Posted: January 4, 2018

Judge Bianco Dismisses Case for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction after Finding That Public Union Was Not a “Mixed” Public/Private Union

District Judge Joseph F. Bianco recently dismissed a putative class action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (“LMRDA”). (Medford v. The Civil Serv. Empls. Ass., Local 1000, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, CSEA Local 881, 17-CV-0011 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 5, 2017) (JFB) (SIL). In doing so, Judge Bianco rejected plaintiffs’ creative argument that defendant’s union should be considered a mixed public/private union based on public sector workers that were assigned to work for the union itself.

A bit of background: The LMRDA provides for subject matter jurisdiction for certain claims against labor organizations that deal with employers. However, a public section union is not a labor organization under the LMRDA because state or political subdivisions are not employers under the LMRDA. Consequently, claims against public section unions do not have independent subject matter jurisdiction. Nonetheless, the LMRDA confers jurisdiction over a mixed public/private union.

In this case, Local 881 and other defendants were sued for statutory violations of the LMRDA. Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that Local 881 represents only employees of the Town of Oyster Bay, which is a political subdivision of New York State. As such, there would be no subject matter jurisdiction under LMRDA. Plaintiffs, however, argued, that “Local 881 is a mixed union because [three] of its members do not perform work for the Town, and instead perform only union-related work. According to plaintiffs, those members are effectively Local 881 employees, not Town employees.”

The Court was unpersuaded:

Plaintiffs’ argument misses the mark. The fact that [the three members] were released from their regular duties for the Town to administer the CBA and process grievances for Local 881 members does not transform these public employees into union employees. To the contrary, they are still paid by the Town, continue to receive service credit in the New York State Local Employees Retirement System, and retain their civil service job titles. In fact, if any of these individuals were to lose their status as a Town employee, they would be ineligible to serve as a Local 881 officer. Therefore, under these circumstances, the Court declines to find that [the three members] are Local 881 employees based solely on the fact that they currently perform union-related work, and concludes that they remain public sector employees for purposes of the LMRDA. . . .

Moreover, this is not a situation where a union that generally represents public employees becomes a mixed union because it also represents such members in negotiations with private sector employers, thus subjecting itself to the LMRDA. See, e.g., Lynch [v. Patrolmen’s Benevolent Ass’n, No. 99 CIV. 63 LAP, 1999 WL 713369, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. May 18, 1999)] (noting that, if the PBA represented its members both in negotiations with the NYPD and in negotiations with private employers pursuant to a paid detail program, the union would be a mixed union and the LMRDA would apply). Here, plaintiffs have not alleged, or otherwise demonstrated, that Local 881 actually represented [the three members] (or any other Local 881 members) in negotiations with a private employer. . . .

To the extent plaintiffs suggest this union-related work means that the union represents them in negotiations with the union itself, the Court rejects that argument. A union cannot represent its own employees in negotiations with itself.

(Medford v. The Civil Serv. Empls. Ass., Local 1000, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, CSEA Local 881, 17-CV-0011 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 5, 2017) (JFB) (SIL)(citations omitted).

In the absence of subject matter jurisdiction, Judge Bianco dismissed the case.

Posted by Solomon N. Klein, Litigation Partner

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