. 609, 28 L.Ed.2d 10 (1971). Because of prejudicial shortcomings in the manner in which the plaintiff was accorded his hearing, however, we find and conclude that the defendant union Local 1091 violated Section 101(a)(5)(C) and that the plaintiff is entitled to relief against this defendant.

The charges were preferred against the plaintiff by Paul Markonni, the International Representative who serviced Local 1091 and was formerly its president. His charges, dated March 10, 1969 are attached hereto and consisted of seven specifications. Plaintiff was unanimously found guilty of all charges at the hearing level but, on appeal to the International, only charge 2 was sustained. It reads as follows:

Dear Sir:

  This is to inform you that I am filing charges
  against a member, George Kiepura, under the
  provision of the International Constitution
  — United Steelworkers of America. He is guilty of
  violating the intent and oath of the International
  Constitution.

The following are the charges:

  2. He disrupts meetings by being out of order,
  speaks without being recognized, answers members
  across the floor and disturbs meeting causing the
  membership to pull away from the meetings. The
  membership at the meeting is dropping and many
  are giving the above as their reason.

When these charges were presented to the local union meeting in March 1969, the union president appointed a Trial Committee consisting of himself and eight other members. This number did not comply with Article X, Section 5 of the International's Bylaws for Local Unions which provides for a committee of 3 or 5 members. Since the Local Union had no specific bylaws governing the composition of a trial committee, it was bound to follow the rules laid down by the International. Inasmuch as the 9-member Trial Committee exceeded the number authorized by Article X, Section 5 by at least 4 and as many as 6 members, plaintiff was deprived of a properly constituted tribunal to hear the charges against him.

The Trial Committee itself was not composed in a manner assuring the plaintiff the "fair hearing" to which he was entitled under Section 101(a)(5). In addition to himself, the president appointed two other officers of the local, a member of the Union's Executive Committee, the Chairman of the Steward Committee, a steward, one grievance committeeman and two "rank and filers." In view of the fact that plaintiff was disciplined partly for his conduct at union meetings, and that he had been a candidate for union office and planned to be again, the elected officers and those appointed by them could hardly be considered impartial or disinterested members of a trial committee. Although the size and composition of the Trial Committee was not objected to at the Union meeting where it was appointed, it was objected to by the plaintiff before its hearings began. This court does not have ...


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