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Diamond v. United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 881

May 03, 2002

MITCHELL DIAMOND AND AMY M. WELTLICH, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS AND CROSS-APPELLEES,
v.
UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS UNION LOCAL 881, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE AND CROSS-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 97-L-884 Honorable Edward R. Duncan, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Grometer

Released for publication May 7, 2002.

MITCHELL DIAMOND AND AMY M. WELTLICH, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS AND CROSS-APPELLEES,
v.
UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS UNION LOCAL 881, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE AND CROSS-APPELLANT.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 97-L-884 Honorable Edward R. Duncan, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Grometer

PUBLISHED

 Plaintiffs, Mitchell Diamond and Amy M. Weltlich, represent a class of plaintiffs who are or were members of defendant, United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 881 (the local). In the present action, plaintiffs allege that defendant imposed a temporary special dues assessment on its members in a manner that contravened defendant's bylaws. Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Du Page County, judgment was entered in defendant's favor. Plaintiffs now appeal.

In the action below, defendant asserted a number of affirmative defenses and filed a counterclaim seeking a declaratory judgment and attorney fees. The trial court found that none of the defenses applied and also denied defendant's counterclaim. Defendant has filed a conditional cross-appeal, asking that we review these rulings in the event that we reverse the decision of the trial court based on plaintiffs' appeal. Because we affirm, we will not address defendant's cross-appeal.

BACKGROUND

Defendant is a labor union that represents employees, primarily in the retail food industry, throughout Illinois and northwest Indiana. Defendant is chartered by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (the international). At the time of the events that form the basis of the this case, defendant had approximately 35,000 members.

In the fall of 1991, defendant embarked on a program, dubbed the LEAD campaign, to picket nonunion grocery stores. Defendant sought to encourage its members to picket these stores by paying them $8.50 per hour for doing so. In order to finance this campaign, defendant needed to raise money. Accordingly, defendant sought to impose a special assessment of $8.66 per month on its members. The assessment was to be imposed for an 18-month period. This was, apparently, the only occasion that defendant had sought to impose such an assessment. Defendant's executive board approved the program, and the matter was submitted to defendant's members for a vote.

A notice was sent out to the local's members advising them of the upcoming vote. The LEAD campaign was also featured in an edition of defendant's newsletter. Actual voting occurred at 21 meetings, which were held between October 8, 1991, and October 30, 1991. One meeting was held in Chicago, and a number were held in the suburbs surrounding the city. Additional meetings were held throughout the local's geographic area. Of the approximately 35,000 members, only 2,035 attended these meetings. The special assessment was approved, with 1,169 members voting to approve it and 818 members voting against it. Forty-eight ballots were void or otherwise not counted. During the 18 months the assessment was imposed, 49,000 of the local's members were ultimately affected, and the local raised over $5 million.

The special assessment was enacted pursuant to article XI, section A, of the local's bylaws. This section provides:

"Except as otherwise provided in the International Constitution, reasonable dues, initiation and reinstatement fees, and general or special assessments shall be established, increased or levied by the Local ...


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