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Local Union No. 1075 v. United Rubber

decided: September 1, 1983.

LOCAL UNION NO. 1075, UNITED RUBBER, CORK, LINOLEUM AND PLASTIC WORKERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, APPELLEE
v.
UNITED RUBBER, CORK, LINOLEUM AND PLASTIC WORKERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, APPELLEE AND LOCAL UNION NO. 285, UNITED RUBBER, CORK, LINOLEUM AND PLASTIC WORKERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, APPELLANT



Appeal From The United States District Court For The Eastern District Of Pennsylvania

Seitz, Chief Judge, Sloviter and Van dusen, Circuit Judges.

Author: Sloviter

Opinion OF THE COURT

SLOVITER, Circuit Judge.

I.

Introduction

This action was filed by Local Union No. 1075 of the United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum and Plastic Workers of America, AFL-CIO (Local 1075), against its parent union, the United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum and Plastic Workers of America, AFL-CIO (International), and another local of the same union, Local Union No. 285 (Local 285), alleging that Local 285 "wrongfully failed to allocate an equitable share of its assets to Local 1075" and that the International "wrongfully failed to take any action to compel [such] allocation." Following a bench trial, the district court determined that Local 1075 was entitled to an equitable allocation of the assets in the amount of $35,273.58. The court determined that Local 285 was solely responsible for plaintiff's injury, and therefore also entered judgment in favor of the defendant International.

Local 285 appeals. Both Local 1075 and the International have filed briefs as appellees, although their position differs in some respects. At issue is the jurisdiction of the district court under § 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a), Local 1075's alleged failure to exhaust internal union remedies, and Local 1075's substantive right to recovery. We will affirm the judgment of the district court.

II.

Facts

Immediately before the events at issue, Local 285 represented workers at two plants in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area: one owned by Armstrong Cork Co. which produced linoleum and other flooring materials, and the other owned by Kerr Glass Co. (to whom it had been sold by Armstrong in 1969) which produced bottle closing devices. The Kerr workers were substantially outnumbered by the Armstrong workers. In 1978, several Kerr workers formed a separate charter committee and requested the International to constitute the Kerr workers as a separate local, on the ground that they were not being adequately represented by Local 285. On July 31, 1979, the International Executive Board approved holding an election to determine the wishes of the Kerr employees. By letter dated August 13, 1979, the International notified Local 285 of the Board's action, and added:

The Board further stipulated that if the URW members employed at Kerr Glass vote in favor of a separate charter, then the membership of Local 285 shall take action to allocate the funds of the Local Union in an equitable manner before any separate charter is issued.

Local 285 protested this action of the International but was informed that its protest was both "premature" and "untimely." At the election held on December 13, 1979, the Kerr employees voted in favor of a separate charter. In January 1980, the Local 285 membership, purporting to follow the International's directive of August 13, 1979, voted that the Kerr employees should not receive any of the assets of Local 285.The International was notified of this decision by letter dated January 21, 1980. On April 29, 1980, the International's Executive Board voted to issue a separate charter to the Kerr employees without reaching the question of allocation of assets. On July 1, 1980, the charter was issued, and the Kerr employees were constituted as Local 1075. That local did not then receive, nor has it since received, any allocation of the assets of Local 285.

III.

Jurisdiction

Appellant has challenged the existence of subject matter jurisdiction. The complaint asserts, and the district court found, that jurisdiction lies under § 301 of the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. § 185. Section 301(a) provides that "suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization . . . ., or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties." Since Local 1075 does not allege any violation of a collective bargaining agreement or any other employer/union contract, jurisdiction in this case depends on characterizing it as a suit "for violation of [a] contract . . . . between . . . . labor organizations."

In United Association of Journeymen & Apprentices of the Plumbing & Pipefitting Industry v. Local 334 (Plumbing & Pipefitting), 452 U.S. 615, 101 S. Ct. 2546, 69 L. Ed. 2d 280 (1981), the Court held that § 301 provided federal jurisdiction for a suit filed by a local against its international alleging that the international had violated its constitution by ordering the consolidation and reorganization of a number of New Jersey locals, including the plaintiff local. The Court held that union constitutions are "contracts" for purposes of § 301 jurisdiction. Id. at 619-22. Therefore, "a suit brought by a local union against its parent ...


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