American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada v. Wittstein

PETITIONER: American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada
RESPONDENT: Wittstein
LOCATION: United States Post Office and Courthouse

DOCKET NO.: 27
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 379 US 171 (1964)
ARGUED: Nov 16, 1964
DECIDED: Dec 07, 1964

Facts of the case

Question

Media for American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada v. Wittstein

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 16, 1964 in American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada v. Wittstein

You may please the Court Mr. Kaiser.

Henry Kaiser:

This case is here on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The issue presented is one of interpreting and applying Section 101 (a) (3) (b) (i) of the Landrum-Griffin Act and we've set forth the statute on page 58 and page 59 of the blue brief, our brief.

The critical language provides that unions may not at conventions raise dues or other membership obligations except and I quote, “by majority vote of the delegates voting at a regular convention”.

Specifically, the question before Your Honors is whether as the court below held that language requires that the majority could be determined by assigning to each delegate one vote or whether as we contend and as the Solicitor General agrees that majority may also be determined by waiting each delegate's vote in a manner that reflects the strength of his constituency.

The pertinent facts upon which this issue arises may be briefly stated.

At its 1963 convention, petitioner, American Federation of Musicians raised the dues and the initiation fees of its some 280,000 members.

These members belong to 675 affiliated locals ranging in size from the membership of petitioner local 802, a membership of some 28,000 down to the local in Waupaca, Wisconsin with a membership of 20.

These members are represented at annual conventions of the federation, the highest governing and legislative body lf the union, by delegates who are elected each year by a secret ballot.

Article 5 of the federation's constitution which is set forth, I believe on page 3 of our brief, footnote 2, governs the number of delegates available to each local as well as the voting procedures at the convention.

That Article provides that no local or that every local no matter how small is entitled to at least one delegate and that no local no matter how large is entitled to more than three.

Thus under the laws of the federation, a local like that of Oshkosh with 276 members is entitled to the same three delegates as the New York local with its 28,000 members.

At the 1963 convention, the federation acted pursuant to the roll call provision of Article 5 by which on proper call or proper demand made by five locals, a roll call is taken and each delegate is authorized to vote the full number of the members from the local he comes from.

On that count, the resolution raising the dues and initiation fees was carried by some 44,000 votes.

We concede that there was not a majority of the actual delegates present voting in favor of the resolution.

Two separate suits were filed one against each, while there were some -- I forgot the precise number I think 110,076 delegates physically present.

There was not a majority of those individual delegates in support of the resolution.

(Inaudible)

Henry Kaiser:

Without the weighted vote.

(Inaudible)

Potter Stewart:

But its -- it's that fact really that raises the issue in this case.

Henry Kaiser:

Precisely, yes.

Potter Stewart:

That there had been a majority, those present --

Henry Kaiser:

There'd be no case.

Potter Stewart:

There'd be no case.

Henry Kaiser:

That is right sir.

(Inaudible)

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

How many actual delegates represented this local of 28,000, three or?

Henry Kaiser:

Three, well actually at that convention there were only two who are present as delegates.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

But those two cast the 28,000 votes, is that it?