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Corns v. Laborers Int'l Union of N. Am.

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 29, 2014

ALEX CORNS, Plaintiff,
v.
LABORERS INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA; NORTHERN CALIFORNIA DISTRICT COUNCIL OF LABORERS; AND HOD CARRIERS LOCAL UNION NO. 166, AFFILIATED WITH THE LABORERS INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA, Defendants

Page 1106

For Alex Corns, Plaintiff: Christopher W. Katzenbach, Katzenbach Law Offices, San Rafael, CA.

For Laborers International Union of North America, Northern California District Council of Laborers, Hod Carriers Local Union 166, affiliated with the Laborers International Union of North America, Defendants: Barry E. Hinkle, Concepcion E. Lozano-Batista, David Albert Rosenfeld, Roberta D. Perkins, Weinberg Roger & Rosenfeld, Alameda, CA.

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Order Establishing Plaintiff's Entitlement To Relief On Remand; ' Granting In Part Plaintiff's Motion For Attorneys' Fees

YVONNE GONZALEZ ROGERS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

Presently before the Court are the issues on remand of this action from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, following a reversal in part of the Court's Order Granting Summary Judgment in favor of Defendants Laborers International Union of North America (" the International" ); Northern California District Council of Laborers (" District Council" ); and Hod Carriers Local Union No. 166 (" Local 166" ) (collectively, " Defendants" ) against Plaintiff Alex Corns (" Corns" ). Corns v. Laborers Int'l Union of N. Am., 709 F.3d 901 (9th Cir. 2013).

Corns filed the instant action against Defendants on September 18, 2009. His complaint challenged two different fees imposed on Local 166 members: (1) organizing fees imposed by the International as a result of the International's 2006 general convention; and (2) dues increases included in the 2008-2010 Local 166 collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). The district court, in granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, found that the fees and dues increases were lawfully implemented consistent with the union democracy requirements of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, 29 U.S.C. § 412 (" LMRDA" ). The Ninth Circuit,

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on review, affirmed the denial of Corns' challenge to the organizing fees, but held that the vote by the District Council approving the dues increases in the 2008-2010 Local 166 CBAs was improper because the members of Local 166 were not " members" of the District Council. The remand from the Ninth Circuit directed this Court to conduct " further proceedings consistent with" its opinion.

The parties have, at the direction of the Court, submitted briefing and evidence on the issues remaining, namely the appropriate remedy for the one violation of section 101(a)(3) of the LMRDA, found by the Ninth Circuit.

Having thoroughly reviewed the parties' submissions and evidence in support of the remedy and the related issues identified by the Court's March 31, 2014 Order (Dkt. No. 88), measures taken by Defendants after remand, as well as the arguments and evidence submitted in support of and in opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Attorneys' fees, and for the reasons stated herein, the Court Orders that: (1) Plaintiff shall be awarded $126,562.50 in attorneys' fees and costs; and (2) no additional form of relief, such as restitution, injunctive relief, declaratory relief, or penalties is warranted.

A. Summary of Facts

The Ninth Circuit's opinion set forth the facts of the case in detail. This Court now summarizes those facts salient to this order. Local 166 members' dues and fees are dictated by multiple collective bargaining agreements, some of which are negotiated by the District Council. Depending upon where the members are called to work, their pay, dues, and fees, may be set by a CBA negotiated by Local 166, negotiated by the District Council on their behalf, or negotiated by the District Council on behalf of multiple local unions in various Northern California counties.

The District Council's membership consists of delegates from its affiliated local unions. It possesses the constitutional authority " [t]o negotiate, bargain for and enter into understandings and agreements with employers, for and [on] behalf of its affiliated Local Unions and to enforce and police the observance thereof by employees and employers, Local Unions and their members...." (Unif. Dist. Council Const. art. II, § 2(d).) The Uniform District Council Constitution also empowers the District Council to establish and regulate the amount of dues and fees paid by members of the affiliated local unions, including Local 166. ( Id. art. II, § 2(e).) The District Council must convene a special convention at which delegates vote on whether an increase in dues or fees is necessary for one or more of the fifteen local unions. ( Id. art. VIII, § 2.)

The dues increases challenged by Corns were included in the 2008-2010 Local 166 collective bargaining agreements negotiated by the District Council. Imposition of these dues and fees increases resulted from a vote of the District Council at a general meeting held June 20, 2008, and went into effect on July 1, 2008.

Corns wrote the International's general president to express his concern about the imposition of a dues increase absent a secret ballot vote of the local membership. The District Council's executive board proposed, and the District Council approved, a special convention to be held September 19, 2008, to consider the dues increase.

Although the 2008-2010 Local 166 collective bargaining agreements had already been ratified by the District Council's vote on June 20, 2008, they were presented to Local 166 members at a general board meeting on June 26, 2008. Corns requested that a standing vote of the Local 166

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membership be taken to approve the new agreements. A standing vote of the members present was taken, and resulted in a narrow majority (30-29) in favor of the agreements. Corns then challenged the vote on the grounds that the person conducting the vote was the son of the Local 166 business manager. A new vote of the Local 166 members then present, resulting in approval by 36 votes in favor, and 30 votes opposed.

Nearly three months later, on September 19, 2008, the District Council held the scheduled special convention to consider the dues increase. At the special convention, the District Council's delegates, including two Local 166 representatives, voted unanimously to approve the dues increase included in the 2008-2010 Local 166 Agreements.

Corns then wrote a letter to the International objecting to the increases approved at the District Council special convention. The International's general president responded to Corns on March 13, 2009, explaining that the International took the position that the dues were increased properly, in accordance with the Uniform District Council and Uniform Local Union constitutions.

B. Procedural History

Corns' complaint alleged that (1) organizing fees imposed by the International as a result of the International's 2006 general convention; and (2) dues increases included in the 2008-2010 Local 166 collective bargaining agreements were imposed in violation of the LMRDA. As to the dues increases, Corns alleged they were not lawful since they were imposed without a secret ballot of the members of Local 166, and instead were adopted by the District Council in an increase that affected only Local 166. Corns alleged that the provisions of Defendants' constitutions permitting the District Council to adopt dues increases for individual, affiliated local unions were invalid under the LMRDA.[1] The complaint sought reimbursement ...


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