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PILE DRIVERS

September 4, 1997

PILE DRIVERS, DIVERS, CARPENTERS, BRIDGE, WHARF AND DOCK BUILDERS LOCAL UNION 34, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA CARPENTERS REGIONAL COUNCIL and UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS AND JOINERS OF AMERICA, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HENDERSON

 This matter comes before the Court on plaintiffs' application for a preliminary injunction. Having considered the oral arguments and written submissions of the parties, the Court issues the following order.

 FACTUAL BACKGROUND

 The instant dispute arises from an intraunion reorganization effort by defendant United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America ("UBC"). As part of a nationwide effort to consolidate certain administrative activities at a regional, rather than local, level, UBC General President Douglas McCarron on May 27 *fn1" created defendant Northern California Carpenters Regional Council ("Regional Council") and directed all local unions within its geographic bounds to affiliate with it. Pile Drivers, Divers, Carpenters, Bridge, Wharf and Dock Builders Local Union No. 34 falls within the newly-created Regional Council's jurisdiction. *fn2" After receiving notice of the UBC affiliation directive, Local 34 on June 14 held a meeting of its membership. At this meeting, the members present voted unanimously to reject the affiliation.

 Thereafter, Local 34 fought the affiliation on two fronts. Utilizing internal union procedures, the Local filed an appeal of the affiliation order with the UBC General Executive Board. On June 30, the UBC General Executive Board heard and denied Local 34's appeal. On June 16 and 19, Local 34 received letters from UBC General President McCarron indicating that the Local's refusal to comply with the affiliation directive was "contrary to the welfare of the UBC" and that a hearing to impose supervision over the local would be held on July 8. On that date, a hearing committee appointed by General President McCarron heard testimony from representatives of Local 34, the UBC, and the Regional Council. On July 21, Local 34 was notified that the hearing committee had recommended supervision over Local 34, and that the UBC General Executive Board had accordingly ordered the imposition of a trusteeship.

 In addition to its internal union effort, Local 34 also opened a second front in the courts by filing this suit on June 18 against the UBC and Regional Council. On June 26, Local 34 filed an application for temporary restraining order (TRO) seeking to block the affiliation directive. Although the Court denied that application as premature, Local 34 on August 1 renewed its application for a TRO, now seeking to block both the affiliation directive and trusteeship. The Court on August 7 granted Local 34's application and heard argument on the motion for preliminary injunction on August 25.

 LEGAL STANDARD

 According to Ninth Circuit precedent, in order to obtain a preliminary injunction, the moving party must demonstrate either (1) a combination of probable success on the merits and the possibility of irreparable injury, or (2) that serious questions are raised and the balance of hardships tips sharply in favor of the movant. *fn3" Associated General Contractors, 950 F.2d 1401, 1410. These formulations are not different tests but rather two points on a sliding scale in which the degree of irreparable harm increases as the probability of success on the merits decreases. Id. A party seeking a preliminary injunction, however, must always show "as an irreducible minimum that there is a fair chance of success on the merits." Johnson v. California State Bd. of Accountancy, 72 F.3d 1427, 1430 (9th Cir. 1995). In considering a request for a preliminary injunction, a court must remain mindful that such relief is aimed primarily at preserving the status quo pending trial. See Los Angeles Mem. Coliseum Comm'n v. National Football League, 634 F.2d 1197, 1200 (9th Cir. 1980) ("fundamental principle" governing preliminary injunctive relief is the need to maintain the status quo prior to determination on the merits). In balancing the harms, a court must also take into account any public interests implicated by the injunctive relief sought. Caribbean Marine Services Co. v. Baldridge, 844 F.2d 668, 674 (9th Cir. 1988).

 DISCUSSION

 A. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

 Before turning to the particular facts of this case, the Court notes the "well-established federal policy of avoiding unnecessary interference in the internal affairs of unions." Local 1052 v. Los Angeles County Dist. Council of Carpenters, 944 F.2d 610, 613 (9th Cir. 1991) (quoting Motion Picture & Videotape Editors Guild, Local 776 v. International Sound Tech, Local 695, 800 F.2d 973, 975 (9th Cir.), amended, 806 F.2d 1410 (9th Cir. 1986)). In the words of the Ninth Circuit, "Disputes between an international and its locals...are best left for internal settlement." Motion Picture & Videotape Editors, 800 F.2d at 976; accord Local 1052 v. Los Angeles County Dist. Council of Carpenters, 944 F.2d 610, 617 (9th Cir. 1991).

 In unraveling the arguments of the parties in this case, the Court has endeavored to keep this general federal policy of noninterference in mind. Here, an international union is seeking to reorganize the structure of its locals, a process that can be expected to generate internal frictions from time to time. If dissident locals were allowed to repair immediately to federal court for a second-opinion regarding the wisdom of every reorganization effort, the long-standing federal policy of noninterference in internal union affairs would be reduced to empty rhetoric. At the same time, as Local 34 correctly points out, federal law does impose certain limits on the wide-ranging autonomy enjoyed by international unions. At root, this case turns on the difficult question of where exactly to draw the line between the two competing principles.

 Local 34 seeks to block both the UBC's affiliation directive and the ensuing trusteeship. *fn4" With respect to the trusteeship, as the Court explained in the Order granting the TRO, judicial review is limited. See Order at 3-4 (filed Aug. 7, 1997). Congress, in passing Title IV of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), created a 18-month statutory presumption of validity for trusteeships properly imposed on subordinate locals. *fn5" 29 U.S.C. § 464(c). In order to defeat the statutory presumption of validity, a local under supervision must generally produce clear and convincing evidence of bad faith on the part of the international in imposing the supervision. See Benda v. Grand Lodge of Int'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, 584 F.2d 308, 313 (9th Cir. 1978); 29 U.S.C. § 464(c). In its prior Order, the Court concluded that Local 34 failed to meet this burden. Because Local 34 has not supplemented the record with any additional evidence of bad faith in connection with the trusteeship proceedings, the Court reaffirms this finding.


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