Hodgson v. Local Union 6799, United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO

RESPONDENT: Local Union 6799, United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO
LOCATION: Arizona Dept of Public Welfare

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 403 US 333 (1971)
ARGUED: Mar 23, 1971
DECIDED: Jun 14, 1971

Facts of the case


Media for Hodgson v. Local Union 6799, United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 23, 1971 in Hodgson v. Local Union 6799, United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO

Warren E. Burger:

In number 655 Hodgson against Local Union number 6799 of the United Steelworkers.

Mr. Wallace you may proceed whenever you’re ready.

Lawrence G. Wallace:

Thank you Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case was brought by the Secretary of Labor under Title IV sometimes called the Union Democracy Provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959.

It was brought to set aside the 1967 election of officers of the respondent Local Union.

After the election a member of the Local who had been an unsuccessful candidate for President protested the elections conduct to the Union and after relief was denied filed a complaint with the Secretary.

His internal protest with the Union had complained among other things of the use of Union facilities to prepare campaign literature for the incumbent president who was his opponent in the election.

His complaint with the Secretary repeated this charge and added for the first time a charge that an unreasonably restrictive meeting-attendance requirement had been imposed as a condition for candidacy.

After investigating the election, the Secretary concluded that there was probable cause to believe that the Act had been violated with respect to each of these matters and he advised the respondent Unions of these findings and invited them to discuss the findings and to take internal remedial action.

When after discussions the respondent Unions refused to undertake remedial measures and either of these matters, the suit was filed.

Both the District Court and the Court of Appeals upheld the Secretary’s complaint with respect to the use of Union facilities to promote the candidacy of the incumbent president.

The election for that office was accordingly ordered set aside on that ground and that aspect of the judgment below is not at issue in this Court.

What is at issue are the rulings of the courts with respect to the validity of the meeting-attendance requirement.

The District Court held that the Secretary did have authority or standing to raise that issue in this litigation even though it had not been a subject of the member’s complaint with the Union but the District Court upheld the meeting-attendance requirement on the merits as authorized by the Act.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment but on the ground that the Secretary did not have standing to raise this issue and the suit, did not reach the merits.

In our petition for certiorari we asked this Court to decide the standing issue and if it decided the standing issue in our favor also to go on and reach the issue on the merits since it is an issue of national importance involved in litigation against several locals of the Steelworkers Union around the country and the respondents have joined in urging that both issues be reach if the standing issue is indeed resolved in our favor.

Now if the Court please, I plan first to discuss the standing issue and that in the course of discussing the second issue to summarize the facts that relate to the issue of the validity of the meeting-attendance requirement.

The provisions of the statute relevant to the standing issue can be found in the appendix to our brief on pages 28 and 29 of the brief in Section 402 of the Act and I wish first to direct the Court’s attention to Section 402 (b) on page 28.

And there the governing statutory language is that after a member of the organization has filed the complaint, the Secretary shall investigate such complaint and if he finds probable cause to believe that a violation of this Title has occurred and his not been remedied he shall within a certain time bring the suit.

Now, as we point it out in our brief the statutory language is consistent with our position that the Secretary has authority indeed it supports our position of the Secretary has authority to raise in the lawsuit any violation which his investigation discloses to have occurred in the election concerning which the complaint has been filed.

And we noted also that in the course of the legislative history, Congress had before it a drafted an alternative bill which would have limited the lawsuit to the particular allegation made in the complaint and while there’s no explicit reason given in the course of the legislative history for the choice of this language rather than the alternative language we think there is significance in the fact that this broader formulation was chosen by Congress.

Mr. Wallace, straight from that on one thing, do I understand correctly that if there is no complaint filed, the Secretary has no investigatory powers under Section 402 (b)?

Lawrence G. Wallace:

Well, he does have investigatory powers but he would not have powers to bring any lawsuit.

He will have powers only to advice the Union if he believes that the Unions procedures were not in accordance with the Act but those powers are conferred under another Section of the Act which is not reproduced in our appendix, Section 601.

Then you’re in a position where the presence of a complaint is your starting point who have to have this?

Lawrence G. Wallace:

Under Section 402 in order for the Secretary to have authority to bring this lawsuit that is correct.

And having the complaint and your argument is that you can go off in the points not raise in the complaint?

Lawrence G. Wallace:

Well --

But then having the complaint you can’t do this at all?

Lawrence G. Wallace:

Well, the Secretary can investigate and inform the Union but cannot bring a lawsuit in the absence of a complaint, that is our argument and I’ll elaborate on the reasons for it in just a moment.