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SHALES v. GENERAL CHAUFFEURS

August 27, 2003

JAMES D. SHALES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GENERAL CHAUFFEURS, SALESDRIVERS AND HELPERS LOCAL UNION NO. 330, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael Mason, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case was brought by James D. Shales against defendants General Chauffeurs, Salesdrivers and Helpers Local Union No. 330 (hereinafter, "Local 330" or the "union"), Jim Butt, Joseph Degand, Tyler Lanning and the estate of Francis "Mike" Hruby alleging the violation of a number of plaintiff's union rights guaranteed under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, as amended (hereinafter, "LMRDA"); these include, 1) generating a pattern of intimidation with the intent to suppress dissent against the above union officials by terminating plaintiff from his position as Business Agent; 2) suspending him twice from union membership; 3) invalidating a leave-of-absence agreement guaranteeing his seniority rights with Meyer Material Company ("Meyer"), formerly Brady Ready Mix Co., ("Brady"); and 4) ultimately expelling him from union membership, in the process violating his due process rights, his rights of free speech and assembly, his equal rights and privileges to participate in the affairs of the Union, and both the Local 330 bylaws and the IBT Constitution. [ Page 2]

With respect to these allegations the jury delivered a general verdict in favor of the plaintiff awarding him $171,500.00 in compensatory damages and $250,000.00 in punitive damages. He now requests that the Court provide additional equitable relief by (a) reinstating him as a union member in good standing, (b) reinstating him to his position and his previous salary as Business Agent for Local 330; (c) awarding backpay and benefits related to his job working for Meyer, and frontpay related to his loss of his position as Business Agent; (d) awarding prejudgment interest; (e) restoring of his seniority rights with Meyer pursuant to the leave of absence waiver; and (f) awarding attorneys' fees.*fn1

29 U.S.C. § 412 provides that the district court may award "such relief (including injunctions)" as may be appropriate for violations of LMRDA guidelines codified in 29 U.S.C. § 411 and 529. As we are simultaneously issuing a companion order upholding the general jury verdict that the defendants are guilty of violating a number of plaintiff's most basic LMRDA rights in §§ 411 and 529, we find that some equitable relief is appropriate.

I. Union Membership

Because the jury found that Local 330 unjustly suspended and expelled plaintiff from union membership, we hereby order that plaintiff be reinstated into Local 330 union membership and his status be held in good standing retroactive to the first day of his suspensions and expulsion from union membership. As we explained in our companion [ Page 3]

order regarding defendants' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, we find that the suspensions did prejudice the plaintiff and interfere with his rights; thus we order that his status with the union be reestablished in good standing as if the suspensions had not occurred.

II. Reinstatement as Business Agent

In 1990, after being appointed Business Agent of Local 330, plaintiff left his position at Meyer; he relied on a leave of absence agreement with Meyer guaranteeing him no loss of past seniority rights if he returned when he was no longer working for the union.*fn2 On August 7, 1997, shortly after plaintiff had announced his intention to run for union president, defendants fired plaintiff from his position as Business Agent. On or about March 30, 1998, plaintiff returned to his job at Meyer. Meyer at first refused to honor the leave of absence agreement, and the union subsequently filed charges against plaintiff, alleging that he had forged such agreement. In February, 2001, plaintiff and Meyer entered into a settlement agreement regarding his return to work at Meyer, which held that it would restore plaintiff's full seniority rights if plaintiff's claims that Meyer violated his rights under the collective bargaining agreement were validated either in a court proceeding or through a settlement with the union. The jury subsequently found for plaintiff that defendants wrongfully denied plaintiff his rights under the agreement and interfered with his due process rights by denying him the opportunity to prepare a defense to the charge. The jury also heard evidence that former Local 330 president Smith had destroyed the leave of absence agreement [ Page 4]

before wrongfully accusing Shales of forging it.

Even though the jury found that the defendants violated plaintiff's rights under the LMRDA by firing him from his position as Business Agent and improperly expelling him from membership and his position as Recording Secretary, we find that to award plaintiff injunctive relief to become the current acting Business Agent and/or Recording Secretary for the Local 330 would be both unmerited and would make him more than whole. Because of his candidacy for president, plaintiff could not have simultaneously been reelected as Recording Secretary for the subsequent term of office beginning January 21, 1998 even if defendants had not fired him, and therefore could not have been reappointed the Local 330 Business Agent either. Consequently, the actions of the defendants had a quantifiable effect of removing plaintiff from the Business Agent position for a period of five months (from August, 1997 to January, 1998, when his term of office would have expired); they did not, however, prevent plaintiff from running for the position of Recording Secretary for the following term. We cannot grant injunctive relief to the plaintiff for a union position he could never have held.

Furthermore, in accordance with the Settlement Agreement and General Waiver and Release between plaintiff and Meyer, the jury verdict should have already restored plaintiff's seniority rights. Consequently, plaintiff has been made whole with respect to his employment with Meyer, having been returned to the position he was in when he originally left the company. In conclusion, we find it inappropriate to fire the current appointed Business Agent and Recording Secretary whose appointment and election is unassociated with this litigation. However, to the extent it has not already done so, we order Meyer to give full effect to the February, 2001 settlement agreement. [ Page 5]

III. Back pay and Benefits and Front pay

Plaintiff's loss of benefits with respect to his loss of seniority at Meyer have already been addressed and compensated for ...


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