CUMMINGS, Circuit Judge.
The Secretary of Labor filed this action for declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to Title IV of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("Act" or "LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 481 et seq. The complaint alleged that a June 22, 1970, election of officers of defendant union
The membership of the Union is composed of the production and maintenance employees of the Stran Steel Corporation of Terre Haute, Indiana. At the time of the election, there were 660 members in good standing eligible to vote. However, pursuant to rules of the Local Union and its parent, the following requirements were established for eligibility for office in the Local:
The third requirement was dictated by the following provision of the International Union's constitution:
From June 1967 to May 1970, the Local Union conducted 36 monthly meetings, with an average attendance of 47 members per meeting. As a result of the meeting attendance rule, 96.5% of the Local Union's membership was ineligible to hold office. Ten of the 23 members who were found eligible were incumbent office holders. Following the May 17, 1970, nomination meeting, two of the nominees were informed that they were ineligible for union office because they had attended an insufficient number of union meetings. Ultimately, there were only 13 candidates on the ballot running for ten offices and six of these candidates ran unopposed.
After the June 22, 1970, election of officers, Bernard Frye,
The district court filed an unreported memorandum opinion in favor of defendants. In its opinion, the court stated:
Therefore, the court concluded that the meeting attendance rule was a reasonable qualification within the meaning of Section 401(e) of the Act (note 2, supra). The court also held that the Union's failure to provide voting booths or other means of insuring secrecy during the voting did not violate Section 401(b) of the Act (idem), emphasizing that "the evidence did not indicate that the lack of a voting booth [subsequently acquired by the local union] or similar apparatus for secret voting may have affected the outcome of the election."
Reasonableness of Attendance Requirement
As noted, a member of the defendant union is not eligible for election to office unless he has attended 18 of the
The construction of Section 401(e) was also before us in Brennan v. Independent Lift Truck Builders Union, 490 F.2d 213, 217 (7th Cir. 1974). Applying the admonition in Wirtz v. Hotel, Motel & Club Employees Union, Local 6, 391 U.S. 492, 499, 88 S.Ct. 1743, 1748, 20 L.Ed.2d 763, that "Congress plainly did not intend that the authorization in § 401(e) of `reasonable qualifications uniformly imposed' should be given a broad reach," we held that it would not be a reasonable qualification to bar a member from eligibility for office where he was discharged by an employer and was actively contesting the discharge.
In Hotel Employees, the Supreme Court struck down a union by-law which required major office-holders to be selected from members who had previously been office-holders. To support this conclusion, the Court relied on the legislative history of Section 401(e) and its wording that "every member in good standing shall be eligible to be a candidate and to hold office * * *." In so ruling, the Court stated:
Later in the Hotel Employees opinion, Justice Brennan observed that because the objective of Title IV of the Act (29 U.S.C. §§ 481-483) is to insure free and democratic elections, it was plain that a candidacy limitation rendering 93% of union members ineligible for office "can hardly be a reasonable qualification." 391 U.S. at 502, 88 S.Ct. at 1749. Here the meeting attendance rule disqualified 96.5%
No particular percentage is accorded talismanic properties under the Act, so that the courts need not hold a union rule or combination of rules that fails to qualify such an arbitrary percentage of members as potential candidates per se unreasonable. Rather, the entire fact situation surrounding the election is to be examined in making the reasonableness determination. See 29 C.F.R. § 452.38 (1974). Of course, if a very high percentage of the membership is disqualified from seeking union office by a rule, as was the situation here, that fact alone may justify a finding that the rule is unreasonable. As stated by Judge Tone in Brennan v. Local 3911, United Steelworkers of America, 372 F.Supp. 961, 967 (N.D.Ill.1973), in view of its decision in Hotel Employees, "It seems apparent that the Supreme Court would not regard the Steelworkers meeting attendance requirement in its present form as a reasonable qualification."
As the district court recognized, the LMRDA "was expressly enacted to curb the abuses of entrenched leadership." The defendants' meeting attendance rule perpetuates that abuse on the facts of this case. Because of the rule, members of the defendant Local who wish to run against incumbent officers might have to plan their campaigns 18 months ahead of the triennial elections in order to acquire 18 attendance credits. The need for such long-range planning would help to keep incumbent leaders in office. Unions undoubtedly have members with the requisite skills to hold office who have been sufficiently content with the directions taken by the union leadership for a time so that they felt no need to participate in routine meetings. Yet the 18 of 36 rule could prevent such members from becoming candidates even where they had been attending all the meetings and actively opposing the policies of the incumbent officers for over a year. Moreover, new members can qualify as members in good standing after two years. However, in order to challenge incumbents, they would have to attend 18 out of 24 meetings in those two years. Again this requirement favors incumbents.
Defendants argue that the Secretary's position contradicts a provision in his manual on the Act.
Defendants also rely upon Section 422.206 of the same obsolete manual which provided that a two-year-50% meeting attendance requirement was not unreasonable. The Secretary has explicitly abandoned this position in a new regulation which provides that the reasonableness of a meeting attendance rule must be determined "in the light of all the circumstances of the particular case, including * * * the number or percentage of members who would be rendered ineligible by its application." 29 C.F.R. § 452.38 (1974).
