Philadelphia Trusteeship Upheld

U.S. Dist. Judge John R. Padova (E.D. Pa., H.W. Bush) held Oct. 12 that the trusteeship that the Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters imposed on Local 115 in Philadelphia following an internal union hearing was in accord with the Labor Mgmt. Reporting & Disclosure Act and the IBT’s constitution. However, Padova allowed Local 115 boss, John Morris, to proceed with his damage claim against IBT for the five-month period the local was under an emergency temporary trusteeship.The two decision were on summary judgment motions.

IBT president James P. Hoffa imposed an emergency trusteeship on the local in November 1999 based on allegations of abuse of members’ rights and local officers’ failure to protect the union finances. Morris sought a court injunction to regain control of the local. In late December, Padova ruled that no emergency existed to warrant imposition of the trusteeship without a hearing as required by IBT’s constitution. Although Padova ordered IBT to return control of the local to its elected officers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit two days later stayed Padova’s decision in Jan. 2000, allowing the emergency trusteeship to continue. Neither court ruled on the merits of the charges filed by IBT against Morris.

Morris’s damages suit argues that both the initial “emergency” trusteeship and Hoffa’s decision in June 2000 to continue the trusteeship for another 18 months violated the IBT’s constitution and LMRDA. Morris maintained that Hoffa took control of the local to retaliate against Morris for not supporting Hoffa’s election as IBT president. Morris had been an international vice president during the administration of corrupt ex-IBT president Ron Carey.

Padova found that the internal union hearing validated the continuation of the trusteeship. He rejected Morris’ assertion that the hearing was unfair and said Morris failed to show that the trusteeship was not being maintained for proper statutory purposes.  The IBT hearing found a number of legitimate reasons for continuing the trusteeship. Padova wrote “the establishment of a single proper purpose for establishing the trusteeship is sufficient to determine the trusteeship is valid under [LMRDA’s] Title III , even in the presence of additional allegedly improper motives.” [BNA 10/22/01]