Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 83-C-8623 - John A. Nordberg, Judge.
Before CUMMINGS, Chief Judge, WOOD, Circuit Judge and WYATT , Senior District Judge.*fn*
This action seeks an order requiring Local 710, International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("Local 710" or "the Union") to provide its remotely situated members with regional meetings or mail ballots for voting on amendments to the bylaws of the Union. Plaintiffs, four members of Local 710, assert that the Union's policy of requiring its members to attend meetings in Chicago in person to vote on amendments to Local 710's "Constitution and By-Laws" (hereinafter "By-Laws") violates their rights of equal voting privileges and of free speech and assembly guaranteed under Title I, § 101 (a) (1) and (2) of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), 29 U.S.C. § 411 (a) (1) and (2). The district court granted defendant's motion for dismissal, construing it as a motion for summary judgment, ruling that plaintiffs complained of a purely internal union matter and had failed to state a claim under Title I of the LMRDA. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse the judgment and remand with instructions.
Plaintiffs filed this action on November 29, 1983, after exhausting all internal Union remedies, pursuant to § 102 of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 412, which provides that any person whose rights secured by Title I of the Act have been infringed by a violation of Title I "may bring a civil action in a district court of the United States for such relief (including injunctions) as may be appropriate." The alleged violation of Title I is the Union's requirement of personal attendance at a single meeting location in Chicago to vote on proposed amendments to Local 710's By-Laws.
The action arises out of the unsuccessful attempt of certain Local 710 members to amend the Union By-Laws to require direct election of union stewards. (Complaint [P] 10, R. Item 1). Prior to the April 24, 1983, bylaw amendment vote concerning union stewards, alternative voting procedures were requested by plaintiffs and others but these requests were denied by the Union leadership.
Article 33 of Local 710's By-Laws provides that:
Any 10 members may propose in writing amendments to these By-Laws. The proposed amendments, unless otherwise provided herein, shall be submitted to the Local Union and read at one regular meeting and voted upon at the next regular meeting. Amendments may also be proposed, read and voted upon at a special meeting called for such purpose with advance notice to the membership of the nature of the amendment. Amendments approved by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of those members present and voting shall be sent to the Office of the General President for approval and shall take effect immediately upon receipt by the Local Union of such approval.
Article 18, Section 1 of the By-Laws requires general membership meetings to be held monthly at a place designated by its Executive Board. Section 2 of the same Article permits special meetings to be called by the President or a majority of the Executive Board after ten percent of the members sign a petition requesting such a meeting. Regional membership meetings are expressly authorized by Article 8, Section 1, which states:
The Executive Board is authorized to permit membership meetings to be held on a division, craft, place of employment or other similar basis as it shall consider appropriate considering the special needs of the organization so as to permit the membership to attend meetings and to express their views and otherwise exercise their rights as members. There shall be no limitation on the right of any member to be heard at any such separate meeting provided herein on all matters which apply to the general membership, but such separate division, craft or place of employment meeting to which he has been assigned.
The Executive Board, pursuant to Article 18, currently holds its membership meetings, including those at which amendments to the bylaws are considered at the Union hall, located at 4217 S. Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois. Plaintiffs do not specifically attack the Union's By-Laws, but instead challenge the practice or policy of not permitting By-Law-sanctioned regional meetings or non-prohibited mail balloting. In light of Local 710's large geographical jurisdiction and a membership dispersed throughout that area, the Union's in-person Chicago voting requirement allegedly places an unequal and unreasonable handicap on the voting and participation rights of members living and working significant distances from Chicago.
Although the district court forbade discovery in this case and Local 710 refused to release information regarding the dispersion of its membership (R. Item 14; Def. Br. 7), plaintiffs submitted various affidavits and petitions and estimates, summarized below, concerning the location of the membership which defendant did not directly contest below or on appeal. Defendant Local 710 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is composed of approximately 15,000 voting members including long-distance and local drivers, dock-hands and warehouse workers. Almost all Local 710 members live and work in a four-state area including Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa, although some Local 710 members live as far away as New York and Texas. Plaintiffs estimate that 25 percent to 40 percent of the membership live and work more than 100 miles from the Union hall in Chicago. A petition drive directed at obtaining regional meetings or mail ballots which took place in late 1982 and early 1983 garnered signatures of 433 members who lived over 250 miles from Chicago (Pltf. Br. 11). An affidavit submitted by one plaintiff contained a summary solely of United Parcel Service employees' (and Union members') geographic dispersion and revealed that 3,100 employees live more than 100 miles from Chicago, and 1,900 members live 150 miles or more from Chicago, 390 members more than 200 miles from Chicago, and 270 members more than 250 miles from Chicago. Defendant admitted below that the Union members living more than 150 miles from Chicago make up approximately eighteen percent of the Local 710 membership (R. Item 25 at 4; Defendant's Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment). In summary, this case ...