Teachers union head takes case to city court

National official says vote suit has no merit

September 26, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

A month before members are to vote again for a new leader, the president of the Baltimore Teachers Union teacher chapter has filed a lawsuit in Baltimore Circuit Court, asking that her two-vote victory over the incumbent stand.

The lawsuit, filed by Sharon Blake and 15 members of the BTU's executive board, calls the decision by the American Federation of Teachers to hold new balloting "arbitrary" and "capricious" and asks the court to uphold the original results.

The lawsuit does not seek an injunction to stop the rerun election from taking place.

Jamie Horwitz, a spokesman for the AFT, said yesterday the lawsuit has no merit.

"We did a thorough investigation, we found that some of our members were disenfranchised and we will do everything in our power to make sure that a fair election is held," he said. "We'll proceed with the election and, if necessary, we'll see them in court."

Blake appealed the AFT's decision last week to the U.S. Department of Labor, which declined to hear the challenge, Blake's lawyer, Neal M. Janey, said.

Blake, a former social studies teacher at Frederick Douglass High School, defeated Marietta A. English and three other candidates May 11.

English, who had been seeking a second term as teacher chapter president, later filed an election challenge with the AFT, which conducted an investigation.

The investigation committee found that some union members were prevented from voting, while others were mistakenly allowed to vote. Several ballots alsowere uncounted and accurate membership lists were not distributed to every polling site, the committee found. The AFT ordered the local union last month to throw out the results of the teacher chapter election and hold a new vote.

Blake's victory in May set off an internal struggle for control of the 8,500-member BTU, which has separate chapters for teachers and teacher aides.

The new election, which is being run by the AFT, will be held on Oct. 24, Oct. 25 or Oct. 26, Horwitz said. Only members of the teacher chapter are eligible to vote.

Balloting is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at six polling sites: Frederick Douglass High School; the Samuel L. Banks Professional Development Center; the Baltimore Teachers Union office; Commodore John Rodgers Elementary; Harlem Park Elementary; and Westport Elementary.

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