As in Hotel Employees, defendants attempt to defend their restriction by various arguments in its favor. Thus they assert that they are attempting to insure that candidates have demonstrated an interest and concern in union problems and would be sufficiently familiar with them to fulfill the duties of office. Similar arguments were rejected in Hotel Employees where the Court noted that Congress designed Title IV "to curb the possibility of abuse by benevolent as well as malevolent entrenched leadership" (391 U.S. at 503, 88 S.Ct. at 1750). Defendants also assert that the meeting attendance rule fosters large turnouts at union meetings. However, according to the stipulation below, the average meeting attendance of this Union was 47 members out of 660. Such an attendance record would certainly not justify disqualifying 96.5% of members from holding office.
In the court below, the Secretary showed that only one other national union has specified a three-year period during which a member must attend a specified number of meetings to qualify for candidacy. Surely this statistic belies defendants' claim that the rule in question is necessary to assure competent union leadership. The right of members to nominate and vote for candidates of their choice (29 U.S.C. §§ 411(a)(1) and 401(e)) would be seriously diluted if this rule were to be sanctioned. In our view, it is not a "reasonable qualification" for office under Section 401(e) of the Act.
Maintenance of Secret Ballot
The Secretary also argues that this election should be set aside and a new supervised election ordered under Section 402(c) of the Act (29 U.S.C. § 482(c)) on the additional ground that this Local Union failed to elect its officers by secret ballot in violation of Section 401(b) of the Act (note 2, supra). As defined in Section 3(k) of the Act:
Under these statutory provisions, unions must run elections that conform to the democratic principles embodied in the secret ballot mandate. Wirtz v. Local 153, Glass Bottle Blowers Ass'n, supra note 1, 389 U.S. at 471-472, 88 S.Ct. 643.
This election was conducted in a 60' x 20' room. Several small adjacent rooms were not used, although available. A small table for marking ballots was
Defendants claim that the Secretary's position with respect to ballot secrecy is inconsistent with his regulation on the subject. 29 C.F.R. § 452.97(a) (1774) provides:
On analysis, it is apparent that under this regulation a voting booth "or other physical arrangements permitting privacy for the voter" may be used to assure the secrecy of the ballot, but secrecy must be assured. Since the use of the secret ballot is mandatory and not optional, the arrangements for voting at the June 1970 election satisfy neither the statute nor the regulation.
Defendants' argument that every voter had an opportunity to make his ballot secret by going to an unpopulated area within the large room or to one of the small rooms or by guarding his vote from observation must fail. But see Shultz v. Local 420, Aluminum Workers, 74 LRRM 2281 (N.D.N.Y.1970). The statutory mandate is for a vote that "cannot" be identified with the voter. In many cases, requiring a union member to make a great show of securing his secrecy may be tantamount to indicating his vote. The Act requires a mandatory secret ballot, not one permitting a voter to mark his ballot in secret with the danger of identification implicit in securing that secrecy.
In rejecting the Secretary's claim that the secret ballot requirment of the Act had not been observed, the district judge was especially motivated by the fact that "the evidence did not indicate that the lack of a voting booth or similar apparatus for secret voting may have affected the outcome of the election."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a) provides that a district court's fact findings cannot be reversed on appeal unless found to be clearly erroneous. While this Court reverses the judgment of the court below, it is not necessary to hold any of the district judge's findings clearly erroneous. The basis for the reversal is legal rather than factual. Thus we accept both the district court's endorsement of the parties' stipulation and the facts as found by the district court after the hearing. We are overturning only the legal conclusions that the candidacy restriction was reasonable and that there was a secret ballot within the meaning of the Act.
The order of the district court is reversed with directions to enter judgment for the Secretary.
In pertinent part, Section 401(e) (29 U.S.C. § 481(e)) provides:
In Wirtz v. Local 153, Glass Bottle Blowers Ass'n, 389 U.S. 463, 88 S.Ct. 643, 19 L.Ed.2d 705 the Supreme Court held that where the Secretary of Labor has proved a Section 401 violation that may have affected the outcome of an election, an intervening unsupervised election for the same offices does not deprive the Secretary of the right to a court order voiding the challenged election and directing that a new election be held under his supervision. There appears to be no substantial reason for distinguishing this case on the grounds that the complainant himself has secured the office in the second election that he sought in the challenged election. Thus if the June 12, 1973, election was unsupervised, this case is on all fours with Glass Bottle Blowers and clearly not moot. Our review of the transcript of the hearing below leads us to believe that the Secretary did not supervise the June 12, 1973, election. It is therefore unnecessary to decide whether this case would be moot if a supervised election had been held since the challenged election. See Brennan v. Silvergate District Lodge No. 50, 503 F.2d 800, 803-804 (9th Cir. 1974).
This facet of the decision in Local 3911 was cited with approval in Brennan v. Local Union No. 639, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 161 U.S.App.D.C. 173, 494 F.2d 1092, 1099-1100 (1974), where the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the ruling of the district court that a meeting attendance requirement, which disqualified 97% of the membership from potential candidacy, could not be applied in a coming election. The court noted, but did not follow, the contrary view expressed in Brennan v. Local 5724, United Steelworkers of America, 489 F.2d 884 (6th Cir. 1973). Likewise, to the extent that Local 5724 is inconsistent with our decision here (in Local 5724 only 84.8% were disqualified by the 18 of 36 rule), we respectfully disagree with the Sixth Circuit. Wirtz v. Local 153, Glass Bottle Blowers Ass'n, 405 F.2d 176 (3d Cir. 1968), on remand from the Supreme Court, 389 U.S. 463, 88 S.Ct. 643, 19 L.Ed.2d 705, also appears to be in conflict with the Sixth Circuit, although in Local 153 the facts involved a 75% attendance requirement over two years that disqualified 97% of the union membership, so that it might be distinguished on both the face of the rule and its practical effect from Local 5724.