Online Rights in Union Elections – The International Union of Operating Engineers sued their union for adopting a rule requiring union members who create web sites about local union election contests to “password protect” the sites so that only members of the union can visit the sites. Four union members arguef that the federal Union Members’ Bill of Rights guarantees their right to speak publicly about union affairs, not just to other union members, and that in any event the password protection requirement imposes unjustified limits on speech even to other union members. The suit also contends that a union rule that threatens large fines against members who fail to exhaust intra-union remedies violates the right to sue also guaranteed by the Union Members’ Bill of Rights, Title I of the LMRDA.
The trial judge held a motion for a preliminary injunction for nine months, after the local union elections had passed, ruling on the day his quarterly statistical report was due. He denied the injunction and granted summary judgment for the union without any explanation; the judge issued his opinion six months after that, only after being prompted by the court of appeals. He held that that the union’s rule was within the wide range of reasonableness afforded by the LMRDA, and that it was incumbent on plaintiffs challenging the rule to prove that the stated bases for the rule were wrong, rather than the union having to prove that it had a sound basis for the rule. The Court of Appeals affirmed on the same ground.