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Moore v. Local Union No. 483

Decided: February 14, 1975.


For reversal and remandment -- Chief Justice Hughes, Justices Jacobs, Mountain, Sullivan, Pashman and Clifford and Judge Collester. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Collester, P.J.A.D., Temporarily Assigned.


[66 NJ Page 529] Plaintiffs, who are members of various local unions of the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers, AFL-CIO (International Association), brought an action in the Chancery Division against the International Association and Local Union No. 483 (Local 483) to compel the local union to approve their applications for transfer of membership to Local 483 in compliance with the international constitution and to accord them all rights, privileges and benefits thereof. At the conclusion of the trial the Chancery

Division judge found that the practice of Local 483 in rejecting all applications for transfer of membership constituted an abuse of discretion but that the ultimate relief sought of directing the enrollment of plaintiffs as members of Local 483 was beyond his power to grant. Accordingly, the trial judge entered judgment in favor of the defendants.

Plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal with the Appellate Division and thereafter moved for certification of the appeal to this Court pursuant to R. 2:12-2. We granted certification. 65 N.J. 579.

Defendant International Association is an unincorporated association comprised of various local unions with a membership of over 160,000 ironworkers throughout the United States and Canada. Defendant Local 483, one of its affiliates, has approximately 140 active members and its geographical jurisdiction includes the counties of Bergen, Passaic and part of Sussex. Together with four other local unions, united in a confederation known as the District Council of Northern New Jersey, Local 483 participates in the negotiation of collective bargaining contracts with employers of iron and steel workers in the area. From 350 to 500 ironworkers work in the three counties which are within the jurisdiction of the local union. Members of other local unions affiliated with the International Association secure work through the hiring hall operated by Local 483. They have no voice in the negotiation of collective bargaining contracts which govern the terms and working conditions of their employment, cannot vote to reject or ratify a negotiated contract, nor do they have the right to vote or otherwise participate in the affairs of Local 483. Non-members of the local union are required under the international constitution to pay travel service dues of $2.50 per week to Local 483 in order to accept or hold employment in the territorial jurisdiction of the local union, of which $1 is remitted to the International Association. They must also pay a working assessment of $1 per day to Local 483, which both members and non-members must pay.

Plaintiffs are journeymen members of out-of-state local unions of the International Association who have worked for many years in the area under the jurisdiction of Local 483 and secure employment under the referral system conducted in the local union's hiring hall. In or about May 1971, plaintiffs, with the exception of Joseph Mahan, individually applied to Local 483 for acceptance of their transfers for membership. All applications for transfer were denied by the executive committee of Local 483. No reason was given for rejection of the applications. Thereafter, pursuant to the international constitution, they appealed to the international general executive board. They were subsequently notified that their appeals were being held in abeyance. Joseph Mahan's application for transfer of membership was not made until later and it was rejected by Local 483 without a reason on April 6, 1972. Mahan did not appeal to the international union but joined with the other plaintiffs in the action brought in the Chancery Division.

The international constitution, which governs all local unions and their members, provides for the transfer of membership from one local union to another. It has been periodically revised. The 1960 constitution mandated acceptance by a local union of all transfer requests. The 1964 constitution provided that a local union by a majority vote of its members could accept or reject transfer applications. The 1968 constitution, which governs plaintiffs' requests for transfer, eliminated the necessity of a vote by the entire membership of the local union and delegated the acceptance or rejection of transfers to its executive committee.

The constitution requires that a member who desires to transfer must be a member of the International Association for at least two years. In order to transfer a member must first apply to his local union for a clearance card which is issued to members in good standing. Article 21, section 31 of the constitution provides:

Thereafter a member obtaining a clearance card must present the same to the Local Union into which he desires to transfer, for acceptance by it, and the matter shall be referred to the Executive Committee of the local union which shall accept or reject the clearance card within the discretion of the Executive Committee. The decision of the Executive Committee of either acceptance or rejection of the clearance card shall be subject to review by the General Executive Board.

The record indicates that since 1965 Local 483 has only admitted to membership ten journeymen, none of whom had served in the local union's apprenticeship program. All were sons of journeymen members of Local 483. Five were admitted directly as members. Four were transferred from outside locals and one from a shop union. The transferees were admitted under the provisions of the 1964 constitution which required acceptance by a majority vote of members of the local union. No transfers have been accepted under the provisions of the 1968 constitution.

According to testimony elicited from members of the local union's executive committee plaintiffs' applications were summarily rejected without any discussion whatsoever. It was stipulated by Local 483 that no journeymen have been admitted since the discretion was given to the executive committee under the 1968 constitution and that this was a calculated, purposeful decision because it was ...

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