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BOLLITIER v. INTERNATIONAL BHD. OF TEAMSTERS

January 18, 1989

JAMES J. BOLLITIER, Plaintiff,
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS, et al, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GERRY

 INTRODUCTION

 Plaintiff, James J. Bollitier, brought this action pursuant to § 101(a)(5) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(5), challenging his expulsion from membership by Teamsters Local 676. Jurisdiction exists in this court under 29 U.S.C. § 412. Plaintiff's primary contention at trial was that his expulsion violated his "full and fair hearing" rights under § 101(a)(5) of the LMRDA. Plaintiff's case was tried to the court on October 5 and 6, 1988. Plaintiff represented himself at trial, with some assistance from the court. Our findings of fact and conclusions of law follow.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 A. Liability

 The plaintiff, James J. Bollitier, was a member of Teamsters Local 676 for over 20 years prior to his expulsion from the Local. He is a resident of Camden, New Jersey. Defendant Teamsters Local 676, whose principal place of business is Collingswood, New Jersey, is an unincorporated association and a labor organization within the meaning of Section 3(i) of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 402(i). Defendant Teamsters Local 676 is affiliated with and is a local union of defendant International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America ("International Union"), whose principal office is in Washington, D.C. The International Union is an unincorporated association and a labor organization within the meaning of 29 U.S.C. § 402(i). Defendant Joint Council 53 is an unincorporated association and is an intermediate appellate body of the International Union. Local 676, as well as other Teamster local unions in the Philadelphia and Camden Metropolitan area belong to Joint Council 53. Joint Council 53 is a labor organization within the meaning of 29 U.S.C. § 402(i).

 On July 3, 1984, two Local 676 officials, President John P. Greeley and Business Agent/Trustee Moses Jackson, filed internal union charges against Mr. Bollitier. These charges alleged that plaintiff had for 20 years: harassed John Greeley, Moses Jackson, and "some of the office girls"; constantly conducted himself in a very disruptive and abusive manner at the union hall; cost the Local thousands of dollars in arbitration and other fees because he was repeatedly terminated by employers because of his belligerent attitude; failed to comply with normal hiring hall procedures; and filed, out of malice, many groundless NLRB, EEOC and civil rights charges against the Local and its officers. Defendants' Exhibit 2.

 These charges were brought under Article XIX, § 6(b)(6) of the International Union's Constitution. Article XIX, § 6(b)(6) of the Constitution provides that charges may be brought against officers or members for:

 
Disruption of Union meetings, or assaulting or provoking assault on fellow members or officers, or failure to follow the rules of order or rulings of the presiding officer at meetings of the Local Union, or any similar conduct in, or about union premises or places used to conduct union business.

 Plaintiff's Exhibit 2.

 On July 20, 1984, pursuant to Article XIX, § 1 of the International Union's Constitution, the Executive Board of Local 676 held a hearing on the charges brought against the plaintiff. Because the two charging parties, John Greeley and Moses Jackson, were members of the Local Executive Board, they were barred from sitting on the Executive Board and adjudicating the merits of the charges brought against Mr. Bollitier. Further, one additional member of the Executive Board was ill, necessitating the appointment of three other individuals to the Executive Board to hear the charges against plaintiff.

 Pursuant to the provisions of Article XIX, § 1(2) of the International Constitution (which the Local thought was applicable), Charles Morris, Vice President of Local 676, the principal executive officer of the Local Union at that time, due to Mr. Greeley's disqualification and Mr. Hall's illness, and the Union official who conducted the hearing, appointed Business Agents Anthony Polombi, Herman Greener and Walter Bednarczyk to the seven-member Executive Board which heard the charges against the plaintiff.

 It is the established practice of Local 676 that when an appointment is required to be made to the Executive Board for the purpose of adjudicating internal union charges, the appointment be made from the Local's available business agents, selected according to seniority. Pursuant to this practice, Greener, Bednarczyk and Polombi were selected to sit on the trial board, as they were the next three most senior business agents. This appointment procedure is not inconsistent with the provisions of the International Constitution.

 Mr. Greener and Mr. Bednarczyk are the brother and stepson respectively of John Greeley. The relationship between John Greeley and Walter Bednarczyk and Herman Greener is well known among members of Local 676.

