complaint are preempted by Title IV of the LMRDA, depriving this
court of subject matter jurisdiction; and 2) that plaintiffs failed to
exhaust internal remedies. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is
Berg was a candidate for president of Local 743 in its election held on
November 3, 2001. The election was conducted through ballots that were
mailed to the Local's 13, 576 members. Ballots mailed to incorrect
addresses were to be returned to one post office box, while ballots
returned by voting members went to another post office box. Based on his
campaigning experience, Berg alleges that the Local's mailing list had
more than 400 incorrect addresses. Each of the three plaintiffs did not
receive an initial ballot, and plaintiff Wright never received a
replacement ballot. However, there were no returned ballots in the post
office box designated for undeliverable mail. Plaintiffs infer that an
unauthorized member of the Local took the undelivered ballots from the
post office box, and may have fraudulently used the ballots in the
Plaintiffs allege that this conduct in the completed fall 2001 election
and the continued failure of the union to maintain an updated mailing
list, along with the Local's unwillingness to restructure its election
process for future elections, has had a chilling effect on future
political activities and has deprived some union members of their equal
right to vote as protected by "§ 101(a)(1) of Title I of the LMRDA.
Plaintiffs further allege that as secretary treasurer, Strickland had a
fiduciary duty to the Local's members, and that she breached this duty
when she failed to take safeguards to ensure that undelivered ballots
could not be fraudulently used.
In their prayer for relief, plaintiffs request: (1) a declaration that
their Title I rights were violated in the 2001 election; (2) a
declaration that defendants' conduct in the 2001 election had a chilling
effect on future political activities; (3) an order compelling defendants
to give plaintiffs access to election records; (4) an order requiring
defendants to maintain an updated and current membership list and to
provide safeguards for future elections; (5) an order requiring Strickland
to give a written accounting of what occurred to the ballots in the 2001
election; and (6) attorney fees and court costs.
Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiffs' claim for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction, arguing that both counts of the complaint are
preempted by Title IV of the LMRDA. Plaintiffs argue that they have pled a
cognizable claim under Title I that is not preempted by Title IV.
Disputes often arise in this area because of the overlap between Title I
and Title IV of the LMRDA. Local No. 82. Furniture and Piano Moving,
Furniture Store Drivers, Helners, Warehousemen and Packers, et al. v.
Crowley, 467 U.S. 526, 534 (1984).
Title I grants union members a "Bill of Rights" including equal
protection in the union's political processes. 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(1)
Id. at 528. The general purpose of Title I's Bill of Rights is to ensure
a democratic process within the union. Finnegan v. Leu, 456 U.S. 431, 435
(1982). On the other hand, Title IV specifically governs union
elections, and it "provides an elaborate post-election procedure aimed
solely at protecting union democracy through free and democratic
elections." Crowley, 467 U.S. at 528. Title IV requires elections by
secret ballot, requires certain nominating procedures, and regulates
various other aspects of elections for union officers. Calhoon v.
Harvey, 379 U.S. 134, 140 (1964).
The enforcement measures for a Title I violation are set forth in
Section 412 of LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 412. if a union member's equal
protection right to participate in the union's political processes is
violated, the union member has a private right of action, and a federal
district court has jurisdiction to grant an "appropriate remedy".
29 U.S.C. § 412; 29 U.S.C. § 102; Crowley, 467 U.S. at 537.
Under Title IV, however, only the Secretary of Labor may bring a court
challenge if the Secretary determines that there has been a violation.
29 U.S.C. § 482. Any union member may initiate the process that
results in the Secretary's Title IV court challenge.
29 U.S.C. § 482(a). Importantly, the remedy provided by Title IV "for
challenging an election already conducted shall be exclusive."
29 U.S.C. § 483.
Defendants, relying primarily on Crowley, assert that because the basic
thrust of plaintiffs' allegations relate to the completed election, the
complaint alleges a Title IV claim not within this court's jurisdiction.
Plaintiffs, also relying primarily on Crowley, assert that because they
request only declaratory and future relief, and do not seek to invalidate
the already completed election, they have stated a cognizable Title I
claim not preempted by Title IV.
As parties recognize, Crowley is the starting point for any analysis of
the overlap of Title I and Title IV. In Crowley, individual union members
brought suit arguing that their Title I rights to equal protection were
violated by the union when the members were denied admission to a union
meeting called to nominate candidates because the members could not
produce a computerized receipt showing that their union dues had been
paid. The members filed a protested with the union, which was denied.
