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Clemens v. Local One, Service Employees International Union

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

October 29, 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 three separate motions for reconsideration filed by pro se Plaintiff Arthur J. Clemens, Jr., related to the Court's September 23, 2019 Judgment (ECF Nos. 106, 107, & 108) and a memorandum brief in support thereof (ECF No. 109). Defendants Local One, Service Employees International Union ("Local One"), Tom Balanoff, Laura Garza, and Nancy Cross (collectively referred to as "Defendants") oppose the motions. Plaintiff has also filed a memorandum for clerk, which the Court construes as a motion to expedite ruling. (ECF No. 113) After careful review, the Court grants Plaintiffs motion to expedite and denies his three motions for reconsideration.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A "motion to reconsider" is not explicitly contemplated by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure but can be addressed as arising under Rule 59(e) or 60(b). Elder-Keep v. Aksamit, 460 F.3d 979, 984 (8th Cir. 2006); Broadway v. Norris, 193 F.3d 987, 989 (8th Cir. 1999); see also Harris v. United States, No. 4:18-CV-1546-JAR, 2018 WL 6305593, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 3, 2018) (motion to reconsider "can be considered the functional equivalent of a motion under either Rule 59(e) or 60(b)"). Here, Plaintiffs three separate motions specifically invoke Rule 60 rather than 59(e).[1] Rule 60(b) allows a court to "relieve a party from a final judgment for, among other reasons, mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect." MIF Realty L.P. v. Rochester Assocs., 92 F.3d 752, 755 (8th Cir. 1996). Rule 60(b) provides for "extraordinary relief which may be granted only upon an adequate showing of exceptional circumstances." U.S. Xpress Enters., Inc. v. J.B. Hunt Transp., Inc., 320 F.3d 809, 815 (8th Cir. 2003).

         DISCUSSION

         As set forth in the Court's Memorandum and Order of September 23, 2019 (ECF No. 104), 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. 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. Defendants Tom Balanoff, Laura Garza, and Nancy Cross are agents of Defendant Local One and serve as president, treasurer, and vice president respectively. Plaintiffs Amended Complaint (ECF No. 46) asserted fifteen counts against Defendants stemming from, among other things, grievances he had regarding allegedly improper union elections and increases in membership dues. On September 23, 2019, the Court granted Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment, which disposed of all of Plaintiff s remaining claims.

         I. Count III

         In his first motion to reconsider (ECF No. 106), Plaintiff argues the Court "may have overlooked or failed to consider evidence, statements, and documents that support" his third cause of action. Count III of Plaintiff s Amended Complaint asserted that Local One raised monthly membership dues from $39 to $41 for the calendar years 2009-2011 without a valid vote. Specifically, Plaintiff claims evidence in the record establishes that Cross admitted a clerical error caused the dues increase from $37 to $41. He claims that his letter appealing Vice President Cross's refusal to refund the difference went ignored by President Balanoff. Plaintiff also claims he and another union member approached someone at the Office of Labor-Management Standards ("OLMS"), but that person informed them that OLMS did not have jurisdiction over the dispute. When defense counsel asked Plaintiff during his deposition whether he had done anything further to exhaust his remedies concerning his complaint about the increased union dues, Plaintiff responded "No, that's it." (Dep. of Arthur Clemens at 25:5-24, ECF No. 66-4)

         The Court did not overlook the evidence Plaintiff cites. Rather, such information does not refute the Court's conclusion that Defendants were entitled to summary judgment on Count III because Plaintiff failed to exhaust internal union remedies before filing his private lawsuit as required by Local One's bylaws, Service Employees International Union's constitution, and § 101(a)(4) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(4). As explained in the Memorandum and Order of September 23, 2019 (ECF No. 104), Article XXII of Local One's Constitution and Bylaws provides:

Section 1. Subject to the provisions of Section 2, the President shall be empowered to decide disputes between members relating to their work or their responsibilities to each other or to the Local Union and to decide the claim of members concerning the adjustment of their grievances against employers or Union Representatives. The decision of the President shall be final and binding in such matters, except that a member who is not satisfied with such decision shall have the right to appeal as provided in Section 2 hereof. It is expressly understood that, as a condition of membership, each member agrees to be bound by the provisions of Sections 1 and 2 of this Article and to exhaust all procedures and remedies provided therein and to refrain from the institution or prosecution of any action in any court, tribunal or other agency until the procedures and remedies therein are fully exhausted. Any member who brings any action in violation of this provision may, in addition to other penalties, be required to reimburse the Local Union or its officers for the costs' and attorneys [sic] fees incurred in defending such action.
Section 2. Any member who has a dispute as defined in Section 1 shall, within ten (10) days from the date such dispute arises, appeal in writing to the President by certified mail. If such member is not satisfied with the decision of the President, or if the President has not rendered a decision within fifteen (15) days following receipt of the appeal, the member may appeal his or her case to the Appeals Committee of the Executive Board. The Appeals Committee shall consist of five (5) Executive Board Members assigned by the President. Any such appeal to the Appeals Committee of the Executive Board shall be filed in writing by certified mail with the Secretary-Treasurer. The decision of the Appeals Committee shall be due or rendered not later than thirty (30) days after receipt of the appeal. The decision of the Appeals Committee of the Executive Board shall be subject only to such further appeal as may be permissible under the Constitution and Bylaw of the International Union.

(ECF No. 66-1, at 13) (emphasis added)

         As explained in the Memorandum and Order of September 23, 2019, Plaintiff admitted in his deposition that he did not follow the prescribed appeal process after President Balanoff failed to respond. Accordingly, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate any mistake in the Memorandum and Order of September 23, 2019 to warrant the extraordinary relief afforded by Rule 60(b). Plaintiffs first motion for reconsideration (ECF No. 106) is denied.

         II. Motion to Enjoin Use of Treasury Money ...


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