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TRBOVICH v. UNITED MINE WORKERS AMERICA ET AL.

decided: January 17, 1972.

TRBOVICH
v.
UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA ET AL.



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT.

Marshall, J., delivered the opinion of the Court in which Burger, C. J., and Brennan, Stewart, White, and Blackmun, JJ., joined. Douglas, J., filed an opinion dissenting in part, post, p. 539. Powell and Rehnquist, JJ., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Author: Marshall

[ 404 U.S. Page 529]

 MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Secretary of Labor instituted this action under § 402 (b) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA), 73 Stat. 534, 29 U. S. C. § 482 (b), to set aside an election of officers of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), held on December 9, 1969. He alleged that the election was held in a manner that violated the LMRDA in numerous respects,*fn1 and he sought an order requiring a new election to be held under his supervision.

Petitioner, a member of the UMWA, filed the initial complaint with the Secretary that eventually led him to file this suit. Petitioner now seeks to intervene in the litigation, pursuant to Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 24 (a), in order (1) to urge two additional grounds for setting aside

[ 404 U.S. Page 530]

     the election,*fn2 (2) to seek certain specific safeguards with respect to any new election that may be ordered,*fn3 and (3) to present evidence and argument in support of the Secretary's challenge to the election. The District Court denied his motion for leave to intervene, on the ground that the LMRDA expressly stripped union members of any right to challenge a union election in the courts, and gave that right exclusively to the Secretary. Hodgson v. United Mine Workers, 51 F.R.D. 270 (1970). The Court of Appeals affirmed on the basis of the District Court opinion, 77 L. R. R. M. 2496 (CADC 1971). We granted certiorari to determine whether the LMRDA imposes a bar to intervention by union members under Rule 24, in a suit initiated by the Secretary. Post, p. 880.*fn4 We conclude that it does not, and we remand the case to the District Court with directions to permit intervention.

I

The LMRDA was the first major attempt of Congress to regulate the internal affairs of labor unions.*fn5 Having conferred substantial power on labor organizations, Congress

[ 404 U.S. Page 531]

     began to be concerned about the danger that union leaders would abuse that power, to the detriment of the rank-and-file members. Congress saw the principle of union democracy as one of the most important safeguards against such abuse, and accordingly included in the LMRDA a comprehensive scheme for the regulation of union elections.

Title IV of the statute establishes a set of substantive rules governing union elections, LMRDA § 401, 29 U. S. C. § 481, and it provides a comprehensive procedure for enforcing those rules, LMRDA § 402, 29 U. S. C. § 482. Any union member who alleges a violation may initiate the enforcement procedure. He must first exhaust any internal remedies available under the constitution and bylaws of his union. Then he may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor, who "shall investigate" the complaint. Finally, if the Secretary finds probable cause to believe a violation has occurred, he "shall . . . bring a civil action against the labor organization" in federal district court, to set aside the election if it has already been held, and to direct and supervise a new election. With respect to elections not yet conducted, the statute provides that existing rights and remedies apart from the statute are not affected. But with respect to an election already conducted, "the remedy provided by this subchapter . . . shall be exclusive." LMRDA § 403, 29 U. S. C. § 483.

The critical statutory provision for present purposes is § 403, 29 U. S. C. § 483, making suit by the Secretary the "exclusive" post-election remedy for a violation of Title IV. This Court has held that § 403 prohibits union members from initiating a private suit to set aside an election. Calhoon v. Harvey, 379 U.S. 134, 140 (1964). But in this case, petitioner seeks only to participate in a pending suit that is plainly authorized by the statute; it cannot be said that his claim is

[ 404 U.S. Page 532]

     defeated by the bare language of the Act. The Secretary, relying on legislative history, argues that § 403 should be construed to bar intervention as well as initiation of a suit by the members. In his view the legislative history shows that Congress deliberately chose to exclude union members entirely from any direct participation in judicial enforcement proceedings under Title IV. The Secretary's argument rests largely on the fact that two alternative proposals figured significantly in the legislative history of ...


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