Three local officials of a national labor union were arrested yesterday and charged with bribery after they allegedly gave an employer of Drug Fair's corporate office $1,000 in exchange for a list of names and addresses of the drug store chain's 4,500 employees, Fairfax County Police reported.
Arrested were Donald Moore Dickerson, 29, of 7726 Hayfield Rd., south of Alexandria, an organizer in Local 400 of the Retail Clerks International Association (AFL-CIO); Dorman Francis Watts, 35, of Richmond, an organizer in the association's office there and Robert Marlin Ellis, 31, of 3629 Embassy La., Fairfax, an international representative of the association's southwest division, police said.
The men were arrested, police said, after they allegedly received the computer printout list of employee information from the Drug Fair employee at 12:20 p.m. yesterday in the parking lot of the Shirley Bowl America on Edsal Road. Seven Fairfax police investigators from the organized crime unit witnessed and photographed the transaction, police said.
The attempt to obtain the address list, which a company official called "an invaluable tool" in union organizing because of Drug Fair's no-solicitations policy inside stores, comes in the midst of a dispute between the company and the retail clerks union over its latest effort to ogranize Drug Fair's employees.
According to Myron Gerber, Drug Fair's board chairman, the company feels that all 160 of Drug Fair's stores should vote in an upcoming employee election on whether or not to unionize since "the entire chain will be affected" by the outcome of the election.
The union wants only the 33 stores in the immediate Washington metropolitan area to vote in the election, Gerber said. Drug Fair has stores in Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and the District. The National Labor Relations Board is expected to rule on the dispute in a few weeks, Gerber said. Union officials did not return a reporter's telephone calls.
"This is not the first example of outrageous and unlawful behavior engaged in by this union," the drug company said in a prepared statement. The same union forged cards authorizing a union representation election in 1965 in a effort to convince the NLRB that Drug Fair's pharmacists wanted to unionize, the release said.
Police said they were alerted to the alleged bribe attempt last week when the Drug Fair employee, who works in the personnel office, told Drug Fair's security department that he had been approached by the union officials to hand over the list. Drug Fair's security office subsequently notified police, they reported. The employee's name was not given.
Lt. Rocco Ricci, head of Fairfax's organized crime unit, said he and his men watched from nearby as the union officials exchanged the cash for a cardboard box containing the computer list, which is as large as "two or three good-sized telephone books." The union officials were quite surprised when they were arrested, Ricci said, but did not resist and drove in their own car to the Franconia police station where they were released without bond on a summons to appear in court.
The bribery charge is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine.
The address list of Drug Fair personnel is potentially worth $1 million, police said, because of the dues and initiation fees the union could solicit from the employees if a union were formed. "It seems obvious that the union is even willing to stoop to performing criminal acts in order to bring hundreds of thousands of dollars a year into its treasury," the Drug Fair release charged.
The retail clerk's union has about 70,000 members nationwide and in Canada and Puerrto Rico, a spokeswoman in is Washington office said.