Carpenters v. Metal Trades

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Labor Law
  • Date Filed: 10-28-2014
  • Case #: 13-35095
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge O’Scannlain for the Court; Circuit Judges Kleinfeld and Berzon
  • Full Text Opinion

The duty of fair representation does not prevent unions from appointing or removing stewards based on union affiliation.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (“Carpenters”) “are members of bargaining units represented by the [Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO (“Metal Trades”)],” “a labor organization that negotiates, administers, and enforces collective bargaining agreements.” As part of a campaign “to force the Carpenters to reaffiliate with the [Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO (“Building Trades”)], the Building Trades encouraged the Metal Trades to “expel the Carpenters from its membership.” As a result, several Carpenters’ members were removed as stewards for Metal Trades. The Carpenters sued Metal Trades for breach of its “duty of fair representation.” The district court dismissed the complaint and granted leave to amend, upon which the amended complaint was dismissed for failure to state a claim. The Carpenters appealed, and the Ninth Circuit reviewed “whether the duty of fair representation requires unions to appoint and to remove stewards without regard to union affiliation.” The duty of fair representation “is the ‘obligation to serve the interests of all members [of a bargaining unit] without hostility or discrimination toward any, to exercise . . . discretion with complete good faith and honesty, and to avoid arbitrary conduct.’” The panel determined that “the duty of fair representation does not prevent unions from appointing or removing stewards based on union affiliation” because a union “is entitled, in the interest of serving all fairly, to the loyalty of its stewards.” A union therefore may be permitted to “discriminate based on union affiliation” to further that interest. The panel also reasoned that “[a] union’s selecting stewards from whom it might expect undivided loyalty . . . is not unreasonable discrimination and does not, without more, breach the duty of fair representation.” The panel therefore found that the Carpenters failed to state a claim, and affirmed the district court’s dismissal. AFFIRMED.

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