The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, District Judge.
Summary judgment for the Union.
United Transportation Union (Union) represents operating
craft employees of Norfolk Southern Railroad (Railroad). Jesse
Fulk and Donald Cearlock are former employees of the Railroad
and former members of the Union.
After much litigation — including two appeals to the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit — only one issue
remains in this case: Did the voting procedures used to decide
whether to approve the Railroad's buyout of certain
"productivity funds" violate the Union's Constitution?
Here's what happened. The productivity funds at issue in this
case were the product of a 1984 "crew consist" agreement
between the Union and the Railroad. That agreement permitted
the Railroad to reduce the operating crew size of each train
from two brakemen and a conductor to one brakeman and a
conductor as workers gradually left their jobs with the
Railroad. In return, the Railroad agreed to share the resulting
operating cost savings with the employees. Each time a train
operated with a reduced crew, the Railroad paid $53.25 into a
so-called "productivity fund" which was maintained for the
benefit of the workers.
The Railroad maintained a separate productivity fund for each
of several different geographical regions known as "seniority
districts." The existence of these seniority districts predated
the productivity fund arrangement. Only employees with
seniority in a given district could work and receive payments
from the productivity fund in that district. At the end of the
year, the amount reflected in each productivity fund was
totaled and divided among the workers in the fund's seniority
district. The benefits of the funds varied greatly because the
amount of work and the frequency of reduced crew usage varied
The union leadership decided to employ a different voting
procedure for each of the two proposals. The crew reduction
proposal would stand or fall upon an aggregate vote of the
entire union membership within certain subunits of the Union
known as General Committees of Adjustment (GCAs). The GCAs
covered geographic territories which were considerably larger
than the seniority districts. Plaintiffs were members of GCA
GO-719 which covered a territory known as the former Wabash
Railroad territory and encompassed twelve different seniority
districts. General Chairperson Kim Thompson headed GCA GO-719.
The voting procedure adopted for the productivity fund buyout
proposal was markedly different. During negotiations, General
Chairperson Thompson proposed, and the Railroad agreed, to
allow each district the opportunity to approve or reject the
proposed buyout of its productivity fund. This approach was
justified by the fact that the value of each district's fund
varied, as did the relative proportion of older employees to
younger employees. Accordingly, the productivity fund buyout
proposal would be voted on at the seniority district level,
allowing union members in each of the twelve districts to
decide whether or not to approve the buyout of its particular
fund. The union membership in Plaintiffs' GCA were informed of
the district by district voting procedure in advance of the
General Chairperson Thompson submitted the two proposals for
a vote in late 1991. The crew reduction proposal was approved
by the aggregate vote of GCA GO-719's membership. Predictably,
the results of the district by district vote on the
productivity fund buyout varied, each district reaching
different conclusions about whether to retain or relinquish its
productivity fund. Plaintiffs' district voted to retain its
fund. Plaintiffs, who were near retirement, did not expect to
enjoy much future benefit from their district's fund and
therefore would have preferred to receive the $60,000 in buyout
Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), summary judgment "should be granted
if the pleadings and supporting documents show that `there is
no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving
party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'"
Ruiz-Rivera v. Moyer, 70 F.3d 498, 500-01 (7th Cir. 1995). The
moving party has the burden of providing proper documentary
evidence to show the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548,
91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists
when "there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party
for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, ...