Union to get oversight for financial problems City group's dues may rise to pay deficit of $750,000

April 09, 1997|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

A union representing about 3,700 Baltimore clerical and technical workers has an accumulated deficit of $750,000, and an administrator from the local's national affiliate has been called in to oversee its finances.

The City Union of Baltimore owes the vast bulk of its debt in unpaid fees to the Washington-based American Federation of Teachers and its state counterpart, the Federation of Maryland Teachers, according to interviews and documents.

The union may have to raise its membership dues by as much as 50 percent to balance its budget and erase the debt, which equals about a full year's income. That prospect infuriates some representatives, who say the union leadership has failed to control spending and has handed out unauthorized staff raises, later rescinded, at a time when the rank and file had not received a pay increase.

In addition to the union's financial problems, an AFT review found that CUB leaders had improperly extended the length of their terms from two years to four, and called for all officers to stand in a special election to be held no later than the end of June.

The union represents a range of workers at a number of city agencies, including housing inspectors, school police officers and parking control agents.

The decision last week by the union's five-member executive committee to request help from an AFT administrator came after months of internal debate over increasing financial troubles, documented in minutes of meetings and internal memos.

Officials of the AFT -- which represents noneducational public employees as well as teachers and paraprofessionals -- say they are carefully examining the union's expenses and dues. The dues, $9.34 every two weeks, may have to be raised to about $14 to balance the budget and retire the debt, they suggest.

"We're looking at everything," said Sandra J. Nelson, the AFT's regional director for the Northeast, which includes Baltimore.

Chester D. Wilton, the local's president, acknowledges that the executive board mistakenly put through salary increases for himself and several staff members without the required approval of a council of shop stewards. He says his pay was raised from $52,000 to $56,000, although other union officials say the increase was much higher. The raises, approved in January, were rolled back the next month, he said.

Wilton, who assumed the presidency in 1994, also acknowledges that union leaders violated AFT rules on three-year term limits, when they voted in October to extend their terms from two years to four. He said leaders wanted longer terms because they concluded that two years was too brief a time to accomplish much.

He said he inherited part of the deficit when he took office and dismisses criticisms as pre-election posturing by would-be opponents. "The way to damage the president is to talk about him and bring him down," he said.

Pub Date: 4/09/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.