Election ballots were distributed. The members then filed suit in federal
district court, after the ballots had been sent, but prior to the last
date on which the ballots could be returned for counting. The district
court entered a temporary restraining order, halting the election. After
lengthy but futile attempts to negotiate a settlement, the district court
ultimately held that Title I remedies were not foreclosed when Title I
violations occurred during the course of an election, and rejected the
union's argument that the members' exclusive remedy was to file a
complaint with the Secretary under Title IV. The court issued a
preliminary injunction, declared the interrupted election invalid, and set
forth detailed procedures to be followed during a new election. The Court
of Appeals affirmed in all respects.
After acknowledging the overlap of rights protected by Title I and IV,
the Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the district court had
"overstepped the bounds of appropriate' relief under Title I of the LMRDA
when it enjoined an ongoing election and ordered a new election to be
held pursuant to court-ordered procedures." Crowley, 467 U.S. at 551. In
reaching this conclusion, the Court began by examining Title I's
jurisdictional provision, 29 U.S.C. § 412, which provides:
Any person whose rights secured by the provisions of
this Title have been infringed by any violation of
this Title may bring a civil action in a district
court of the United States for such relief
(including injunctions) as may be appropriate,
As noted by the Court, this jurisdictional provision suggests that an
individual union member may maintain a Title I suit whenever rights
guaranteed by the Title have been violated. Id. at 538. Only the relief
available is tempered, limited to that which is "appropriate" to any
given situation. Id. Despite this broad
language, the Court noted that
Title I could not be read in a vacuum, and went on to review the
exclusivity provisions of Title IV and the legislative history of the two
titles. That history indicated Congress's clear intent to consolidate
challenges to union elections with the Secretary, and to have the
Secretary supervise any new elections necessitated by violations of the
Act. The Court thus concluded thus, "even when Title I violations are
properly alleged and proved, Congress would not have considered a court
order requiring and judicially supervising a new election to be
`appropriate' relief under Title I." Id. at 543. The Court found nothing
in the legislative history, however, suggesting that Congress intended to
foreclose all access to district courts under Title I during an
election, particularly when a statutory violation could be corrected
without any major delay or disruption to the ongoing election. Id. The
Court concluded, therefore, "whether a Title I suit may properly be
maintained by individual union members during the course of a union
election depended upon the nature of the relief sought by the Title I
As is evident from the discussion in Crowley, the Court found that it
was only the invalidation and subsequent court supervision of an election
that intruded on the exclusive province of the Secretary under Title IV.
"For less intrusive remedies sought during election, however, a district
court retains authority to order appropriate relief under Title I." Id.
at 550. For example, the Court specifically noted that a district court
would have jurisdiction over a union members' claims that they did not
receive election ballots distributed by the union because of their
opposition to the incumbent officers running for reelection, because the
court could appropriately order the union to forward ballots to claimants
before completion of an election. Id. at 546.
In the instant case, all of the complained of violations occurred
during the November 2001 campaign and election. Plaintiffs' rights, if
violated at all, were violated during that election. Obviously, under
Crowley this court cannot grant plaintiff any relief that would
necessarily invalidate the election. Nor can the court supervise or
impose restrictions on the union's conduct during the next election. That
is the exclusive province of the Secretary under Title IV.
That does not mean, however, that the court lacks jurisdiction over all
of plaintiffs' case. Under Crowley, short of invalidation or
supervision, the court has jurisdiction to award plaintiffs appropriate
relief, including injunctive relief, for established violations of their
Title I rights, even if those violations occurred during the course of an
election. Thus, the court has jurisdiction to hear those portions of
plaintiffs' complaint that seek to prevent recurrence in the next election
of what they claimed to have been Title I violations in the past
election. As the Supreme Court succinctly stated, "the plain language of
the Act clearly establishes . . . [that] the full panoply of Title I
rights is available to individual union members prior to the conduction
of an union election." Crowley, 467 U.S. at 541. Assuming the plaintiffs
have alleged an actual case or controversy, i.e., that the union
continues to maintain out-of-date mailing lists, and that the failure to
maintain updated lists violates Title I, the court has jurisdiction over
the case.*fn1 Accordingly, defendants'
motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction is denied.*fn2
The court dismisses, however, those prayers for relief that seek to
effectively invalidate the 2001 election. These include plaintiffs'
demands for declarations of violations of the LMRDA and their request for
an "accounting" by defendant Strickland. Plaintiffs are entitled, if they
succeed in proving their claims, only to relief that would prevent future
violations of their Title I rights.
For the reasons set forth above defendants' motion to dismiss for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction is denied. Plaintiffs are direct to submit
an amended complaint conforming to this opinion within 21 days of the
date hereof; defendants shall respond within 21 days thereafter. This
matter is set for a report on status December 19, 2002, at 9:00 am.