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Thursday, October 14, 2010
Union takes disciplinary action against union member
Perez v Local 39, IUOE, USDC EDNY
Can a union member slander his or her union leadership and avoid internal union discipline? Yes, as the Perez case shows.
The membership of Local 39, International Union of Operating Engineers, disciplined Richard Perez for “willfully slandering and libeling another member of the Union.” The penalty imposed: a fine of $4,177 and an order directing Perez to write letters of apology.
The General Executive Board of the International upheld the decision, but reduced the fine to $2,088.50 on the condition that the Perez “apologize.” Perez refused to apologize, and was barred from attending the meetings of Local 30.
Perez sued, contending that his “free speech” rights, guaranteed by Section 101(a)(2) of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA), 29 USC. Section 411(a)(2), were violated.
A federal district court judge agreed, noting that the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction in New York, Connecticut and Vermont, has interpreted LMRDA “liberally.”
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled that the LMRDA protects union members’ rights to freely express their opinions about union matters, even where that expression amounts to libel or slander,” citing DeCarlo v. Salamone, 977 F. Supp 617.
Section 101(a) (2) of the LMRDA, 29 USC. Section 411(a) (2), provides, in relevant part, that “Every member of any labor organization shall have the right to ... express any views, arguments, or opinions ... provided, that nothing herein shall be construed to impair the right of a labor organization to adopt and enforce reasonable rules as to the responsibility of every member toward the organization as an institution and to his refraining from conduct that would interfere with its performance of its legal or contractual obligations” [29 USC. Section 411(a) (2)].
The Local’s membership took disciplinary action against Perez because he wrote “a scathing letter” to Frank Hanley, the General President of the International Union of Operating Engineers, complaining about alleged retaliation he suffered after a 1995 union election. The court said that “whether or not [the Local] may have been justified in disciplining [Perez] for some other reason, their inclusion of the charge of libel ran afoul of [his] rights under the LMRDA.”
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