United States District Court, D. Maine
JOHN J. RILEY, Plaintiff
PORTLAND MAINE AREA LOCAL NO. 458 AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION AFL-CIO and TIMOTHY DOUGHTY, Defendants
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Brock Hornby United States District Judge
September 6 and 7, 2016, I conducted a bench trial. These are
my findings of fact and conclusions of law. See
American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Constitution and Bylaws
provide that Union members who retire “may maintain
full membership with all rights of such membership by
continuing to pay full per capita taxes to the APWU plus
whatever local dues may be required by their local
union.” Pl. Ex. 42, art. 3, § 4(b).
APWU members on the United States Postal Service payroll, all
Union dues are subject to automatic payroll deduction and
transmitted directly to the Union. No such procedure is
available for retirees who are no longer on the Postal
APWU's national Secretary-Treasurer is directed to
“supervise the recording of the membership of each
local union.” Id. art. 7, § 1(c).
APWU Constitution provides that “[r]etirees whose full
dues/per capita payments have lapsed due to extenuating
circumstances may appeal for reinstatement to the national
Secretary-Treasurer [with supporting documents].” The
Retirees Department Director then makes a recommendation to
the national Secretary-Treasurer, who presents it to the
National Executive Board for a final determination.
Id. art. 3, § 4(d).
local elections, each local union establishes its own
election committee, and “[t]he election committee shall
be responsible for the conduct of local elections and shall
decide all controversies arising out of the election
processes.” Id. art. 12, § 8.
APWU's Portland Maine Area Local No. 458 (Local 458) has
its own Constitution. It provides-almost identically to the
national APWU Constitution-that “[r]etired members may
retain full membership with all rights of such membership by
continuing to pay full per-capita tax to the APWU plus
whatever Local dues may be required by this Local.” Pl.
Ex. 41, art. III, § 1(C). It also provides that
“[r]etired members may retain partial membership by
paying three (3) dollars per year per-capita tax to the
National Union. Such retirees shall have neither voice nor
vote.” Id. It has no provisions concerning
failure to pay dues.
the amount of dues, Local 458's Constitution provides:
The dues for each Active member shall be Eleven dollars and
Ninety-Seven cents ($11.97) per pay period effective November
27, 1993, plus any future increases by the National Union.
The dues of each Honorary member shall be Seven dollars
($7.00) per pay period effective April 13, 1996, plus any
future increases by the National Union. The dues of each
Retired member shall be Three dollars ($3.00) per year
payable in advance.
Id. art. VII, § 1.
Local 458's Constitution provides that enumerated
officers “shall be reimbursed the payment of
dues.” Id. art. V, § 1 (General
President); § 2 (General Vice-President); § 3
(General Recording Secretary); § 4 (General Treasurer);
§ 5 (Clerk Craft Director); § 6 (Assistant Clerk
Craft Director); § 8 (Motor Vehicle Craft Director);
§ 10 (Human Relations Representative); § 11
(Legislative Aide); § 12 (APWU Health Plan
Representative, using variant language “will have
his/her dues refunded.”).
plaintiff John J. Riley retired from the Postal Service on
January 31, 2013. Until then he had been a member in good
standing of both Local 458 and the national APWU for many
years and had served in several leadership roles for Local
458, including that of President.
Earlier that month Riley emailed both the Secretary and the
Treasurer of Local 458 stating that he intended to remain an
active member. In March he submitted paperwork to the APWU
national office electing full retiree membership. He also
emailed Local 458's President, the defendant Timothy
Doughty, that he intended to keep full retiree membership.
After his retirement Riley ultimately arranged to pay his
national dues directly to the APWU national offices. He
received and paid quarterly invoices from the APWU for
payment of national dues.
There was confusion or dispute within Local 458 over what
local dues retirees must pay to remain active members.
