2015 election rules were bent, Metro union admits

WASHINGTON — Metro’s largest union is asking a judge to deny a U.S. Labor Department effort to force new elections, while acknowledging that rules were “not followed to the letter” in that election.

New elections would be especially significant, because Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 is in the midst of contract negotiations with Metro, and Metro Board Chair Jack Evans said Thursday the agency had put few, if any, concessions on the table.

In federal court filings this week tied to the Labor Department lawsuit, the union argues it was just a coincidence that it disqualified more than 800 members from running for office or voting in the two months before the December 2015 election.

“The issue in the matter at hand is not whether the Union acted due to some corrupting force, but whether or not Local 689 operated reasonably when administering the election,” the filings said.

“While some decisions they made could be described as misguided, there is nothing in the record that suggest some ‘secret’ standard or nefarious intent.”

According to the Labor Department, reasons to re-run the election include the disqualifications; the payment plans offered to allow certain members of the disqualified group to vote and run for office; and notice of the election, which was mailed out one day late.

In court documents, union officials said that letters sent out in October 2015 about outstanding dues were simply a natural step in efforts to collect on unpaid dues, and had nothing to do with the election. Follow-up letters a few weeks later did mention the impact of outstanding dues on eligibility to participate.

In part, the union blames the difficulties of figuring out dues status on financial information from Metro that contains information about dues collection and current employment status.

“Often times the financial information is riddled with errors,” the union said.

The union said in the court documents that “it is virtually impossible to maintain completely accurate records.”

ATU Local 689 is asking that no new election be ordered before the regularly scheduled one in December 2018, because a union lawyer said no one was harmed by the election issues.

Union members voted to re-run the December 2015 election in January 2016, but that decision was never implemented after re-elected President Jackie Jeter appealed to the parent Amalgamated Transit Union International.

According to the union, it spends $300,000 to conduct an election.

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital reporter and editor in June 2018. He is a writer and photojournalist focusing on politics, political activism and national affairs, with recent multimedia contributions to Reuters, MSNBC and PBS.


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