Judge Orders New Election at Cleveland Local

On Nov. 9, U.S. Dist. Judge Donald C. Nugent  (N.D. Ohio, Clinton) ordered a new election  for treasurer and two trustees of the Bakery, Confectionery & Tobacco Workers Int’l Union Local 19 in Cleveland. In Feb. 2000, Local 19 elected Daniel Kolar treasurer and re-elected Peter Koleff and Vince Bianchi to two of three trustee positions. Before the vote, then-local president Barbara Walden ruled the three did not meet candidate requirements of the int’l union constitution and were ineligible to run. The BC&T int’l union overruled her. Walden lost her election to then-vice-president Paul LaBuda. She later filed a complaint with the Dep’t of Labor, which investigated and took up the case.

DOL sued under federal labor law to overturn the tainted elections and its Office of Labor-Mgmt. Standards will supervise the new elections. An OLMS investigation of the local’s Feb. 2000 election revealed that the winning candidates for positions in question were ineligible to hold union office because they failed to meet working at the trade candidacy requirements.

The argument against Kolar: At the time of the election, he was a representative with the Cleveland Bakers and Teamsters’ Health, Welfare & Pension funds and so was ineligible because he didn’t work in a trade represented by the Bakers or for the union itself. Local 19 countered that Kolar’s job with the fund met the definition of “working in the trade.” The argument against Koleff and Bianchi: They were retirees, did not work in the trade and were not officers or employees of the union. The local said Koleff and Bianchi had been trustees for many years, even before their retirement, and were eligible to run. Nugent rejected the local’s arguments. He held the union’s language on qualifications was “unambiguous” and that Kolar, Koleff and Bianchi did not meet the test.

“We think it’s great,” said Walden’s attorney Joyce Goldstein. “But we’re sorry it took so long for a determination that these people were ineligible when they were ineligible to begin with.” She was also disappointed Nugent ordered an election rather than an installation of the eligible nominated candidates, which Walden had requested. In his decision, Nugent wrote that the first vote was more than 18 month ago and circumstances and members undoubtedly have changed.

Local 19 disagrees with the judge’s interpretation of the int’l constitution, said attorney Richard Ross. He said the local is considering whether to file an appeal. The election date has yet to be set. Winners will complete the current three-year terms, which expire in 2003. [DOL 11/9/01;  Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 11/19/01]