DOL Wins Court Order Invalidating International Union’s Elections

On Mar. 28, 2001, U.S. Dist. Judge Joyce H. Green (D.D.C., Carter) granted the Dep’t of Labor’s motion for summary judgment and declared the Amalgamated Transit Union’s 1998 election of int’l officers void. DOL’s suit charged that the ATU, headquartered in Washington, D.C., imposed an unreasonable candidacy qualification when it applied a meeting attendance requirement for the nomination and election of delegates to its 1998 int’l union convention. DOL’s Office of Labor-Mgmt. Standards Washington District Office conducted the investigation leading to the complaint and will supervise the remedial election ordered by the court. [DOL 3/28/01]

ATU elects its int’l officers by means of a triennial int’l convention, at which delegates elected by ATU local unions convene at a particular location to nominate and cast ballots for int’l union officers. ATU’s 52nd triennial int’l convention took place in Chicago between Sept. 29 and Oct. 3, 1998 and twenty-one officer positions were up for election. As to 3 of the positions (the 4th, 10th, and 18th int’l vice president positions), there were two nominees per position. All other 18 positions were uncontested. The results of the contested elections were as follows: 4th IVP, incumbent Jackie Breckenridge defeated challenger Marcellus Barnes 413 to 120; 10th IVP, incumbent Don Hansen defeated challenger Richard Stomper 464 to 19; 18th IVP (no incumbent running) Charles Pettus defeated Brenda Rayford by a tally of 408 to 101.

The bylaws of every ATU local provide that the president and financial sec’y of the local are entitled to serve as ex officio delegates to the int’l convention. If the local union is entitled to more than 2 delegates, other local union officers serve as ex officio delegates. As a result of the use of local union officers as ex officio delegates, the qualifications necessary to become a local union officer are also qualifications necessary to become a convention delegate. Section 14 of ATU’s Constitution governs the election of local union officers. Members of local unions not covered by federal labor law are required to satisfy 2 qualifications to be eligible for local union office: a two-year “good standing” requirement and a “meeting-attendance” requirement. The meeting-attendance requirement is that the member must have attended 6 local meetings in each of the 2 years preceding and including the nomination meeting. Local union meetings are required to be held at least once every month. Members of local unions covered by federal labor law are also required to satisfy a 2-year “good standing requirement.” In addition, the ATU Constitution permits such locals to either adopt a more lenient meeting-attendance requirement, requiring attendance at six local union meetings during the 1-year period preceding the convention; or adopt no meeting-attendance requirement at all. Different locals have follow different options.

Although many candidates for convention delegate are subject to meeting-attendance requirements, an ATU member seeking to run for int’l office need not satisfy any meeting-attendance requirement in order to be eligible. The only candidacy qualification for int’l union office is that the would-be candidate be a member in 2 years’ continuous good standing and obtain the nomination of a delegate.

Both before and after the 1998 convention, ATU Local 241 (Lancaster, Pa.) member Richard Stomper filed a written complaint with the Sec’y of Labor, under 29 U.S.C. § 482(a), and which concerned, inter alia, the validity of the above-described meeting-attendance requirements as applied to the election of local officer/delegates. After conducting an investigation, the Dep’t of Labor filed suit alleging that ATU violated 1) 29 U.S.C. § 481(e) when it and local unions affiliated with the ATU imposed unreasonable candidacy qualifications which rendered a significant portion of their memberships ineligible to be nominated and elected as delegates to the int’l convention; 2) 29 U.S.C. § 481(e) when the candidacy qualification requirements for becoming a delegate to the int’l convention were not applied in a uniform manner; and 3) 29 U.S.C. § 481(a)when delegates to the int’l convention who were not elected by secret ballot were allowed to participate in the nomination and election of the int’l union officers. DOL asked for the elections of all int’l officers to be declared null and void, and for the Court to order ATU to conduct new elections under DOL supervision. Stomper, and four other ATU members, have intervened on behalf of DOL.

Green held that DOL was entitled to summary judgment on the claim that the qualifications for office were not “uniformly imposed.” Plus, ATU conceded that several of the int’l convention delegates were not “chosen by secret ballot.” Therefore, because ATU’s violations of the Labor-Mgmt. Reporting & Disclosure Act of 1959 “may have affected” the election for every int’l union officer, Green ordered new elections be held under DOL’s supervision. [Chao v. Amalgamated Trans. Union, 141 F. Supp. 2d 13 (D.D.C. 2001)]