Suspended union officer awarded $153,000 Members worry about paying for leaders' errors.

February 11, 1992|By John H. Gormley Jr.

Joseph M. Kowaleviocz, a former union official who accused the biggest dockworkers local in the port of Baltimore of trying to quiet his criticism by illegally suspending him in 1985, has won a $153,000 judgment in federal court.

In addition to the judgment against Local 333 of the International Longshoremen's Association, Mr. Kowaleviocz was awarded $10,000 in damages from Edward Howell, president of the local at the time of his suspension from the union.

The judgments resulted from a trial before Judge Frederic N. Smalkin.

The award, granted Friday by a U.S. District Court jury in Baltimore, could be expensive for Local 333. With about 1,250 members, the local represents a majority of the approximately 2,000 ILA dockworkers in Baltimore.

After union leaders explained the implications of the judgment to members of Local 333 last night, Local 333 president Edward Burke declined to comment. But several dockworkers expressed concern that they, individually, would pay for mistakes their leaders made years ago.

"The past is coming back to haunt us. We're still paying the price," said Richard Reitz, a longshoreman.

The amount the union must pay remains uncertain. It could rise if Mr. Kowaleviocz is awarded legal fees. Or the judge could reduce the jury's award.

One longshoreman calculated that if the judgment is not reduced, each member of the local will have to pay at least $160. But some of the workers were hopeful that the union's lawyers will prevail on the judge to reduce the size of the award next week.

Lawyers for the union and Mr. Kowaleviocz could not be reached last night.

In court documents, Mr. Kowaleviocz said the union's actions were motivated by "intense hatred" of him because of his criticism of Mr. Howell and another former union president, Garris McFadden.

Mr. Kowaleviocz, a foreman, was suspended for 10 years, fined $100 and removed from the union's board.

The suit said Mr. Kowaleviocz had been deprived of his rights of free speech and due process in an effort to "silence the plaintiff in his free expression or criticism of Edward Howell as union president."

The suspension was approved by the union's membership at a meeting in which Mr. Kowaleviocz was denied the right to speak in his defense, court documents said. The suspension was lifted in 1988.

The union said the suspension did not cost Mr. Kowaleviocz his voice in union matters, since he continued to take part in union votes, or his right to work.

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