Union's 2nd vote observed by U.S. Food, Commercial Workers elect 20 in settling '94 suit

November 08, 1995|By Alec Matthew Klein | Alec Matthew Klein,SUN STAFF

Under the U.S. Labor Department's watch, a slate of 20 candidates called "Your Home Team" has swept to an overwhelming election victory to lead one of Maryland's largest union locals, ostensibly resolving two years of charges and countercharges over a previous balloting.

The election of officers of Towson-based Local 27 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, conducted by mail and votes Thursday, was held as a result of an out-of-court settlement of a dispute dating to the last union election two years ago. After a tightly contested race then, some of the losing candidates filed a complaint with the Department of Labor, which in June 1994 sued Local 27, asserting that the local's incumbent management failed to send ballots to all its 27,000 members.

Rather than go to trial, the union, which said it already had incurred more than $250,000 in attorneys' fees, overtime pay and other costs associated with the contested election, agreed to hold another election under Labor Department supervision this year -- a year before the officers' three-year terms expired.

The result, according to the union: 12 of the 20 officers won again, including the local's president, who narrowly won two years ago. Most won by more than a two-thirds margin, officials said. The other eight winning candidates were new to the ticket.

"Certainly, with the litigation and investigation, we couldn't do our real job 100 percent," said Buddy Mays, the president. The union represents workers at 122 companies, including many supermarkets, and covers two-thirds of Maryland, all of Delaware, and parts of West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

"Now we can put that behind us," he said.

Mr. Mays, 46, led the victory sweep, winning 64 percent of the vote against three other candidates.

In the disputed 1993 election, Mr. Mays won a close race for secretary-treasurer, the No. 2 spot in the union. He was appointed president when the longtime incumbent, Thomas Russow, resigned shortly after the Labor Department backed an opposition group's allegations of election improprieties and filed lawsuit in federal court.

Mr. Russow won the 1993 election for president by 181 votes over Cliff Parry, a veteran meat cutter and union employee who headed a group of reformers calling themselves the Concerned Union Brothers and Sisters, or CUBS.

The difference in this election, officials said, was that the winning slate of candidates adopted a platform that stressed their ties to the industries they represent and offered a unified front to the companies with which they negotiate.

Opponents, if any materialize, have until Nov. 13 to file a protest, the union said. But resistance seems doubtful. "This was a long haul," said John Singleton, an attorney representing the reformers. "It's highly unlikely there will be any challenge at this juncture."

Without opposition, U.S. District Judge Frederic N. Smalkin is expected to ratify the election.

The resolution comes at a crucial time for the local. More than 30 union contracts will expire in 1996, Mr. Mays said, including those with the Laurel and Pimlico racetracks and with Giant Food, Safeway and Super Fresh supermarkets.

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