Illinois Court Allows Boss’ Self-Serving Interpretation of Bylaws to Stand

The Second District of the Appellate Court of Illinois ruled May 3 that a temporary special dues assessment levied by United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union Local 881 to pay picketers at nonunion grocery stores was in compliance with local union’s bylaws. The court rejected a challenge by union members Mitchell Diamond and Amy Weltlich, who maintained that the bylaws required a majority of the 35,000 local members to approve the assessment. Instead, the court held that Local 881 president Ronald E. Powell’s self-serving “interpretation” of the rules as requiring only a majority of those members who actually voted, was reasonable, and consequently, decisive.

The local, based in Westchester, Ill., began the “LEAD campaign” in 1991 to picket nonunion grocery stores in Ill. and N. Ind. The local’s executive board approved a $155.88 assessment over 18 months on its members to finance the campaign, and submitted the matter to …