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Conille v. Council 93, American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 15, 2018

PHARAMOND CONILLE, YVES RIGAUD, JACQUES LARAQUE, MICHELET AUGUSTE, GUY RAPHAEL, JEAN LOUIS, JAMES SHEA, ELGA BERNARD, HODELIN AUBOURG, GABRIEL BERNARD, CARMESUZE MICHAUD, KALLOT JEAN-FRANCOIS, MONIQUE MODAN, JOSEPH BERLUS, MARIE AVELINE FORTUNAT, VALENTINE DUBUISSON, FRANCHETTE DORSAINVIL, SALLY ROGERS, STANLEY SIENKIEWICZ, YVONNE VASSELL, and LOCAL 402, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY, AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNCIL 93, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY, AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, and AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY, AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, Defendants.

          FINDINGS OF FACT AND RULINGS OF LAW

          WILLIAM G. YOUNG, DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On August 14, 2017, Pharamond Conille ("Conille") and eighteen other members of Local 402 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees ("AFSCME") (collectively the ''Plaintiffs'') brought suit seeking emergency equitable relief against AFSCME Council 93 ("Council 93") and AFSCME International ("International") itself (collectively the "Defendants"). As amended, the Plaintiffs complained that they were denied equal voting rights as guaranteed by the AFSCME Constitution and federal law (count I), that Local 402 was being wrongfully deactivated (count II), and that Conille had been denied due process and been the victim of retaliation in violation of federal law and the AFSCME Constitution (counts III, IV, and V). Am. Compl. ¶¶ 23-142, ECF No. 25. Council 93 counterclaimed, alleging that upon its deactivation Local 402 had not turned over its assets, bank accounts, and books and records as it was required to do. Def.'s Answer & Countercl. 20, ECF No. 42.

         As the action commenced virtually on the eve of an impending AFSCME convention, pre-trial sparring was vigorous. On September 22, 2017, the Plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment on counts I and II pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), Pis.' Mot. Partial Summ. J., ECF No. 31, along with supporting memorandum of law, affidavit, and statements of disputed and undisputed facts, Mem. Law Supp. Pis.7 Mot. Partial Summ. J., ECF No. 32; Conille Aff. Supp. Pis.' Mot. Partial Summ. J. ("Conille Aff."), ECF No. 33; Pis.' Statement Undisputed Material Facts Supp. Pis.' Mot. Partial Summ. J., ECF No. 34; Statement of Facts in Dispute, ECF No. 54. On October 13, 2017, the Defendants filed a memorandum in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. Mem. Law Opp'n Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 48, along with supplemental statements of facts, Defs.' Statement Material Facts, ECF No. 49.

         After oral arguments and a careful review of the record, this Court concluded that there existed a genuine issue of material fact in dispute as to count I. Trial Tr. 10/20/17 at 21:3-7; Trial Tr. 10/26/17 at 4:3-7:10. As to count II, this Court ruled that the Defendants' interpretation of their Constitution was reasonable and the Court would defer to them and their interpretation moving forward. Trial Tr. 10/20/17 at 22:21-23:5; Trial Tr. 10/26/17 at 7:11-23. The question still remained whether Local 402 was wrongfully deactivated. Trial Tr. 10/20/17 at 22:21-23:5; Trial Tr. 10/26/17 at 7:11-23.

         A two-day non-jury trial commenced on October 26, 2017.

         The Court promptly made its findings and rulings from the bench on December 4, 2017, focusing primarily on count I. This Court found that the Plaintiffs prevailed as to count I and ordered that the executive board of Council 93 be reconstituted and reorganized to allow for equal representation on or before December 31, 2018. Electronic Clerk's Notes, ECF Nos. 80, 81. The reorganization must be in effect and voted on by December 31, 2018. On that date the Defendants are instructed to file a report with the Court as to the reconstitution. Electronic Clerk's Notes, ECF No. 80. All actions of the executive board as of the date this matter was filed up to December 31, 2018 are declared provisional. Electronic Clerk's Notes, ECF No. 80. This Court also found facts and entered judgment for Council 93 and the International as to all other counts and dismissed the counterclaims. Id. The Court takes this opportunity to amplify and supplement its oral decision and makes the following findings of fact and rulings of law.

         II. FINDINGS OF FACT

         A. The Parties

         Local 402 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was a trade union of employees of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, located at 85 River Street in Waltham, Massachusetts. Conille Aff. ¶ 1. Local 402's membership consisted of employees from the Department of Developmental Services ("DDS") who worked at the Fernald State School in Waltham, Massachusetts. Id. at ¶ 2. Most of those employees worked for a subdivision of DDS called either "Metro Residential Services" or "Northeast Residential Services." Id. at ¶ 3.

         Conille was the Vice President of Local 402. Trial Tr. 10/26/17 at 29:9-11. Raymond McKinnon ("McKinnon") served as Local 402's President prior to his retirement. Id. at 30:16-17. Yves Rigaud, Jacques Laraque, Michelet Auguste, Guy Raphael, Jean Louis, James Shea, Elga Bernard, Hodelin Aubourg, Gabriel Bernard, Conille, and McKinnon constituted the Executive Board of Local 402. Id. at 31:3-11. The rest of the Plaintiffs were members of Local 402. Id. at 31:3-32:8.

         The AFSCME is an international labor union, and the parent of Council 93 and Local 402. Conille Aff. ¶ 9; Trial Ex. 1 at 9. Council 93's local unions represent members employed by both public and private employers in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Trial Ex. 8.

         B. The AFSCME Constitution

         The Bill of Rights of the AFSCME Constitution states:

4. Members shall have the right to fair and democratic elections, at all levels of the union. This includes due notice of nominations and elections, equal opportunity for competing candidates, and proper election procedures which shall be constitutionally specified.
7. Members shall have the right to full participation, through discussion and vote, in the decision making processes of the union, and to pertinent information needed for the exercise of this right. This right shall specifically include decisions concerning the acceptance or rejection of collective bargaining contracts, memoranda of understanding, or any other agreements affecting their wages, hours, or other terms and conditions ...

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