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PRANI v. INT. BR. OF TEAM.

United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D


July 27, 1983

EMIL PARINI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WARE-HOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA, LOCAL 179, DEFENDANT.

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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Emil Parini ("Parini") sues International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, Local 179 ("Union"), contending he was wrongfully discharged from his position as a Union business agent. His Complaint arguably draws on several jurisdictional predicates: Sections 102, 401, 501 and 609 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (the "Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 412, 481, 501 and 529,*fn1 and 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

Union has moved under Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 12(b)(1) and (6) to dismiss this action for want of subject matter jurisdiction. For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order Union's motion is granted.

Complaint Allegations*fn2

Union is an Illinois-based labor organization representing Illinois employees. Also residing in Illinois, Parini is a Union member and was employed by it as a business agent from June 1976 until January 1982. In October 1975 Parini decided to run for Union office. Attempting to dissuade him, certain Union officials promised to appoint him as a business agent until the next election if he did not run in the current election.*fn3 Parini agreed. In consideration for his thus deferring pursuit of his political aspirations, elected Union officials selected him as one of Union's business agents effective June 1976. From that time until August 1981 two other elections were held. Each time Parini opted not to become a candidate because certain Union officials had again promised (before each election) to retain him as a business agent (until the next election) so long as he did not run for office.

Union's next election was scheduled for October 1981. Before the September deadline for nominations, Parini informed certain Union officials of his intention to run for office in that election. Once again those officials made their conditional offer to renew his employment contract. Again Parini accepted, foregoing another opportunity to seek election.

Nonetheless, in January 1982 Parini was terminated and told he would be reappointed as soon as another business agent position became available. In September 1982 one of Union's business agents died. Though Parini had asked to be given that opening, Union appointed someone else to the post instead.

Parini asserts not only the loss of substantial wages he would have received as business agent since January 1982 but "injury to his reputation, humiliation, suffering and mental anguish." For all this he seeks reinstatement in his job plus damages:

  (1) loss of wages, the claimed injuries and
  expenses including attorney's fees — for all this
  the nice round sum of $500,000 and

(2) another $500,000 in punitive damages.

Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Parini's attempt to invoke this Court's subject matter jurisdiction has three logical steps:

    1. Union's breach of its agreement to retain
  Parini as a business agent offended certain of
  his rights under the Act by effectively depriving
  him of the opportunity to run for Union office:

      (a) his equal voting rights and rights of
    speech and assembly under Sections 101(a)(1)
    and (2) (part of Title I of the Act),
    29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(1) and (2);

      (b) his right to be eligible for Union office
    under Section 401(e) (part of Title IV of the
    Act), 29 U.S.C. § 481(e);

      (c) his rights under Section 501 (part of
    Title V of the Act), 29 U.S.C. § 501, which
    imposes certain fiduciary obligations on union
    officials; and

      (d) his Section 609 right not to be
    disciplined for exercising other rights under
    the Act.

    2. Union's asserted evasions of those rights
  are actionable under one or more of the three
  provisions that authorize private actions for
  violations of the Act:

      (a) Section 102 confers a right on "[a]ny
    person whose rights secured by the provisions
    of this subchapter [Title I of the Act] have
    been infringed by any violation of this
    subchapter [to] bring a civil action in a
    district court of the United States for such
    relief (including injunctions) as may be
    appropriate."

      (b) Section 501(b) permits a union member to
    sue any union official who violated Section
    501(a), provided the union itself has refused
    to bring suit.

      (c) Section 609 recognizes private actions
    against unions or union representatives who
    "fine, suspend, expel, or otherwise discipline
    any of its members for exercising any right to
    which he is entitled under the provisions of
    this chapter [the Act]."

    3. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction
  over those federal claims under Sections 102,
  501(b) and 609 (which also serve as
  jurisdictional predicates) and 28 U.S.C. § 1331,
  the general federal question jurisdictional
  provision.

All three propositions are fatally flawed. But because the defects in the first one conclusively establish the absence of subject matter jurisdiction, it is unnecessary to focus on the shortcomings of the other two.
*fn4

At the outset it should be emphasized the claimed intrusions into Parini's rights under the Act rest on the same incorrect premise — that Parini was involuntarily deprived of his opportunity to run for Union office. But that is plainly not the case. Parini's Complaint leaves no doubt he willingly ("eagerly" might be more accurate) relinquished his opportunity to be a candidate time and time again in return for valuable consideration — renewal of his Union employment. That decision is no less voluntary because (as must be assumed at this threshold pleading stage) Union officials did not intend to keep their last promise of employment. Such duplicity is irrelevant, for Union's culpability for the "deprivation" of Parini's rights stemmed from the very nature of the offer: its precondition that Parini not proclaim his candidacy.

