The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington has dismissed a controversial lawsuit brought by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters international and certain subordinate bodies and individual members (Plaintiffs) against the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department and named labor officials (Defendants).
The 246-page complaint alleged that the Defendants engaged in an “unlawful extortionate conspiracy” in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and Washington state law. The Plaintiffs asserted that the Defendants – in response to Carpenters’ incursion into other trades’ jurisdiction – have embarked on a campaign of economic pressure, acts of vandalism, and threats of violence to force the Carpenters to re-affiliate with the Building Trades.
The complaint also alleged that certain Defendants violated the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) by terminating the Carpenters’ Solidarity Agreement with the AFL-CIO’s Metal Trades Department without due process.
To establish a RICO violation, a plaintiff must prove five elements: “(1) conduct (2) of an enterprise (3) through a pattern (4) of racketeering activity (known as predicate acts) (5) causing injury to plaintiff’s business or property.” The court examined each of Plaintiffs’ various claims of racketeering activity and found that Plaintiffs failed to adequately plead injury and predicate acts to advance their case. Because the state law claims were merely state law equivalents to the federal RICO claims, those claims failed for the same reasons.
The court also dismissed the LMRDA claim. The LMRDA prohibits a labor organization from suspending or expelling a member for reasons other than nonpayment of dues unless the member has been “(1) served with written specific charges; (2) given a reasonable time to prepare his defense, and (3) afforded a full and fair hearing. “ The court found that the Carpenters lacked associational standing to bring the claim on behalf of its members. The Plaintiffs who are individual Carpenters members did have standing to bring the claim, according to the court. However, they failed to properly plead a demand for the relief sought – which was restoring Plaintiffs’ rights and privileges as members of the MTD and its councils.
United Bhd. of Carpenters v. Bldg. & Constr. Trades Dep’t, Case No. 12-CV-0109 (E.D. Wash., 12/4/12).