Mr. Riccardo Vani
Local Union 1089
1255 Confederation Street
Sarnia, Ontario N7S 4M7
Re: Disciplinary Charges Against William Nixon
Dear Sir and Brother;
I am in receipt of charges filed by Robert leone against William Nixon on November 24,1998. I am infomed that a Trial board has been scheduled to consider those charges on Saturday, February 20,1999. For the reasons below, this is to direct that the hearing be suspended pending the receipt of additional information.
In the first of the two charges, Robert Leone accuses William Nixon of causing Laura Portiss to make complaints against a Local 1089 signatory employer, Kel Gor Ltd., and himself. In the second charge, William Nixon is accused of picketing Local 1089's hall in April 1998 and causing criminal charges to be brought against Robert Leone and other officers of the Local Union. The charges on their face do not specify the nature of the complaints that Laura Portiss is alleged to have made about Kel Gor Ltd. or the Charging Party; they do not indicate the substance of the message in the April 1998 picketing or the nature of the criminal charges.
Pursuant to Article IX, Section 10 of the International Union Constitution, I am charged with the responsibility of deciding whether allegations, if true, would warrant disciplinary action by a Local Union Trial Boar. Where appropriate, charges may be administratively dismissed prior to trial. Th charges against William Nixon, as presently drafted, do not provide sufficient detail for the exercise of this review function.
Certainly, the charges reach conduct that has been found on a number of occasions to be protected under the Constitution. That is, even assuming that William Nixon caused Laura Portiss to make complaints against Kel Gor and Robert Leone, the right to complain is at the core of a member's rights to free speech. Moreover, we have long held that a member can express his / her thoughts through picketing, even a Local Union's offices. Finally, there will be few circumstances, if any, justifying discipline against someone for pressing criminal charges.
To the extent that speech-based conduct is subject to discipline, it is because something more than pure speech is involved. For example, a member cannot assert a right of free speech if during the course of picketing, the member assaults someone. Without further information it is unclear whether the charges brought against William Nixon involve any issue other than pure speech.
Accordingly, the Local Union is to suspend the Trial Board hearing into these charges until such time as the Charging Party has had an opportunity to specify in greater detail the aspects of Bro. nixon's conduct which the Charging Party believes to be objectionable and I have reviewed that explanation. I believe that this process will protect any speech rights that William Nixon may have while providing Robert Leone an adequate opportunity to specify any conduct that, while associated with speech, goes beyond its protective shield and becomes subject to discipline.
With warm regards to Local 1089, its officers
and members, I am
ARTHUR A. COIA