To help settle a squabble between rival factions, the U.S. Department of Labor has filed suit against a union representing 5,000 Boeing Co. engineers and technical workers for allegedly violating union election rules.
The suit stems from a disputed union election in which veteran officers contested the election of a group of newcomers who differ over the direction the union should take.
Filed in Los Angeles’ Central District federal court, the Labor Department suit alleges that the Southern California Professional Engineering Association acted improperly when it allowed an ineligible member to seek union office and rejected the election victories of two other candidates.
Jeff Gitomer, head of the district Office of Labor Standards that includes Los Angeles, said union candidates Rich Devens and Steve Weixel won election last December but were blocked from taking office because their bids reportedly went against the SCPEA constitution.
Terry Dunder, one of two people elected as an at-large candidate, also had his victory nullified by the union’s ruling council because it concluded he might not have won in a race that did not include Weixel.
The suit asks that a new election be held for at-large officers under the supervision of the Labor Department, and that Devens be seated as vice president.
“We believe that the clear language of the by-laws requires a new at-large election and does not require (Devens) to be disqualified from being vice president,” Gitomer said.
Former union president Doug Potter, who was defeated in the December vote, has led the efforts to nullify the election results. Potter could not be reached for comment.
Bob Cantore, an attorney representing Devens, Weixel and Dunder, said his clients have offered to hold new elections in the hope of avoiding a costly court fight with the union.
“We’re very confident that we could win this thing in court if we have to because the rules clearly favor (our position),” Cantore said. “We think our proposal is fair and it’s our hope that this can be resolved by the Department of Labor out of court.”
Union President Steve Dunham said the election results should stand.
“The mebership voted for these guys. When their wishes aren’t fulfilled, they begin to question the integrity of the process,: he said.