BLOOD ON THE TRACKS: TRANSIT UNION BOSS CALLS FOR NEW VOTE

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All over New York, labor leaders are running elections….again and again. Transit Authority union boss Willie James told his local’s executive board last Monday that he plans to re-run the vote on his job and other top-officer spots–even though he won.

On December 16, James squeaked out reelection as president of the powerful 33,000-member subway and bus workers Transportation Workers Local 100. But those results are threatened by charges of election fraud and intimidation.

Another grueling bout would actually be good news for the $130,000-a-year union chief. The leadership of Local 100’s parent union, the Transportation Workers Union of America, has essentially given James a choice, rerun the election or they’ll consider proposals to split the local into several pieces. This would leave James, who is African-American, controlling only two small bus-driver divisions dominated by white conservatives.

“They’ll do anything to keep their jobs, even for a minute longer,” Tim Schermerhorn, an anti-James insurgent, said of the re-vote decision.

The insurgents charge that officials supporting James demanded members turn in unsealed ballots to them during the December voting. They also claim that membership phone lists were given to leadership supporters but not to insurgents and that James-friendly staff campaigned on union time.

If the international union backs away from overturning James’s win, the insurgents plan to appeal to the U.S. Labor Department in March, said attorney Arthur Schwartz, who represents members of the anti-James faction. Calls to the local and international were not returned at press time.

James isn’t the only union top man to have the reelection blues. Seventeen- year incumbent Lou Albano, president of the 6,400-member Civil Service Technical Guild of engineers and planners and one of the reigning princes of D.C. 37, will be rerunning his election because of 700 missing ballots in a December vote where preliminary results showed him losing.

A progressive and an outspoken critic of privatizing city jobs, Albano is negotiating with the American Arbitration Association to rerun the election, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 27. And if that’s not enough, round two of Gus Bevona’s building maintenance workers by-laws election–the running of which was ripped from Bevona’s hands by another federal judge over election fraud charges in an earlier vote last year–happens Wednesday.