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Ludlum v. United Food & Commercial Workers International Union

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division

April 19, 2019

KEITH ALAN LUDLUM, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED FOOD & COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, ANTHONY M. PERRONE, and ALVIN VINCENT, JR., Defendants.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's second amended complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (DE 29). The issues raised have been fully briefed by the parties, and in this posture are ripe for ruling. For the following reasons, defendants' motion is granted.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         Pro se plaintiff commenced this action on April 23, 2018, in Bladen County Superior Court, raising various causes of action against defendants in an effort to recover wages and lost benefits arising from his termination as president of a local union. Defendants removed this action on May 25, 2018.

         Shortly thereafter, defendants filed their first motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint. The court granted the motion without prejudice. With the court's leave, plaintiff filed two amended complaints. Plaintiff's second amended complaint includes additional allegations regarding the circumstances of his termination, including the affidavit of Dilcia Rodriguez (“Rodriguez”), and the report of the trusteeship hearing officer recommending ratification and continuation of an international trusteeship over plaintiff's local union. Defendants now request the court to dismiss all of plaintiff's claims.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         The facts alleged in the complaint[1] may be summarized as follows. In January 2009, defendant United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (“UFCW”) chartered a local chapter of its union (“Local 1208”). (Compl. ¶ 9). Defendant UFCW appointed Carl Green (“Green”), Donald Minor (“Minor”), and ten executive board members employed at the Smithfield Tar Heel facility to lead Local 1208. (Id.). Eventually, the executive board members demanded Green and Minor resign over the objection of defendants Alvin Vincent, Jr. (“Vincent”), director of UFCW Region 2, and UFCW. (Id.). The board nominated plaintiff as president of Local 1208 in July 2011, despite defendant Vincent's suggestion that plaintiff should be prevented from serving. (Id.).

         The relationship between plaintiff and these defendants proved rocky from the start, with defendant Vincent refusing to assist in training plaintiff on how to administer Local 1208. (Id.). Defendant Vincent maintained a hands off approach to Local 1208 for two and one-half years, declining to conduct an audit requested by plaintiff or attend functions at plaintiff's invitation. (Id.).

         During the first week of March 2015, defendant Vincent and his assistant, Beth Pointer (“Pointer”), reached out to Rodriguez, plaintiff's girlfriend. (Rodriguez Aff. (DE 25-1)). Defendant Vincent and Pointer told Rodriguez that she needed to get plaintiff locked up for domestic violence, and that they would be able to pressure him to resign. (Id.). On March 6, 2015, Rodriguez called the police, and falsely reported that plaintiff hit and choked her. (Id.). The police placed plaintiff under arrest. (Id.).

         Defendant Vincent and staff conducted an audit of Local 1208 on March 11, 2018. (Compl. ¶ 7). At the end of March, defendant Anthony Perrone (“Perrone”), defendant UFCW's president, appointed defendant Vincent to serve as trustee of Local 1208, stating that defendant UFCW's audit and review demonstrated plaintiff had engaged in financial malpractice requiring emergency action. (Report (DE 25-2) at 3). Defendant Vincent took control of Local 1208, and demanded plaintiff return all its property. (Compl. ¶ 10).

         On April 23, 2015, defendant UFCW conducted an evidentiary hearing to determine if the trusteeship was justified and should be continued. (Id. ¶ 11; Report (DE 25-2) at 4). Defendant Vincent called a total of eight witnesses, including himself, three members of Local 1208's executive board, and four UFCW employees. (Report (DE 25-2) at 4). The hearing officer found that, based on the audit conducted March 11, 2015, and testimony presented at the April 23, 2015, hearing, plaintiff used union funds to take vacations, make gifts, purchase items (including all-terrain vehicles, clothing, hunting supplies, and furniture), rent vehicles, and withdraw cash from Local 1208 accounts for unspecified reasons. (Report (DE 25-2) at 4-9). Plaintiff did not attend the April 23, 2015 hearing or provide any evidence. No. testimony was present at hearing in opposition to imposition or continuation of a trusteeship. (Report (DE 25-2) at 10). The hearing officer recommended upholding and continuing imposition of the trusteeship. (Report (DE 25-2) at 11). A majority of the members of defendant UFCW's international executive committee voted in favor of ratifying and continuing the trusteeship. (Report (DE 25-2) at 1).

         COURT'S DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review “To survive a motion to dismiss” under Rule 12(b)(6), ‘a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In evaluating whether a claim is stated, “[the] court accepts all well-pled facts as true and construes these facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, ” but does not consider “legal conclusions, elements of a cause of action, . . . bare assertions devoid of further ...


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