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Clemens v. Local One Service Employees International Union

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

September 23, 2019

ARTHUR J. CLEMENS, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
LOCAL ONE, SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on numerous motions filed by pro se Plaintiff Arthur J. Clemens, Jr., and Defendants Local One, Service Employees International Union ("Local One"), Tom Balanoff, Laura Garza, and Nancy Cross (collectively referred to as "Defendants"). The Court has carefully read and considered every motion and related memoranda and finds that Plaintiff has failed to state any claim upon which relief can be granted. Because Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 65) resolves the case in its entirety, the other motions are denied as moot.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Arthur J. Clemens, Jr., is employed by employers who are contracted to clean Busch Stadium in Saint Louis, Missouri after events at the stadium. (Defs.' Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts ("SUMF") ¶ 2, ECF No. 67)[1]He is a dues-paying member of Local One, which is a labor union representing approximately 46, 000 members in the service industry across six contiguous states. (Id. at ¶¶ 1, 7) Defendants Tom Balanoff, Laura Garza, and Nancy Cross are agents of Defendant Local One and serve as president, treasurer, and vice president respectively. (Id. at ¶ 6)

         Plaintiff spro se Amended Complaint (ECF No. 46) asserts the following fifteen counts against Defendants:

I. That Local One raised monthly membership dues from $37 to $42 for the calendar year 2016 without a valid vote in violation of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(3)(A);
II. That Local One raised monthly membership dues from $42 to $47 for the calendar year 2017 through to the present without a valid vote;
III. That Local One raised monthly membership dues from $39 to $41 for the calendar years 2009-2011 without a valid vote;
IV. That the vote to increase dues for calendar years 2016 and 2017 was conducted on a date when Plaintiff and other union members employed at Busch Stadium were unable to attend and no accommodation was made for them to vote absentee or by representative;
V. That other dues-paying members of Local One have suffered similar damages to Plaintiff in 2016 and 2017, justifying class certification and appointment interim class counsel;
VI. That several votes be declared null and void for failure to give sufficient notice of the relevant meetings;
VII. That Local One's policies violate its constitution and bylaws and have obstructed his efforts to run for president of Local One;
VIII. That Local One's payments to its chosen law firm constitute a violation of 29 U.S.C. 481(g)'s prohibition of using dues to promote the candidacy of an individual in any election by preventing fair elections;
IX. That Balanoff, Garza, and Cross engaged in financial malpractice as defined in the constitution for the international union of which Local One is apart, Service Employees International Union ("SEIU"), which requires them to pay restitution and Local One to be placed into receivership with a court-appointed trustee;
X. That Local One's policies violate SEIU's constitution and bylaws as well as rights guaranteed under the United States Constitution by requiring Plaintiff to obtain over 800 signatures from dues-paying members in order to qualify to be on the ballot for any Local-wide election;
XI. That the increases in Plaintiffs monthly membership dues were higher than the rate formula described in Local One's bylaws purports to establish;
XII. That other dues-paying members of Local One have suffered similar damages to Plaintiff as alleged in Count XI, justifying class certification and appointment of class counsel;
XIII. That, incorporating his allegations in Count VI, other dues-paying members of Local One have been denied their right to freedom of assembly as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution;
XIV. That 29 U.S.C. § 481(c) violates his freedom of assembly under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Court should declare it unconstitutional in light of modern technological advances; and
XV. That 29 U.S.C. § 481(c) also violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Court should declare 29 U.S.C. 481(c) unconstitutional in light of modern technological advances.

         The Court has already ruled on numerous motions filed in this case by both parties. For example, the Court denied Plaintiffs motion for default judgment after Defendants' initial twelve-day delay in filing their answer to the original complaint (ECF No. 22); granted Plaintiffs Motion for Leave to File Constitutional Challenge, which the Court construed as a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 45); denied Plaintiffs Motion to Disqualify Defense Counsel (ECF No. 92); and struck a filing by Plaintiff that wrongfully accused defense counsel of witness tampering (ECF No. 92).