Interpreting the language “whatever local dues may be
required by their local union, ” the defendant Doughty
believed that retirees must pay the same local dues as Local
458 required of active members. On the other hand, Local
458's Treasurer Gilchrest believed and informed Riley in
2013 that Riley owed no local dues because Local 458 had
never required retirees to pay local dues. Pl. Ex. 5.
Gilchrest based his 2013 determination upon research into the
available Local 458 records. But before Riley's
retirement, there had been only one other retiree who
maintained full membership, Wayne Poland. He had not paid
dues after retirement, but there were varying explanations.
At one point while Riley was President, the membership of
Local 458 voted that Poland should not have to pay dues
because of his many past contributions to the Union. As a
result, at that point Local 458 paid Poland's national
dues. In 2004, Local 458 revoked that waiver by vote of the
membership. Def. Ex. 1. For a time, another member paid
Poland's national dues. Poland never paid any local dues
as such. For many periods he held an officership position
where such dues would have been reimbursable/refundable in
any event. Doughty believed that it would have been pointless
to require Poland to pay local dues only to have Local 458
turn around and write a check to Poland in the same amount.
Pl. Ex. 33. Riley (a past President), on the other hand, said
that Local 458 treated Poland as never having to pay local
dues as a retiree at all. He also testified that if there is
a right to reimbursement or refund, a retired member must
first pay the dues and then be reimbursed, because the
reimbursement is for services rendered and therefore is
taxable income to the member unlike a dues waiver. Doughty
agreed on the tax issue. A Local 458 Executive Board member,
Donald Parks, testified that at one time he believed that
under both Constitutions, the Local membership could vote to
have retirees pay whatever Local 458 decided-for example,
half the active dues or no dues at all. But he had learned
that his interpretation was wrong after talking to
“most of our national executive board members,
including president Dimondstein, ” and now believes
that local dues for retirees must be the same as for active
members on account of the national Constitution. Poland at
one time maintained that Local 458's Constitution
required him to pay only $3 per year to remain a full retiree
member. At various times Doughty and Gilchrest expressed the
view that Local 458's Constitution did not adequately
address the issue. Pl. Exs. 3, 5. Change in the Constitution
would require the membership to consider the issue. Pl. Exs.
5, 41 art. XI. All the relevant actors agreed that in any
event the retirees Poland and Riley should be treated
equally. Pl. Exs. 3, 4; Def. Ex. 45. Doughty also told Riley
in 2013 that there was no rush to resolve the issue. Pl. Ex.
Riley told Doughty on March 13, 2013 that he would provide a
$175 check for unspecified dues. Riley did not in fact
provide that check. Later, however, in January 2014, aware of
potential controversy over retiree payment of local dues, he
did provide Local 458's Treasurer Gilchrest a local dues
check for $350 so that no one could challenge his eligibility
in the upcoming 2014 union election in which Riley planned to
be a candidate for certain Local 458 positions. Pl. Exs. 5,
6. Gilchrest never cashed that check. He believed that
retired members had never paid Local 458 dues. Pl. Ex. 5.
December 2013, Riley began filing election challenges
regarding the upcoming Local 458 election. At least some of
these, including the one that would later become the subject
of a Department of Labor lawsuit, were against the campaign
of the defendant Doughty for President. Riley was running for
Vice-President, but he was running on a joint ticket where
his running mate opposed Doughty.
February 2014, Riley filed still more election challenges.
Sometime in mid-February 2014, the APWU sent Riley a
“National Per Capita Dues Invoice.” Pl. Ex. 9. It
described dues obligations for all four quarters of 2014. For
the first quarter, on the line with the date
“03/31/2014, ” it listed a “Total Due
Now” of $24.18, and stated at the bottom of the Invoice
“You MUST pay the ‘Total Due Now' amount to
remain a member in good standing.”
Id. Riley interpreted the notice to mean that
he must pay the $24.18 by March 31-still several weeks
away-to remain in good standing.
