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DOBSON v. CHICAGO & NORTHEAST ILLINOIS DIST.

February 9, 1989

GEORGE DOBSON, STEPHEN GALBRAITH, ALAN GRAVES, JOHN JUBACK and STEVEN SANDER, Plaintiffs,
v.
CHICAGO AND NORTHEAST ILLINOIS DISTRICT, UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS, and INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS, Defendants


James B. Moran, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MORAN

JAMES B. MORAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Plaintiffs brought suit for injunctive and declaratory relief pursuant to Section 102 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 412, and the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, 2202. We rule herein on plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction suspending the dues checkoff. That motion is denied because the probability of success on the merits is insufficient given the minimal degree to which the balance of harms favors granting the injunction.

 This dispute arises out of the procedures surrounding a March 5, 1988 vote by members of defendant Chicago and Northeast Illinois District, United Brotherhood of Carpenters ("district council"). At issue was a "dues checkoff" proposal which in effect added an additional fee of 1% of earnings to the amount already deducted from the salaries of employees for basic dues. The proposal would allow three-fourths of the additional 1% to the district council and the remaining one-fourth would be sent to the local unions.

 There are three legal issues. First, whether the notice provided to the members was reasonable within the meaning of the LMRDA. The plaintiffs allege the actual notice did not adequately explain that the proposal was an additional assessment and did not replace the basic dues. Second, whether voting by retirees denied the plaintiffs' rights to an equal vote. The plaintiffs allege that since the retirees were unaffected by the dues checkoff proposal, their voting violated both the LMRDA as well as the constitution of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. And third, whether the timing of the vote denied those members who chose to work an equal and reasonable opportunity to vote. The plaintiffs allege that members who applied for work permits on the day of the vote were unaware a dues increase was pending. They also allege that the district council provided no absentee ballots and failed to hold open the polls to accommodate working members. We find an insufficient probability of success on the merits with respect to these claims to justify the proposed injunction.

 DISCUSSION

 I. The Appropriate Legal Standard

 In Roland Machinery Co. v. Dresser Industries, 749 F.2d 380 (7th Cir. 1984), Judge Posner articulated the standards to be applied in preliminary injunction proceedings. The Seventh Circuit adopted a "sliding scale" approach to the purportedly independent demonstrations of likelihood of success on the merits and that the balance of harms favors issuance:

 
5. If the plaintiff does show some likelihood of success, the court must then determine how likely that success is, because this affects the balance of relative harms (point 3 above). The more likely the plaintiff is to win, the less heavily need the balance of harms weigh in his favor, the less likely he is to win, the more need it weigh in his favor. This is a most important principle, and one well supported by cases in this and other circuits, and by scholarly commentary.

 Id. at 387 (citations omitted). We therefore review the probability of success on the merits and the balance of harms with a mind toward minimizing errors of two types. First, the "error of denying an injunction to someone whose legal rights have in fact been infringed," a mistake "more costly the greater the magnitude of the harm that the plaintiff will incur from the denial and the greater the probability that his legal rights really have been infringed." Id. at 388. And second, the "error of granting an injunction to someone whose legal rights will turn out not to have been infringed," a mistake "more costly the greater the magnitude of the harm to the defendant from the injunction and the smaller the likelihood that the plaintiff's rights really have been infringed." Id.

 II. Probability of Success on the Merits

 The three areas of dispute, adequacy of notice, dilution of voting rights, and equal access, appear likely to be resolved in favor of the defendants. We discuss each briefly, with the knowledge that a more thorough review will be necessary in the future and there can ...


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