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WIRTZ V. HOTEL EMPLOYEES, 391 U. S. 492 (1968)

U.S. Supreme Court

Wirtz v. Hotel Employees, 391 U.S. 492 (1968)

Wirtz v. Hotel, Motel & Club Employees Union, Local 6

No. 891

Argued April 29, 1968

Decided June 3, 1968

391 U.S. 492


Petitioner, Secretary of Labor, charged that respondent union's bylaw which limited eligibility for major elective offices to union members who hold or have previously held elective office was not a reasonable qualification under § 401(e) of Title IV of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, and that enforcement of the bylaw "may have affected the outcome" of the election within the meaning of § 402(c). The union has 27,000 members, 93% of whom were ineligible to run for major office because of the bylaw. The restriction did not apply to vacancies filled by appointment. The District Court held the prior-office requirement unreasonable, but in view of the substantial defeat of opposition candidates who did run, lack of evidence that those disqualified were proven vote-getters, lack of substantial grievance against the incumbents, and the overwhelming advantage of the incumbent group in having a full slate of candidates, did not find that enforcement of the bylaw "may have affected the outcome" of the election. The court refused to set aside the election but granted an injunction against enforcement of the bylaw in future elections. The Court of Appeals reversed that part of the judgment declaring the bylaw not to be reasonable and set aside the injunction.


1. The bylaw, measured against the Act's requirement of "free and democratic" union elections, is not a "reasonable qualification" within the meaning of § 401(e) of the Act. Pp. 391 U. S. 496-505.

(a) A limitation on candidacy for major office which renders 93% of the union members ineligible can hardly be a "reasonable qualification." P. 391 U. S. 502.

(b) The restriction cannot be supported by the argument that the union enjoyed enlightened and aggressive leadership, since Congress designed Title IV of the Act to curb the possibility of abuse by benevolent as well as malevolent entrenched leaderships. P. 391 U. S. 503.

Page 391 U. S. 493

(c) The bylaw, virtually unique in union practice, is based on the undemocratic assumption that union members are unable to select qualified candidates for particular offices without a demonstration of performance in other offices. Pp. 391 U. S. 504-505.

2. A proved violation of § 401 establishes a prima facie case that the outcome may have been affected and may be met by evidence supporting a finding to the contrary. The factors the District Court relied on were pure conjecture, and none of those factors is tangible evidence against the reasonable possibility that the wholesale exclusion of members did affect the outcome. Pp. 391 U. S. 505-509.

381 F.2d 500, reversed and remanded.

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