In short, only Union's making of that contingent offer — not the presence or absence of its underlying good faith in doing so — could possibly have implicated the Act.*fn5 And Parini is really not objecting to that aspect of Union's conduct at all. Instead the very purpose of this action is to extract the benefit of the bargain he made. Far from suing because of his non-candidacy, Parini wants to recover the lost benefits of the job he voluntarily took in exchange for not running for office. Thus there is no way he can be said to be invoking the provisions of the Act as the basis for his suit.

That alone destroys any claimed federal jurisdictional predicate for this action. But there is more. Even were it assumed Union had deprived Parini of his opportunity to run for election, such deprivation would not impinge upon his asserted rights under the Act:

    1. Section 101(a)(1) guarantees Parini "equal
  rights and privileges within [a labor]
  organization to nominate candidates, to vote in
  elections or referendums of the labor
  organization, to attend membership meetings, and
  to participate in the deliberations and voting
  upon the business of such meetings. . . ." Those
  rights were scarcely infringed by precluding
  Parini from being a candidate, see Denov v. Chicago
  Federation of Musicians, 703 F.2d 1034, 1037 (7th
  Cir. 1983).

    2. Section 101(a)(2) affords Parini "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. . . ." Again Parini's inability to seek
  election did not hamper those rights, for he
  could freely attend any campaign meeting or
  express his views on any particular candidate.

    3. Section 401(e) provides, "Every member in
  good standing [like Parini] shall be eligible to
  be a candidate and to hold office . . . and shall
  have the right to vote for or otherwise support
  the candidate or candidates of his choice,
  without being subject to penalty, discipline, or
  improper interference or reprisal of any kind by
  such organization or any member thereof." Even if
  Parini could establish the highly doubtful
  proposition that the positive inducement of
  renewing his employment contract came within the
  prohibition of the underlined clause, he would have
  no private right of action for that claim.
  Denov, 703 F.2d at 1037.*fn6

    4. Section 501 imposes general fiduciary
  responsibilities upon union officials. It
  specifically requires those officials to manage
  union assets solely for the union's benefit (in
  accordance with the union's constitution and
  bylaws) and forbids them from dealing with the
  union in any manner in which they have an adverse
  interest. This Court fails to perceive (and
  Parini fails to identify) any connection between
  such fiduciary obligations and Union's conduct at
  issue here. Parini's employment relationship with
  the Union is simply not affected by Section
  501(a) fiduciary standards.

    5. Neither Union's conditional offer of
  employment nor its dismissal of Parini violates
  Section 609, even assuming the Act gives Union
  members the privately enforceable right to run
  for Union office. As for Parini's discharge,
  there is no allegation it was predicated on
  Parini's exercise of any right under the Act. Hence
  that aspect of Union's conduct does not implicate
  Section 609 at all. As for Union's conditional
  offer, that did not entail "discipline" within the
  meaning of Section 609 for two reasons:

      (a) Union's offer of renewed employment was
    beneficial and not punitive from Parini's
    perspective.

      (b) Even were that offer punitive, it still
    would not constitute "discipline."
    Finnegan, 456 U.S. at 437-38, 102 S.Ct. at 1871
    (footnotes and citations omitted; emphasis in
    original) is dispositive on that score:

      [W]e conclude that the term "discipline," as
    used in Section 609, refers only to retaliatory
    actions that affect a union member's rights or
    status as a member of the union. Section 609
    speaks in terms of disciplining "members"; and
    the three disciplinary sanctions specifically
    enumerated — fine, suspension, and expulsion —
    are all punitive actions taken against union
    members as members. In contrast, discharge from
    union employment does not impinge upon the
    incidents of union membership, and affects union
    members only to the extent that they happen also
    to be union employees. . . . We discern nothing
    in § 609, or its legislative history, to
    support petitioners' claim that Congress intended
    to establish a system of job security or tenure
    for appointed union employees.

In sum, from at least two separately dispositive perspectives the Complaint's allegations as to Union's bad faith and breach of contract are not actionable under the Act (though Parini may very well have a claim under state law). Consequently this Court must dismiss this action for want of subject matter jurisdiction.

Conclusion

Union's motion is granted. This action is dismissed for want of subject matter jurisdiction.


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