5:28 a.m. on March 1, 2014, someone from Local 458 checked
online the APWU's record of active cash paying members,
which showed that Riley was paid only through February 28,
2014. Pl. Ex. 8. Doughty testified that he saw the record
that same day, but the evidence does not establish who made
the early morning inquiry.
March 12, the day before the election ballots were to be
counted, Doughty-as a result of what he had learned from the
national office-notified Local 458's election committee
that Riley was not a member in good standing because he had
failed to pay dues. The election committee chair, Sally
Welch, phoned Riley to inform him that he was allegedly
delinquent on his national dues. Riley immediately called the
national Secretary-Treasurer, Elizabeth Powell. She allowed
Riley to use a credit card that very day to come current on
his national dues and pay future national dues through June
30, 2014. Thereafter on that same day, March 12, the national
Secretary-Treasurer emailed President Doughty, who in turn
forwarded her email to Local 458's election committee
chair, stating that Riley was fully paid on his national dues
through June 2014. Pl. Ex. 10. Local 458's election
committee then determined that Riley was a member in good
standing for purposes of the election. There was no reference
to Local 458 dues during these March 12 events and
When the ballots were counted on March 13, Doughty was
elected President and Riley lost his Vice-Presidential
Riley presided at the April 5-6, 2014 state convention as
State President, with his term expiring at the end of the
meeting. At that convention, Poland was elected State
Treasurer for the year ahead. The offices of State President
and State Treasurer do not qualify for dues reimbursement
under Local 458's Constitution, see ¶ 8 above.
national APWU rejected Riley's election challenges, but
the Department of Labor decided to pursue one of them. On
April 30, Doughty asked Local 458's Secretary to
communicate with the Department of Labor's assigned
investigator about that election challenge. Pl. Ex. 21.
Thereafter, things began to heat up.
May 7, 2014, Doughty wrote to APWU national
Secretary-Treasurer Powell, challenging Riley's
good-standing status and insisting that Riley's national
membership had lapsed as of March 1, 2014. Def. Ex. 11.
Doughty believed that if Riley was not a member in good
standing, he could not pursue his election challenges. Def.
Ex. 14. The national Secretary-Treasurer did not respond to
May 9, Doughty reported to the members (“Membership
Update”) that Riley and his running-mate “have
filed a total of 6 challenges to the last local election.
Their challenges have all been rejected by the Election
Committee. I have not been provided any details or a copy of
their challenges, but I expect that both have appealed to the
National APWU and will continue to appeal to the Department
Of Labor as well. . . . The local elections have cost the
local approximately $5, 000.00 so far.” Pl. Ex. 22.
There was testimony about a May 9 Union meeting,
no minutes were provided and Doughty testified that he could
recall no vote being taken. Doughty testified that at the
meeting there was great controversy over Wayne Poland having
an officership position (State Treasurer) while not paying
Local 458 dues, because his entitlement to local dues
reimbursement as an officer expired April 1. But in his May 9
Report to Membership, Doughty was more restrained, stating:
“Members have raised concerns of local union dues not
being paid by retirees while retaining a voice and vote. We
are planning to address how the constitutional language
applies and to address any conflicts. There is a bit of
disagreement regarding how this was handled in the past, or
at least how the rules were thought to have been historically
May 11, 2014, Doughty engaged in an email interchange with
the APWU's Northeast Regional Coordinator that showed
that Doughty was much more exercised. He stated:
I have two cash pay retiree's; Wayne Poland & John
Riley. Neither have paid their local share of dues for a long
time, and I never really addressed it. A member
raised the issue at the General Membership Meeting last
Thursday and basically the policy has been applied loosely,
(especially with Mr. Riley). Wayne was a local Health Plan
Rep (and would have gotten his dues returned) and he was also
the State Sec/Treasurer. Riley was the State President. Now
Wayne is still the State Sec/Treas and Riley is still a
pain in my ass. . . . Riley and Taddeo are still
challenging the last Local Elections with the Department of
Labor and there are five more challenges pending. The
election has cost the Local about $5k so far and it came up
at the ...