On Oct. 10, U.S. Dist. Judge Joseph E. Irenas (D.N.J., H.W. Bush) invalidated the June 1999 officers election of the historically-corrupt Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Int’l Union Local 54 in Atlantic City. Irenas found that local bosses failed to get ballots to 15% of the members. Irenas order the casino employees local to hold a new election under the supervision of Sec’y of Labor Elaine L. Chao. Irenas, granting the Dep’t of Labor’s motion for summary judgment, concluded that there were so many undisputed violations of the federal labor law that the outcome of the results could have been affected.
Incumbent president, Robert McDevitt, defeated challenger Bobby Donovan by 440 votes. The rest of the McDevitt slate won by margins of more than 500. However, 1,975 members in good standing never got the election notice mailed to them, and ultimately close to 1,600 members never received a mailed ballot.
The setback came just after Local 54 appeared to have cleaned up problems with its election process. The local was placed under a court-ordered monitor in 1991 after a federal judge found that that the local was dominated by the mob. In 1997, monitor James Flanagan, III, persuaded U.S. Dist. Judge Garrett E. Brown, Jr. (D.N.J., Reagan), to lift the supervision. Clairborne Newlin, of Philadelphia’s Meranze & Katz, who represented some election losers and employees, said the 1999 election woes were “probably a question of ineptitude.”
Irenas chided the local for being able to find members who were late in paying dues, saying the bosses would have its business agents and shop stewards take time to track members down and get an updated address for its dues office. “Notably, Local 54’s remarkably passive approach to updating its member lists contrasts starkly with its significantly more proactive methods employed by the union to collect delinquent dues.”
Irenas reminded Local 54 that federal labor law includes an absolute duty to mail election notices to the last known address of each member. He said the requirement to do so is a strict mandate without any wiggle room, citing case law that has called the notice requirement explicit and literal. Moreover, he found that the union failed to make a “reasonable effort” to keep its mailing list current, another provision of the statute. [N.J.L.J. 10/15/01]