Eastwood, Bigelow and Jayne. The opinion of the court was delivered by Eastwood, S.j.a.d.
Plaintiff William Beedie filed a complaint in the Superior Court, Law Division, Monmouth County, alleging that he was employed by the defendant as an International representative from 1937 until 1949, and that his salary was fixed by the defendant's constitution; that from 1946 through 1948 he received a total compensation of $15,142.75, instead of $23,500, as provided by the constitution. He sought payment for the difference of $8,357.25.
Defendant's answer asserted that plaintiff was employed as an organizer and not as an International representative, and that he had been fully paid for his services. By way of separate defense, the defendant alleged that plaintiff had not complied with article XXII, section 4, of the constitution of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, regarding prosecution of remedies through the organization for alleged claims. The pertinent provision of that section provides, inter alia:
"Sec. 4. Each applicant admitted, shall, in the presence of members of the I.B.E.W., repeat and sign the following obligation:
"'I, (Give name) freely and without mental reservation, in the presence of members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, do sincerely promise and agree to conform to and abide by the Constitution and laws of the I.B.E.W. and its local unions. I will faithfully
further, by every means within my power, the purposes for which the I.B.E.W. is instituted. I will bear true allegiance to the I.B.E.W. and will never sacrifice its interest in any manner. I promise and agree not to resort to any court of law for redress for any injustice that I may believe has been done me by the I.B.E.W. or any of its local unions, until I have first resorted to and exhausted the remedies provided for this object by the Constitution, laws and rules of the I.B.E.W. Should I leave the I.B.E.W. of my own free will, be suspended or expelled, I shall consider this obligation to be as binding upon me then as now.'"
The trial court granted defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that plaintiff must first exhaust his remedies within the organization before seeking redress in the courts. The plaintiff appeals from the judgment of dismissal.
The plaintiff contends that the article of the constitution referred to above is applicable solely to matters of discipline and involves membership matters, whereas the present suit seeks damages arising out of a contract of employment, for which relief the law court is the proper tribunal; that he is excused from compliance with the provisions of the constitution because the remedies of appeal thereunder are illusory, futile or vain; that the defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint should have been denied because it presented a jury question as to whether or not plaintiff's resort to the union tribunals would be illusory, futile or vain.
The defendant contends that plaintiff must first exhaust his remedies within the organization before resorting to the law courts and that the courts will not invoke the exception, i.e. , where the pursuit would prove "futile, illusory and vain," in the absence of proof of this latter circumstance. It is argued that plaintiff wholly failed to allege this latter circumstance as a justifying reason for the trial court to hear the matter and that, therefore, this question is not properly before the appellate court. Notwithstanding this contention, the defendant denies that the remedies under the constitution are "illusory, futile or vain"; that within 30 days of receiving a salary at less than he felt was proper, plaintiff should have filed a notice of appeal with the International
president and from his decision could then appeal within 30 days to the International executive council, and that within three months thereafter the council would make and render a decision; that this latter decision could be appealed to the International convention which meets every two years.
The question before us is, in the first instance, one addressed to exercise of the jurisdiction of the court. That the right to a salary, or money damages, resulting from unpaid salaries, is a property right, is beyond question. Where the proofs established such a ...