The U.S. Department of Labor asked a federal judge this month to order new officer elections for the largest union representing Metro workers, arguing the Dec. 2, 2015 vote was illegitimate because the union bent the rules, and the union’s International chapter had failed to decide whether a re-vote was warranted.
In the suit, which was filed in June, U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez (D) argues the union didn’t provide adequate notice of its December 2015 election, allowed members not in good standing to vote and run, and green-lighted “alternate, secret policies” allowing late dues payments for some members but not others — factors that affected the outcome of the election, the department said in its filings.
“The sum and substance is simply this: the Local did not play by the rules,” Rod J. Rosenstein, a U.S. Attorney, argued in a request for summary judgment last week.
ATU Local 689 President Jackie L. Jeter was reelected in the 2015 vote, and defended the union against allegations of wrongdoing in earlier comments to the Post. David Stephen, a spokesman for the union, which represents more than 13,000 Metro workers, declined Wednesday to comment on the latest filing, but said the union would respond in coming days.
“We are aware of the summary judgment request made on January 12, which gives us two weeks to file our response to the court,” Stephen said Wednesday. “We will be filing a timely response.”
When union members voted to conduct a “rerun” for all offices in January 2016, court documents say, Jeter appealed to the International union chapter. Because the union’s International chapter had not decided how to rule on Jeter’s appeal, the Labor department asked a judge to rule summarily.
“To this day, the International has not acted on the complaints,” the filings said.
ATU International did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
In a 35-page report, the department says a confluence of factors combined to invalidate the results of election: the union mailed election notices only 14 days before the vote took place, in violation of its bylaws and a 15-day notice provision of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act; that the union allowed any member whose dues payments were less than two months late to remain in good standing, in violation of an established provision; and that the union held “secret” payment standards for members who were more than two months late on their payments.
The union “unreasonably applied a conflicting set of unpublished, alternative standards which were not announced to the Local’s membership,” the filing reads. “These alternate standards were spread, at best, by word of mouth. Members who happened to learn of them could try to take advantage of them. Members unaware of them could not.”
It continues: “Similarly situated members were treated different. Members who, even under these alternate procedures, were not qualified to run for office were allowed to run. Other similarly situation members were not permitted to run for office, creating a situation where even these alternate rules were enforced in a non-uniform manner.”
An Oct. 9, 2015 announcement to union members late on their payments confirmed their eligibility to vote, but not to run in officer elections, the documents say. Members who approached the union’s Financial Secretary-Treasurer, Butch Bilger, were permitted to establish alternate payment plans, according to the suit.
The suit lists 11 members who were significantly late on their payments but were allowed to run — seven of whom arranged alternate payment plans that are not specified in union bylaws.
But it named two others, Harry Johnson and Glenn Jarrett, whose candidacies were thwarted because they were more than a year late on payments. The union told them they were ineligible.
Another candidate who owed more than a year’s worth of payments, Luis Chevalier, was, however, permitted to run, the filings say.
None of the candidates would have been eligible under a blanket provision requiring officer candidates to be in good standing for two consecutive years.
“Indeed, the union’s ad hoc practices not only rendered the two years’ continuous good standing requirement meaningless, but also prevented potential candidates from even realizing their own eligibility,” the filing says.
Jeter, who declined comment for this story, said in a deposition that she expected members to know their eligibility for office. Court filings say she acknowledged that the union never announced an alternative payment plan option was available.
“I have a very Draconian way of looking at your responsibility as a candidate,” she said in her deposition. “You are supposed to know what the Constitution says.
“If you’re going to run for office, then it is your responsibility to know the rules and regulations surrounding running.”