         Motions pending before the Court now include the following: motions to compel filed by Plaintiff (ECF Nos. 58, 59, & 60); Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 65); Plaintiffs Rule 23 Motion for Class Action Status (ECF No. 69); Plaintiffs eleven separate Motions for Summary Judgment directed at Counts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, XI, and XII respectively (ECF Nos. 71-81); Plaintiffs Motion to Depose Rebuttal Witness (ECF No. 85); Plaintiffs Motion for Reconsideration of Denial of Plaintiff s Motion to Enjoin and Restrain Garza from the Use of Local One, SEIU Treasury Money to Pay Legal Fees to Defendant's chosen law firm and counsel (ECF No. 94); Plaintiffs Motion to File out of Time Additional Exhibits and Pleadings (ECF No. 97); Plaintiffs Motion to Expedite Proceedings (ECF No. 100) and Defendant's Motion for Additional Time to Respond thereto (ECF No. 101).

         As explained fully below, the Court finds that certain claims in the Amended Complaint should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and that Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on the remaining claims. Because Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 65) resolves the case in its entirety, the other motions are denied as moot and are not analyzed in this Memorandum and Order.[2]

         MOTION TO DISMISS

         I. Legal Standard

         A complaint must be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if the complaint fails to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. . . ." Id. at 555. Courts must liberally construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept the factual allegations as true. See Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008) (stating that in a motion to dismiss, courts accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint); Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008) (explaining that courts should liberally construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff).

         However, "[w]here the allegations show on the face of the complaint there is some insuperable bar to relief, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate." Benton v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 524 F.3d 866, 870 (8th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). Courts "are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). When considering a motion to dismiss, a court can "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 679. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations to survive a motion to dismiss. Id.

         II. Plaintiffs claims challenging past elections

         Defendants argue Plaintiffs claims purporting to challenge the validity of past elections of Local One officers must be dismissed because the Court lacks jurisdiction over private actions by individual union members making such claims.

Title IV of the [LMRDA] establishes a set of substantive rules governing union elections, . . . and it provides a comprehensive procedure for enforcing those rules .... Any union member who alleges a violation may initiate the enforcement procedure. He must first exhaust any internal remedies available under the constitution and bylaws of his union. Then he may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor, who 'shall investigate' the complaint. Finally, if the Secretary finds probable cause to believe a violation has occurred, he 'shall . . . bring a civil action against the labor organization' in federal district court, to set aside the election if it has already been held, and to direct and supervise a new election. With respect to elections not yet conducted, the statute provides that existing rights and remedies apart from the statute are not affected. But with respect to an election already conducted, '(t)he remedy provided by this subchapter . .. shall be exclusive.'

Trbovich v. United Mine Workers of Am., 404 U.S. 528, 531 (1972). The Supreme Court has held that the "exclusive" remedy for alleged violations of Title IV is a lawsuit by the Secretary of Labor and § 483 "prohibits union members from initiating a private suit to set aside an election." Trbovich, 404 U.S. at 531 (citing Calhoon v. Harvey, 379 U.S. 134, 140 (1964)); 29 U.S.C. § 483 ("The remedy provided by this subchapter for challenging an election already conducted shall be exclusive.").

         Plaintiff brings his claims related to past elections pursuant to the "Bill of Rights" outlined in Title I of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 411. However, the precedent is clear that "the exclusivity provision included in . . . Title IV plainly bars Title I relief when an individual union member challenges the validity of an election that has already been completed." Local No. 82, Furniture & Piano Moving, Furniture Store Drivers, Helpers, Warehousemen & Packers v. Crowley, 467 U.S. 526, 541 (1984). Assuming arguendo that Plaintiff exhausted the internal remedies available under SEIU's constitution and bylaws related to challenging past elections as he so pleads[3] (Am. Compl. at 46, ECF No. 46), the Court finds that Plaintiff cannot bring a private action because the exclusivity provision in § 483. Accordingly, Plaintiffs claims related to the validity of past elections contained in Counts VII, VIII, X, XIV, XV are dismissed because the Secretary of Labor is the only entity that can enforce such claims against labor unions under the LMRDA.

         III. Plaintiff s constitutional ...


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