Florida Local Fights DC79, Withholds $50,000 in Dues

AFSCME Local 532 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. has gone to war against AFSCME Dist. Council 79. Since Sep. 1998, Local 532 has refused to pay its monthly dues to the statewide DC79. At $11.65 per month for each of the 500 members, the total owed is about $50,000. DC79 suspended Local 532 in Jan., and the national AFSCME in Washington warned that the local could be placed in administratorship.

Local 532 boss Catherine Dunn claims that DC79 isn’t providing the required services in return for the dues. For several years Local 532 has handled its own copying and mailing costs, settled its own employee grievances, negotiated its own contracts and paid for its own office space. Local 532 is holding the $50,000 in escrow until changes are made. “What we’re trying to do is get somebody’s attention,” Dunn said. DC79 has refused to respond.

Other AFSCME locals in So. Fla. have echoed the same concerns. Local 2866 president Annie Baynham said, “I am in agreement with Cathy Dunn… She’s been mistreated. Now she’s not getting anything, not even a newsletter.” Baynham says that the only reason Local 2866 has not also withheld dues is because the payments are automatically taken out of employees’ paychecks. “We have no other choice, because our contract is already payroll-deducted.”

Some claim politics is the cause of the dispute. In Oct. 1998, Dunn unsuccessfully ran for the DC79 presidency. Dunn and others accused Jeanette Wynn, the eventual victor, of withholding services in retaliation for Dunn’s candidacy. Dunn’s opponents within Local 532 say she’s exploiting her power as union president to carry out a personal vendetta against Wynn. In late May, Local 532 had a explosive meeting about the dues to no result. Dunn said, “I have the money, so I’m not worried… The bottom line is, if we pay you, we should get something in return.” [New Times Broward-Palm Beach 5/27/99]