FOP loses bid for restraining order in fight over leader

D.C. officials denying union-meddling claim

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A small team of lawyers for the D.C. labor-relations office appeared in D.C. Superior Court this week to fend off allegations that the District government is conspiring to interfere in an intra-union dispute over the leadership of a 200-member bargaining unit for youth-corrections officers.

District officials continue to insist they do not seek to meddle in the affairs of the Fraternal Order of Police/Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services Labor Committee.

The union, which last negotiated a contract in 2007, maintains that management has installed a non-union member to disrupt collective bargaining activities.

The case is being closely watched by labor leaders who are negotiating or wish to negotiate contracts with Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who has publicly endorsed raises for public employees such as police and firemen.

Senior Judge Zinora Mitchell-Rankin on Tuesday denied the FOP’s request for a restraining order against Director Natasha Campbell of the Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining, who in February decided not to recognize the union’s elected president, Takisha Brown, and designated executive board president Cedric Crawley as the union’s leader pending a new election. That decision came one week after Ms. Brown filed a number of grievances and unfair labor practices complaints on behalf of her members related to staffing ratios, work conditions and other concerns.

However, the judge also said the Public Employees Review Board, which summarily upheld Ms. Campbell’s decision on Feb. 20, should issue a more definitive ruling within the next seven-to-10 days.

Meanwhile, the FOP has filed a complaint against Ms. Campbell with the Board of Elections and Ethics, and in a separate lawsuit is asking the court to stay PERB’s ruling. A hearing on the latter is set for March 31.

Mr. Crawley, a program analyst with DYRS, has been in a leadership dispute with Ms. Brown since just after her election last January, when she fired the union’s lawyer, for whom Mr. Crawley’s wife worked. Mr. Crawley alleges that the executive board voted to reject Ms. Brown’s election; Ms. Brown alleges that as the union’s only Grade 12 member, one with supervisory duties, Mr. Crawley should have been disqualified from the union when he was promoted to his current position.

Documents obtained by The Washington Times show that under a previous administration, Mr. Crawley was identified as a non-union employee who was removed from the American Federation of Government Employees Local 383.

Now, the FOP/DYRS dispute has blown back on the Gray administration, which insists it wants nothing to do with it.

“Why not just have a new election?” said a Gray administration official who declined to be named because the matter is before the courts. “Why not settle the dispute so we can move forward on contract negotiations?”

The next scheduled union election is not until late November, and a newly elected president would not be sworn in until next January. Prolonging the intra-union dispute is in the administration’s best interests, the union’s general counsel says, and is a reflection of an even greater rift between labor and management under the Gray administration.

“I think DYRS is into this more than people want to acknowledge,” said Steven Anthony, general counsel for the FOP/DYRS. He claimed DYRS Director Neil Stanley, who has had a rocky relationship with his staff, has insisted on authorizing Mr. Crawley’s position as union-eligible in an attempt to disrupt if not break the union. Ms. Campbell, he added, has violated the law in upholding Mr. Crawley’s union placement with the blessing of the Gray administration.

“What is the continuing interest in Mr. Crawley being in the union?” said Mr. Anthony. “What concerns me is that the mayor doesn’t recognize a violation of D.C. law, and does not seem interested in correcting the situation.”

Not so, says the Gray administration. “We don’t want to be involved,” the administration official said. “That’s why they have elections. That’s why we kicked the matter to PERB. We followed the letter of the law. We want an affirmative decision so we can say ‘this is the leadership, this is who we negotiate with.’”

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