WASHINGTON -- Dissident members of a leading maritime industry union have scored a major electoral upset, seizing key leadership posts in a victory they said will help restore union democracy and protect a $1 billion Baltimore-based pension fund.
Dissident candidates ousted more than a dozen top officials of the District 1 Marine Engineers Beneficial Association/National Maritime Union.
"People wanted a change," said Gordon Ward, a Timonium resident who will take over as chairman of the union's licensed division, which represents about 4,800 marine engineers and ships' officers nationwide. "This was really a grass-roots effort."
Mr. Ward and other dissident candidates had charged that District 1 officials, led by President C. E. "Gene" DeFries, had stolen millions from union coffers after the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association's 1988 merger with the National Maritime Union and were plotting a sellout of the separate marine engineers' pension fund.
Both the FBI and the Department of Labor are investigating complaints of racketeering and corruption by union officials, according to former union leaders and attorneys familiar with the case. A federal grand jury is also conducting an inquiry.
President DeFries does not face re-election until 1992. But members of the dissident M.A.D. Committee -- which stands for Members Against DeFries -- said their sweep of top licensed division and delegate posts should help undercut Mr. DeFries' power and assure his eventual ouster.
Mr. DeFries and other union officials based in Washington could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Election administrator Stanley Ruttenberg said union officials had requested a recount of the delegate races and the race for Baltimore port agent, in which dissident Alex Shandrowsky edged out incumbent Donald Masingo by fewer than 50 votes.
Voting began Nov. 1 and ended Dec. 30.