The opinion of the court was delivered by: WOLIN
The United States of America, on behalf of the Secretary of the United States Department of Labor, filed this lawsuit pursuant to sections 104 and 210 of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA" or the "Act"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 414 and 440, respectively, to enjoin Local 427, International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, AFL-CIO ("Local 427") from refusing Hortensia Colmenares (a member of Local 427) the right to review copies of Local 427's collective bargaining agreements with employers other than her own employer. The United States has filed a summary judgment motion for an injunction ordering Local 427 to recognize Ms. Colmenares' right to inspect said agreements. Local 427 has responded by filing a cross-motion for summary judgment on the grounds that (i) the complaint is time-barred by a six-month federal statute of limitations, and (ii) as a matter of law, no right to inspect the collective bargaining agreements in question exists under the LMRDA. For the following reasons, this court finds that the Secretary of Labor's action is barred by a six-month federal statute of limitations.
By letter dated June 18, 1986, Hortensia Colmenares, a member of Local 427, requested a copy of the collective bargaining agreement entered into between Local 427 and her employer, Keene Corporation; in this letter she had also asked to review other such agreements made by Local 427 with employers other than Keene Corporation. On June 26, 1986, Ms. Colmenares presented a copy of the June 18th letter to the president of Local 427, Henry Annucci. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Colmenares was presented with the most recent Local 427/Keene Corporation collective bargaining agreement. However, by letter dated August 22, 1986, Local 427 informed Ms. Colmenares that it would not permit her to inspect its collective bargaining agreements with other employers.
In an attempt to resolve this issue there was correspondence between Local 427's counsel and representatives of the U.S. Department of Labor. At no time, however, during these communications did Local 427 indicate that it would change its position in this matter.
On September 8, 1986, Ms. Colmenares filed an official complaint with the Department of Labor. On September 1, 1987 the Secretary of Labor, pursuant to his authority under section 210 of the LMRDA,
commenced the instant action in this court. Both the Secretary of Labor ("plaintiff") and Local 427 ("defendant") have filed motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff argues that he is entitled to summary judgment because, as a matter of law, 29 U.S.C. § 414 grants union members the absolute right to review their union's collective bargaining agreements with employers other than the employers of the members requesting review. In response, defendant asserts that plaintiff's complaint is barred by the statute of limitations; and even if not time-barred, defendant moves that summary judgment in its favor is appropriate because, as a matter of law, there exists no such right to review the collective bargaining agreements in question.
As noted, this court does not reach the issue of the interpretation of section 104 of the LMRDA because it finds that plaintiff's claim is barred by the six-month statute of limitations "borrowed" from another federal labor statute. Specifically, therefore, the narrow issue facing this court is whether the Secretary of Labor, when bringing an action to enforce section 104 of the LMRDA, is subject to a federal statute of limitations.
A. The Structure of the LMRDA
The structure of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act contemplates enforcement both by private citizens for alleged violations of Title I (i.e., Subchapter II) of the Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 411-415 (inclusive),
and also by the Secretary of Labor for alleged violations of Title II (i.e., Subchapter III) of the Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 431-441 (inclusive).
Although the instant action concerns alleged violations of Title I (i.e., section 104 of LMRDA)--meaning that individual union members are given a private right of action--the Secretary of Labor may also sue because section 104 expressly states that "the provisions of section [210 of the LMRDA] shall be applicable in the enforcement of this section."
Neither Title I nor Title II (or, for that matter, any title of the LMRDA), however, make any reference to a statute of limitations within which an action must be brought.
B. Statute of Limitations
(1) " Borrowing in the absence of an express limitations period. Notwithstanding the absence of a statute of limitations within the framework of a federal statute such as the LMRDA, in an analogous situation the Supreme Court has stated:
As is often the case in federal civil law, there is no federal statute of limitations expressly applicable to this suit. In such situations we do not ordinarily assume that Congress intended that there be no limit on actions at all; rather our task is to 'borrow' the most suitable statute or other rule of timeliness from some other source. We have generally concluded that Congress intended that the courts apply the most closely analogous statute of limitations under state law. 'The implied absorption of state statutes of limitation within the interstices of the federal enactments is a phase of fashioning remedial details where Congress has not spoken but left matters for judicial determination within the general framework of familiar legal principles.'
DelCostello v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 103 S. Ct. 2281, 2287-2289, 76 L. Ed. 2d 476 (1983) (quoting Holmberg v. Armbrecht, 327 U.S. 392, 395, 66 S. Ct. 582, 584, 90 L. Ed. 743 (1946)) (footnotes omitted; other citations omitted). On the other hand, the Supreme Court has also recognized that "state statutes of limitations can be unsatisfactory ...