 The plaintiff and John Greeley have had a lengthy and stormy relationship over a period exceeding 25 years. During this period, Greeley instituted various disciplinary proceedings against the plaintiff and sought his expulsion on at least one instance prior to 1984. In turn, the plaintiff filed numerous grievances, NLRB charges, EEOC and civil rights complaints against Greeley. In addition, plaintiff wrote letters to the editors of several local newspapers accusing Greeley of malfeasance and corruption. Plaintiff also picketed the Local Union on many occasions protesting the treatment he received from Greeley and Moses Jackson. On numerous occasions, the plaintiff and Greeley had verbal sparring matches and have almost come to blows. In sum, there is a deeply held and long-abiding personal animosity between plaintiff and Greeley. Such animosity, of similar vintage, characterizes the relationship between plaintiff and Moses Jackson.

 Greener and Bednarczyk were, prior to the July 1984 hearing, aware of the deep feud which existed among the plaintiff and Jackson and Greeley. Further, on sporadic occasions, the plaintiff had approached Bednarczyk and Greener separately, to ask them to intercede on plaintiff's behalf with Mr. Greeley. Bednarczyk and Greener refused to help or become involved. However, neither Greener nor Bednarczyk were personally involved in any dispute with the plaintiff prior to the July, 1984 disciplinary hearing, nor did they bear any animosity toward the plaintiff.

 Bednarczyk and Greener are long-standing employees of the Local Union. Each was laid-off as business agent, on the basis of seniority, for a time during the early 1980's. In 1984, Bednarczyk and Greener were each business agents at Local 676.

 The plaintiff's work as a truck driver primarily involved construction work. Business agents for Local 676 are assigned to service various employers. During all relevant times, as a business agent, Mr. Greener was never assigned to work with any construction employers. Similarly, as a business agent, the only construction employer that Bednarczyk was assigned to was the Camden County Municipal Utility Authority (aside from a brief period in the 1970's when he may have stepped in for Moses Jackson for a short period). Construction work represents a small percentage of Local 676's operations. Neither Greener nor Bednarczyk, apparently, served as plaintiff's business agent prior to the disciplinary hearing in July of 1984.

 During his hearing before the Local's Executive Board, the plaintiff had an opportunity to testify, present witnesses and introduce any available documentary evidence on his behalf. The plaintiff was accorded ample opportunity to present his case, an opportunity which he took full advantage of. Plaintiff's Exhibit 38. The hearing was not conducted in a formal, adversarial manner; there was no cross-examination. Id. However, the plaintiff and the charging parties were allowed to present their respective cases, to rebut adverse testimony, and to ask the Chair to direct questions to participants. The only irregularity at the hearing was the absence of a certified court reporter, which may explain the existence of gaps in the hearing transcript.

 During the hearing, the plaintiff did not, on the record, object to the presence of Greener and Bednarczyk on the Executive Board. The plaintiff did vigorously contest the charges brought against him by Greeley and Jackson, contending, as he did at trial, that they essentially resulted from animosity Jackson and Greeley bore toward plaintiff because of plaintiff's long-standing complaints about the way the Local treated him and represented its members. Plaintiff denied that he was harassing anyone at the Local; instead, he argued that he was merely seeking to speak with Jackson and Greeley to remedy what he regarded as their discrimination against him. Plaintiff's basic theory was that Jackson and Greeley were trying to get rid of him because of his vigorous and repeated challenges to their leadership of the Local, his complaints about Teamster work being given to non-Teamsters, and their personal antipathy towards him.

 At the end of the hearing, plaintiff was asked if he had a fair hearing. He replied, "I emphasize yes." By this, plaintiff meant that he felt he had an adequate opportunity to present his side of the story, not that he felt that Greener's and Bednarczyk's presence on the panel was fair. The record of the hearing does not indicate that Greener or Bednarczyk said anything indicating bias or prejudgment on their part.

 By letter dated July 25, 1984, the Local's Executive Board wrote to the plaintiff and informed him that the Executive Board voted to expel him from membership in the Local Union. Plaintiff's Exhibit 46. On July 28, 1984, in accordance with Article XIX, § 2 of the International Union's Constitution, plaintiff filed a timely ...


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