A slate of challengers won the majority of offices in Baltimore's largest labor union yesterday, but failed to capture the presidency in balloting that was complicated by belated discovery of a missing mailbag of ballots.
The challengers won 11 of 20 races for executive officers and board members after 677 wayward ballots were counted yesterday and official results announced for Local 27, United Food and Commercial Workers union.
Thomas Russow, a former vice president of the international union who has headed the local since 1984, was re-elected to a three-year term as president over Garland Humphries Jr., a longtime Giant Food store employee who headed the opposition slate.
Mr. Humphries had threatened this week to appeal the election, after the local's election judges voted to count the 677 ballots that were found Oct. 17 in a mailbag picked up by the American Federation of Government Employees from the main Baltimore post office. An independent balloting firm had already counted the other ballots the night before, giving the challenging slate 11 of the local offices.
AFGE Local 1923 was also conducting a mail-ballot election and Vice President Alvin Levy called the UFCW to inform them of their ballots found in his union's mailbag. The votes were placed in a bank vault until they were counted yesterday, but they did not change the outcome of any of the races.
Mr. Humphries, who had attacked the incumbents for increasing their salaries while reducing efforts to attract new members, said he was now uncertain whether to appeal through the international union and the U.S. Labor Department.
"We feel it's unfair that the ballots were counted," he said. "My theory is that if the incumbents had won the election, these ballots would never have popped up." But he said his slate wanted to consider the results before challenging the procedures.
Mr. Humphries said he was concerned that some members with permanent addresses did not receive the mail ballots and that others received ballots too late to return them by the deadline.
He also questioned the accuracy of membership rolls, stating that his slate was given a mailing list of more than 25,000 members in late September, but only 23,251 ballots were mailed out Oct. 1.
Joseph Kerhart, an assistant to Mr. Russow and an executive board member who was re-elected, said the election had been conducted according to union rules and that any challenges would have to be filed with the local within 15 days.
Despite heavy campaigning by both slates, Mr. Kerhart said he was disappointed by the low number of voters. Including the ballots counted yesterday, only 7,218 votes were cast.
The local has members in some 430 units in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Originally formed in a 1982 merger of the meat cutters and retail clerks unions, Local 27 has expanded to include other occupations such as nurses, tree trimmers, policemen and racetrack workers.
The Local 27 president's job pays well over $100,000 a year.