The San Diego Union-Tribune

Laborers Union Begins Voting On Officers


June 25, 1992

Members of Local 89 of the Laborers' International Union this week are receiving mail ballots for an election of officers and directors ordered two months ago by a federal court that voided the union's June 1990 balloting.

Twelve candidates are seeking election to six offices for the union representing primarily construction workers, said Harry Jordan, secretary-treasurer of the 3,000-member local.

Ballots will be counted at the conclusion of voting July 8.

Forcing the special election was Robert Ross, a member of the Labor Reform Committee, a dissident group that believes the 1990 election was subverted by existing officers of the local.

Ross filed a grievance with the U.S. Department of Labor, claiming that he and other dissident union members were denied access to the local's nomination process for officers and directors.

The dissident group claimed that the local violated the constitution of the Laborers' International Union of North America and the Landrum-Griffin Act, a 1959 labor law that provided safeguards for democratic methods in union elections.

In April, U.S. District Judge Judith N. Keep declared the union's 1990 election results void and ordered a new election, to be supervised by officials of the U.S. Department of 1 Labor.

"We will be supervising the process every step of the way, even down to the installation of new officers," said Wayne Goad, deputy area administrator for the Western United States.

The current controversy is not the first for Local 89. The local was embroiled in a scandal in 1976 when 16 trustees of the union were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to embezzle trust funds and bribery.

By July 1977, all 16 had pleaded guilty or were convicted of various crimes and sentenced to various prison terms. E. Dene Armstrong, former secretary-treasurer for Local 89, was convicted of nine charges and received the stiffest sentence, a 10-year federal prison term.

None of the former union officials was involved in the current election controversy.

Dissident Ross and two other members of the Labor Reform Committee have been nominated for offices in the current election.

Although union officers are elected for three-year terms, the special election will fill partial terms through next June, said Local 89's Jordan. At that point, another election will take place for full three-year terms.

Jordan disputed the contention that some nominees had been illegally disqualified from the 1990 election process.

"We thought we had a very democratic process," he said. "We were trying to exercise a democratic procedure, but obviously the court decided to open it up."

Charles Galvan, an organizer of the Labor Reform Committee and candidate for recording secretary of the union, said the existing management spends $2 million a year to administer the local's business.

"We've got 3,000 members and only 600 people working," Galvan said. "It doesn't seem like they (current union leadership) have done much good for the membership."

The union's members, most of whom are employed in the construction industry, earn $17.28 per hour plus fringe benefits.

But Galvan said an increasing share of his work in recent years has included fewer benefits.

Jordan said the legal battle over the disputed election and the current election will cost the local $30,000 to $35,000.


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