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Lawskills.com Georgia Caselaw
MASSEY v. CURRY et al.
20831.
Injunction. Glynn Superior Court, Before Judge Thomas. December 17, 1959.
HEAD, Presiding Justice.
C. K. Curry and C. T. McCullough filed a petition for equitable relief against Willie Harris, as president, A. J. Miller, as vice-president, W. T. Diestel, E. H. Tabbott, and Perry James, as the board of trustees of Boilermakers Local No. 554 (a local union of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers, affiliated with the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations), and C. S. Massey, a nonresident, as a vice-president of the international union. In so far as material here, it was alleged: At a meeting of the local union on May 26, 1956, the plaintiff C. K. Curry was elected business manager of the local union for a term expiring on May 31, 1960, at a salary of $200 per week. At the same meeting C. T. McCullough was elected secretary and treasurer of the local union at a salary of $25 per month. The plaintiffs are advised that the executive council of the international union has directed C. S. Massey, who is a vice-president, to transfer the members, records, and assets of the local union to the local union domiciled in Savannah. The plaintiffs have diligently and conscientiously performed all of the duties of their offices, and no right exists in law or in equity for their removal from their offices without provision to pay them the compensation due them for the balance of the terms for which they were elected and employed. The local union owns real estate of a stated value, government bonds in a stated amount, personal property of a stated value, has funds on deposit in a local bank in a stated amount, and has ample assets to pay the salaries of the plaintiffs. It is the intent and purpose of the defendant Massey to require the other defendants to convey the real property and other assets of the local union to Local Union No. 26 in Savannah.
The plaintiffs prayed that the defendants be enjoined from surrendering possession of the assets of Local Union No. 554, or from changing the status during the plaintiffs' terms of office (except for the payment of their salaries), and for other relief.
554, and asserted that the executive council and the international president had ordered a consolidation and merger with Local Union No. 26 in Savannah. It was admitted that the offices of the plaintiffs would no longer exist. It was further alleged: Article 5, section 2 of the constitution of the International Brotherhood provides in part: "The International President shall have the direction and supervision of all District and Subordinate Lodges with the authority to consolidate offices and District and Subordinate Lodges." Article 5, section 1 of the same constitution provides in part: "He shall be empowered to deputize any member of the International Brotherhood, in good standing, to perform any of the duties of his office which time and distance may prevent him from performing personally." The plaintiffs were charged with notice of these provisions of the international constitution when taking the offices to which they were elected by the local lodge. It was the express plan of the International Brotherhood to consolidate Lodges Nos. 554 and 26, and to establish a branch office of the merged lodge in Atlanta, and C. K. Curry was tendered the position of business manager of the Atlanta branch at a salary of $200 per week. Local Lodge No. 554, by the consolidation, would no longer exist as a separate lodge, and its assets would be merged with the assets of Local No. 26. The plaintiffs are no longer officers and members of Lodge No. 554, and should be enjoined and restrained from paying out any moneys whatever from the funds under their control.
In the plaintiffs' amendment to the new matter set up in the defendant's answer, it was alleged: The office of business manager of the Atlanta branch is not an elective office; had the plaintiff Curry accepted this office, he would have been subject to dismissal at any time, and by the acceptance he would have become a party to an illegal and immoral scheme to take from Local Union No. 554 its officers and property. On November 28, 1958, the court enjoined the transfer of records, property, and offices, and there has been no consolidation of any kind of the local lodges.
The defendant Massey amended his answer, pleading sections of the international constitution, as follows: "When the International Brotherhood is not in convention session, its executive and judicial powers only shall be vested in an International Executive Council, hereinafter called the 'Executive Council'." Article 1, Section 4. "The Executive Council shall be composed of the International President and sixteen (16) International Vice-Presidents and it shall have executive and judicial authority as provided in Article 1, Section 4 hereof." Article 3, Section 2. "The Executive Council shall have supervision over the International Brotherhood when not in convention session. Its meetings shall be held annually, unless conditions warrant special meetings. It shall have the power to pass on any subject, proposition, or grievance, . . ." Article 3, Section 4. Attached as exhibits, were certain documents pertaining to the consolidation of local lodges in various sections of the country.
The plaintiffs further amended by adding a second count, seeking a declaratory judgment pursuant to Ga. L. 1945, p. 137, as amended by an act approved March 17, 1959 (Ga. L. 1959, p. 236).
On the trial of the cause there was introduced in evidence the certificate of election of C. K. Curry, as business manager of Local Lodge No. 554, reciting that it was to remain in effect from June 1, 1956, to June 1, 1960, unless revoked for cause, and signed by W. A. Calvin, International President. The defendants introduced records showing the consolidation of lodges in various sections of the country.
In his bill of exceptions Massey assigns as error the judgment overruling his demurrers to the petition as amended, and the judgment denying his motion for new trial as amended. The parties will be referred to in the opinion as they appeared in the trial court.
The charter of a local labor union is subject to all of the conditions contained in the constitution and bylaws of the parent organization, which constitute a contract between the parent union and the local union and its members. Holmes v. Brown, 146 Ga. 402 (91 S. E. 408). See also State v. Georgia Medical Society, 38 Ga. 608 (95 Am. Dec. 408); Bowden v. Kennedy, 186 Ga. 174, 179 (197 S. E. 325); Howard v. Betts, 190 Ga. 530 (9 S. E. 2d 742). The rule in Georgia is the general rule in the jurisdictions of this country. 87 C. J. S. 836, 42; 31 Am. Jur. 421, 42.
In the present case the constitution of the international union vests in the president of the international union unlimited and unrestricted power to consolidate "offices and District and Subordinate Lodges." The plaintiffs' contracts are with the local union. There are no allegations of fraud, accident, or mistake on the part of the international president, the executive council of the international union, or the person designated by the president to effect a consolidation of Local Union No. 554 in Brunswick with Local Union No. 26 in Savannah, and no right is shown in the plaintiffs to oppose the consolidation of the local unions 554 and 26, which consolidation would terminate their offices in Local Union No. 554.
While courts of equity may, in a proper case, reform a contract so as to make it speak the actual agreement between the parties, such courts will not make a new or different contract. Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Cox, 133 Ga. 763 (66 S. E. 1088); Fields v. Continental Ins. Co. of New York, 170 Ga. 28 (152 S. E. 60); Orient Ins. Co. v. Dunlap, 193 Ga. 241 (17 S. E. 2d 703, 138 A. L. R. 916).
Neither the act of the General Assembly of Georgia approved February 13, 1959 (Ga. L. 1959, p. 44), providing that unincorporated associations may sue and be sued, nor the act of the General Assembly approved March 17, 1959 (Ga. L. 1959, p. 236), amending the practice and procedure in proceedings for declaratory judgments, vests in the plaintiffs any right to oppose consolidation of the local unions. Their rights must be determined under the constitution of the parent organization, which became a contract between the local union and the international union at the time the local union accepted its charter.
The plaintiffs were not entitled to enjoin the merger or consolidation of the local unions, and this ruling being controlling on the rights of the parties, no ruling is required on the other assignments of error.
Judgment reversed. All the Justices concur.
Gowen, Conyers, Fendig & Dickey, V. E. Mitchell, contra.
G. B. Cowart, Poole, Pearce & Hall, Wm. B. Paul, Jr., Gibson Langdale, for plaintiff in error.
ARGUED MARCH 15, 1960 -- DECIDED MAY 5, 1960.
Saturday May 23 00:14 EDT


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