Food workers union sued over vote

June 30, 1994|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Sun Staff Writer

The U.S. Labor Department has sued Towson-based Local 27 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, saying the incumbent management of the local failed to give ballots to all members during last year's disputed election of officers.

The five-page complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, asks the court to throw out Tom Russow's re-election last October as president of the 26,000-member local.

Mr. Russow won the election by 187 votes, said John Singleton, an attorney for Concerned Union Brothers and Sisters, sponsors of the dissident slate.

The local represents workers, most of whom work in supermarkets and chicken farms, in four states. Half of its members are in Maryland. It is the among the largest union locals in the state.

Mr. Russow defeated insurgent Cliff Parry, who ran for the post after leaving the local's staff to take a job as a supermarket meat cutter. Mr. Parry's campaign promised to cut the pay of top officials of the local. Reports during the campaign put Mr. Russow's annual salary at $131,000.

The complaint contends that the local did not mail ballots to all members at their last-known address, and thus deprived some members of their right to vote.

The complaint did not say how many members did not get ballots, and a department spokesman said the government lawyers won't disclose the details yet.

"They're not going to comment on the case, which is our standard procedure on cases in litigation," spokesman Bob Zachariasiewicz said.

Mr. Singleton said the dissidents complained that nearly 3,500 ballots were mailed out improperly, mostly in envelopes bearing the member's name but no address. He said the Labor Department's preliminary investigation found 2,562 ballots had been returned.

"There's some controversy about what happened to the other 1,000 ballots," the attorney for CUBS said.

Mr. Singleton said the law requires the local to make reasonable efforts to contact all members, including making reasonable efforts to keep mailing lists up to date.

The Labor Department said the local's conduct of the election violated the Labor-Management Disclosure and Reporting Act of as well as the local's own bylaws. The complaint said Local 27 denied Mr. Parry's protest of the election in November. The insurgents then appealed to the International Executive Board of the union, which did not make a decision within 90 days.

The insurgents then filed a complaint with the Labor Department on Feb. 24. The law requires that the department file the action. The dissidents don't have the legal standing to ask the court to void the election, Mr. Singleton said.

Local 27 officials could not be reached at their office. Mr. Russow was said to be in Washington much of the day. Office manager Douglas A. Ammlung, who was also the election administrator, could not be reached at his office or his home.

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