- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A former president of Metro’s largest labor union said he doesn’t believe misconduct in its most recent election was an “honest mistake,” as current union leaders have claimed.

Charles Hicks, who presided over Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 from 2001 to 2004, helped file the lawsuit that prompted a federal judge this month to order the union to hold a new election of officers.

The lawsuit said the union failed to notify all members of the election, denied eligible members the right to run for office, failed to apply candidacy qualifications uniformly, permitted ineligible members to vote and failed to count ballots of eligible members.

“Not notifying people in enough time when an election was going to be held, that’s a really big problem the membership isn’t alerted in enough time in some cases to actually participate,” Mr. Hicks said in an interview.

U.S. District Judge George Hazel ruled July 18 that Local 689 violated federal law and the union’s own international constitution and local bylaws in its Dec. 2, 2015, election in which President Jackie L. Jeter retained her office. He voided the election results for the five leadership positions and 17 of the union’s other 40 elected officers, who represent more than 13,000 former and current Metro workers.

“It has always been the contention of this union on behalf of its leadership that the election was conducted in the spirit of adherence to our bylaws and the international constitution,” union spokesman David Stephen told The Washington Times. “So clearly we’re disappointed that the court decision did not share that position.”

The union has until Aug. 16 to appeal the ruling or make plans to hold a new election under Labor Department supervision.

In its court filings, the union said its “intent was honorable” even if “the execution may have been slightly flawed.”

“Because these are people that are a part of Metro’s workforce a part of this union family, I believe, and it is the perspective of this union, that the intents by the leadership here to restore as many members in good standing as possible was a very honorable act,” Mr. Stephen said.

But Mr. Hicks, who worked at Metro for more than 30 years before retiring in 2004, was blunt, saying union leaders “can’t give them excuses that it’s an honest mistake.”

A key issue in the lawsuit was the union’s rules authorizing only members “in continuous good standing” to vote and run for office. The union’s treasurer allowed some members to enter into payment plans to pay their dues but disallowed others, without publicly announcing the payment plan option to all union members.

Eleven members with unpaid dues were allowed to run in the 2015 election. Nine were not in “good standing” and warranted suspension under the international constitution. Five won office.

Mr. Hicks said the payment plan for delinquent dues-payers was “absolutely not” fair to the people who had paid their dues on time and were in good standing.

He blamed union leadership for not notifying members sooner of unpaid dues, calling the payment plans compensation for its failures. He said the payment plans should have only been approved by a vote of the members’ representatives and offered to everyone.

“Your office didn’t do its job, and now you want to come out and compensate for it without going by the people who were eligible [and had paid their dues],” Mr. Hicks said.

In court the union blamed the lack of unpaid dues notification on a simultaneous update to its records database, saying it had been kept by hand for many years.

Mr. Hicks noted that the union’s next scheduled election is December 2018, and that the lawsuit, which was filed in June 2016, took 13 months to work its way through the legal system.

He said union leaders would be stalling if they decide next month to appeal Judge Hazel’s ruling because a subsequent decision could be made irrelevant by next year’s election.

“I would not agree with that language,” Mr. Stephen said. “We have a legal system, and we have the right to utilize that legal system. So whatever decision is made, it’s made with respect to how our legal system works. It’s not about stalling.”


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