A decision by the D.C. Public Employee Relations Board to overturn the election of a union to represent the 2,3000 employes of the D.C. Corrections Department means a rematch -- probably next month -- between the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the American Federation of Government Employees.
The first match, an election in March, was won by the Teamsters. The Teamsters defeated the AFGE, which had represented the workers for 30 years, by a mere three votes. The final tally: 764 to 761.
The AFGE challenged the victory, claiming that the city improperly ran the election by allowing some nonunion workers to vote. On Thursday, the employe relations board ordered a new election.
"We're very pleased that PERB saw the issue -- allowing nonunion persons to vote -- as a just issue," said David Kushner, AFGE organizing director. "When you have 30 to 40 nonunion workers voting and an election is won by only three votes, you need a new election."
Teamsters organizers could not be reached for comment. The 1.9 million-member union made a strong effort to oust the AFGE, bringing outside organizers and spending considerable time and money.
Jail overcrowding, poor and dangerous working conditions and low wages were among the issues in the election. More than 1,000 corrections employes petitioned the board to leave the AFGE last year, prompting the union election.
Ultimately, the election will determine whether the Barry administration will continue contract negotiations with the AFGE or will have to adjust to the Teamsters, which has never represented city workers. Contract negotiations have been suspended pending the outcome of the election.
Addis Taylor, PERB executive director, said he couldn't comment on the board's decision to overturn the election until all of the board members had submitted their opinions in writing.
"We normally don't announce our opinions until the written statement is completed, but in this case we let the parties know" so they could prepare for the election, Taylor said.
"We'll be very very careful about the voting list this time," Kushner said. "We'll make absolutely certain that everybody on it is a union member."