U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez is demanding the union representing Metro workers conduct new officer elections, alleging candidates were improperly steered away and the integrity of the December vote was compromised, according to documents filed in federal court Monday.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents more than 12,000 Metro workers, is named as the defendant in the civil suit, which raises questions about the validity of the union elections conducted Dec. 2.
In the suit, Perez alleges that the union did not uniformly apply its qualification requirements to all candidates, says members who were ineligible to vote were permitted to do so, and that ballots of eligible members were not counted.
The suit also alleges that the union violated its own bylaws by failing to give members proper notice of the elections; notifications were not mailed to their home addresses at least 15 days in advance of the vote, the suit says.
The union did not immediately respond Tuesday to phone or email requests for comment.
The Dec. 2 election resulted in the reelection of Jackie L. Jeter as president. When union members voted to conduct a “rerun” for all offices, the documents say, Jeter appealed to the international union chapter and a re-vote was never held. The suit says the union membership voted at Jan. 5 and 6 meetings to hold the repeat election for all offices.
“By letter dated January 29, 2016, the Defendant’s President Jeter appealed the decision of the membership to ATU International President (Lawrence J.) Hanley,” the suit says.
In an interview Tuesday night, Union President Jackie L. Jeter defended the union against the Department of Labor’s claims of wrongdoing.
“The union’s opinion…is that the [labor department] has it wrong,” she said. “Ultimately, the union takes the position that we followed the constitution and the general laws of the ATU and we followed our bylaws.”
She said members who were disqualified from running for office were not in good standing with the union, an issue stemming from their failure to pay dues, and the labor department was wrong in its assertions that they were eligible to run.
“According to our constitution and our general laws and our bylaws, a person is supposed to be in good standing in order to run,” she said. “The [labor department] has taken the position that they didn’t have to be.”
She added: “If a judge rules against us, then we have to deal with that. How far it’ll go, I don’t know.”
(We’ve asked ATU International on what grounds Jeter made her appeal, whether it was granted and other questions about the process. We will update if they respond.)
When no final decision was received by mid-March, the complainants, three unsuccessful candidates for office, and one candidate who was not allowed to run but should have been — according to Perez — filed complaints with the Secretary of Labor.
“(The Union) failed to conduct its election in accordance with its bylaws and the International constitution when it denied individuals—including Harry Johnson, Ozzie Andrews, and Glenn Jarret— who were eligible for candidacy under the Defendant’s and the International’s bylaws and constitutions the right to be nominated and run for office,” Perez said in the court filings.
The violations, according to the suit, “may have affected the outcome” of the elections for 22 different offices — including President, First Vice President, other executive positions in rail and in maintenance and inspection board members.
In the suit, which was first reported by NBC4, Perez seeks an order directing the union to hold new elections under his supervision.
As part of the suit, ATU Local 689 must respond to Perez’s complaint in federal court within 21 days. A summons was issued to the union. If no answer to the complaint is filed, the election results will automatically be voided.
Jeter said Tuesday night she had neither read the court-filed complaint nor received the summons.
This post has been updated.