United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
February 4, 2004.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: PHILIP REINHARD, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Thomas R. Ludgatis, brings this action against defendant,
Local Union No. 710, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, his
bargaining unit, claiming a breach of the duty of fair representation
when plaintiff was terminated by his employer. United Parcel Service
("UPS") on October 29, 2001. Plaintiff was terminated for a physical and
verbal altercation involving plaintiff and Randy Gallagher, a part-time
supervisor for UPS. Jurisdiction is proper pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1337. Defendant moves for summary judgment.
To state a claim for breach of the duty of fair representation
plaintiff "must establish that the union's action was arbitrary,
discriminatory, or taken in bad faith." Konen v. International Bhd.
of Teamsters, Local, 200 255 F.3d 402, 406-07 (7th Cir. 2001).
Plaintiff argues the union's actions were arbitrary and in bad faith. Pl.
Resp. Memo. p. 6. "[All]egations of bad faith require an inquiry into the
subjective motivation behind union action." McKeivin v. E.J. Brach
Corp., 124 F.3d 864, 868 (7th Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Plaintiff has presented no evidence of motivation. He has not
shown any conduct of union officials that would support a reasonable
inference of bad faith. Konen. 255 F.3d at 408.
Plaintiff also argues defendant's actions were arbitrary in not
obtaining evidence, particularly written statements, from co-workers who
witnessed the events that resulted in his termination. Plaintiff supplies
the statements of several co-workers as evidence that favorable witnesses
were available but defendant failed to locate them. He testified in his
deposition that defendant's business representative, Kathy Hade, told him
that "they had everything, Kolthoff [one of defendant's stewards] told
her exactly what happened, and I took it because in other cases there was
always statements taken from people, so I thought they had their
statements all situated between the two." (LR 56.1(b), Ludagtis Dep. p.
29-30) He also contends defendant failed to keep him up to date on his
A union's actions in a member's grievance process are considered
arbitrary only if me "actions are so far outside a wide range of
reasonableness as to be irrational." Garcia v. Zenith Electronics
Corp., 58 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 1995) (internal citation and
quotation marks omitted). "The union must provide some minimal
investigation of employee grievances, but the thoroughness of this
investigation depends on the particular case, and only an egregious
disregard for union members' rights constitutes a breach of the unions
duty," Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
"What is required to be shown goes considerably beyond the requirements
of a malpractice suit" and plaintiff must establish that the outcome
"would probably have been different but for the union's activities."
Id. at 1176-77.
The evidence shows that Hade initiated an investigation of the incident
by directing Kolthoff to talk with other employees to determine if there
were witnesses that would be willing to provide a written statement in
support of plaintiff. (LR 56.1(a) ¶ 38) Koltoff reported back to
Hade that he had spoken with a number of employees and none of them were
willing to provide a written statement in support of plaintiff*fn1.
(Id. ¶ 39) At the local level hearing, UPS was unwilling to
reverse its decision to terminate plaintiff and Hade referred the matter
to the grievance committee for hearing. (Id. ¶ 47) Hade
spoke with two rank-and-file employees identified by Gallagher as
witnesses to the incident but they said they did not see the
confrontation, so she concluded their statements would not help
plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 51) At the grievance committee hearing
Hade read plaintiff's grievance into the record and had plaintiff speak
on his own behalf. (Id. ¶ 63) The committee members
questioned both sides. (Id. ¶ 64) At the conclusion of the
hearing, plaintiff stated he was satisfied with defendant's
representation of him. (Id. ¶ 65) The grievance committee
denied plaintiff's grievance. (Id. ¶ 67)
Plaintiff relies on the declarations of Russ Tanner, Brian Munson,
Jamie Clark, David Coulter, and Cary Runkel, obtained by him after the
grievance process was completed, to support his claim that witnesses
favorable to his position were available but not found by defendant.
Tanner's declaration states he observed the incident but did not hear
every word. He saw plaintiff extend his finger but that Gallagher moved
toward plaintiff. Plaintiff did not initiate the contact. Munson's
declaration indicates he entered the scene during the altercation and did
not see any physical contact between plaintiff and Gallagher. Clark's
declaration reveals she was not a witness to the incident at all.
Coulter's and Runkel's declarations merely indicate their own personal
complaints about Gallagher. Gallagher stated at the local level hearing
that plaintiff swore at him and struck him in the face or chest with his
finger.*fn2 (LR 56.1(a) ¶ 45) Plaintiff in his statement submitted
with his grievance said, "I did point my finger at him, we then walked
toward each other. Then he continued and walked right into my finger.
Then claimed I touched him." (Id. Exh. D.2)
The evidence shows defendant provided "some minimal investigation" of
plaintiff's grievance. See Garcia, 58 F.3d at 1176. Hade
initiated an investigation, directed the steward to look for favorable
witnesses, and interviewed purported witnesses disclosed by Gallagher.
She made a judgment based on the information available to her that
favorable witness statements were not available. While her investigation
did not find Tanner (the one witness to the contact between plaintiff and
Gallagher that supported plaintiff's version of the events), Hade
"pursued a rational strategy with sufficient competence and vigor to meet
the burden of some minimal investigation of employee grievances and
showed no egregious disregard for union members' rights constituting a
breach of the union's duty." Garcia, 58 F.3d at 1179 (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). Further, plaintiff has not
established that if the declarants he offers had testified at either of
the hearings the result would probably have been different. None of the
declarants observed and heard the entire confrontation. It cannot be said
that a different result would have been probable based on this evidence
when the decisionmakers at the hearings had the statements of the
participants in the altercation, the only persons privy to the entire
event, and the opportunity to question them about it See id. at
As to the claim he was not kept updated on the status of his grievance,
plaintiff has presented no authority that this is a basis for a finding
the union acted arbitrarily. While the defendant could have kept
plaintiff better informed, defendant's actions were not irrational and
were not an egregious disregard of a union members rights.
For the foregoing reason, defendant's motion for summary judgment is
granted. This case is dismissed in its entirety with prejudice.