Monthly Archives: February 2005

Left-wing AFSCME official in NYC removed undemocratically The struggle for DC 1707 (Socialist Worker)

http://socialistworker.org/2005-1/532/532_11_DC1707.shtml

Left-wing AFSCME official in NYC removed undemocratically The struggle for DC 1707

By Lee Sustar and Shaun Harkin | February 25, 2005 | Page 11

NEW YORK–An outspoken official in the public-sector union AFSCME has been removed from office undemocratically amid a dispute over a contract ratification vote for New York City day care workers.

Brenda Stokely, president of AFSMCE District Council (DC) 1707, was voted out of office by union delegates in January after DC 1707 Executive Director Raglan George alleged that she had held her office in violation of the union constitution. The removal of Stokely–who is co-chair of New York City Labor Against the War, and was an organizer for last summer’s Million Worker March–follows George’s decision to fire two other officials aligned with her, Gloria Jackson and Chuck Mohan.

Stokely, Jackson and Mohan had been part of a reform slate with George that won office in May 2002.

Stokely’s political views–including her criticisms of the Democratic Party, speaking as a leader of the Labor Party–have long been unpopular with the AFSCME hierarchy, as is her advocacy of union democracy. Zionists within AFSCME locals have also criticized her pro-Palestinian and antiwar views.

It appears that the AFSCME leadership’s longstanding hostility toward Stokely dovetailed with the opposition of her Zionist critics, as well as George’s ambition to consolidate his grip on DC 1707.

At the heart of the controversy is a concessions contract for day care workers pushed by George and opposed by Stokely, Jackson and Mohan.

DC 1707, which represents 23,000 day care and home care workers at centers run by private, nonprofit agencies, is far smaller than AFSCME DC 37, which represents more than 100,000 city workers. But DC 1707 upstaged its bigger counterpart by organizing a one-day strike of day care workers in February 2003, and a three-day strike in June 2004, in the fight for a new contract.

Nevertheless, the new contract put together this month has many weaknesses. It calls for separate, but simultaneous raises totaling 12 percent effective January 1, 2005 in a 63-month contract retroactive to January 1, 2001. Another 2 percent wage increase is set for April 2005–but only if the union agrees to further concessions on productivity. New hires would be paid 11 percent less than the final wage rate as of April.

The contract also lacks any guarantees of retroactive pay for the period since 2001. Instead, the union is relying on Democrats in the state legislature to provide $20 million for such pay at a later date, “a policy that’s already failed twice,” according to Stokely–once under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and again under the current mayor, Michael Bloomberg. The result, said Stokely, will be no compensation for a four-year wage freeze.

Meanwhile, day care centers are closing because low pay means they can’t retain the ratio of qualified teachers for the kids. “Our day care centers were the first to be organized in the country,” Stokely told Socialist Worker. “This came out of the African American struggle as a demand. That’s one of the reasons we are raising this up” in the union and the community.

With new union elections coming up in May, George was acting to “clear the decks” of potential rivals–and critics of the concessionary contract put before the membership, Stokely said.

To silence her, George used his powers as executive director–an administrative position in the AFSCME structure that allows officials to remain in office for years. George got the DC 1707 delegates to vote to increase his pay from $70,000 to $100,000–and used patronage to get the votes to remove Stokely, she said.

George claimed that Stokely is a union employee, and is therefore ineligible to hold the presidency under union rules. In fact, Stokely had been given a stipend from the union after being laid off from her job in 2003–and in any case cannot be removed without facing charges.

On February 14, Stokely, Jackson and Mohan filed a federal lawsuit to try to overturn George’s actions in removing them under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.

The following day, according to Stokely, George intervened in a contract ratification meeting of AFSCME Local 205, which represents about 7,000 day care workers. Witnesses say that George took over the meeting from Local 205 President Glen Huff to call for a stand-up vote on the contract–violating union procedure that calls for a formal ballot.

Stokely and her supporters vow to continue the fight. “I am a delegate of Local 215, and I will be at the next meeting,” she said.

Messages of support can be sent by e-mail to local215@aol.com.

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Left-wing AFSCME Official in NYC Removed Undemocratically

http://www.socialistworker.org/2005-1/532/532_11_DC1707.shtml

Left-wing AFSCME official in NYC removed undemocratically
The struggle for DC 1707
By Lee Sustar and Shaun Harkin | February 25, 2005 | Page 11

NEW YORK–An outspoken official in the public-sector union AFSCME has been removed from office undemocratically amid a dispute over a contract ratification vote for New York City day care workers.

Brenda Stokely, president of AFSMCE District Council (DC) 1707, was voted out of office by union delegates in January after DC 1707 Executive Director Raglan George alleged that she had held her office in violation of the union constitution. The removal of Stokely–who is co-chair of New York City Labor Against the War, and was an organizer for last summer’s Million Worker March–follows George’s decision to fire two other officials aligned with her, Gloria Jackson and Chuck Mohan.

Stokely, Jackson and Mohan had been part of a reform slate with George that won office in May 2002.

Stokely’s political views–including her criticisms of the Democratic Party, speaking as a leader of the Labor Party–have long been unpopular with the AFSCME hierarchy, as is her advocacy of union democracy. Zionists within AFSCME locals have also criticized her pro-Palestinian and antiwar views.

It appears that the AFSCME leadership’s longstanding hostility toward Stokely dovetailed with the opposition of her Zionist critics, as well as George’s ambition to consolidate his grip on DC 1707.

At the heart of the controversy is a concessions contract for day care workers pushed by George and opposed by Stokely, Jackson and Mohan.

DC 1707, which represents 23,000 day care and home care workers at centers run by private, nonprofit agencies, is far smaller than AFSCME DC 37, which represents more than 100,000 city workers. But DC 1707 upstaged its bigger counterpart by organizing a one-day strike of day care workers in February 2003, and a three-day strike in June 2004, in the fight for a new contract.

Nevertheless, the new contract put together this month has many weaknesses. It calls for separate, but simultaneous raises totaling 12 percent effective January 1, 2005 in a 63-month contract retroactive to January 1, 2001. Another 2 percent wage increase is set for April 2005–but only if the union agrees to further concessions on productivity. New hires would be paid 11 percent less than the final wage rate as of April.

The contract also lacks any guarantees of retroactive pay for the period since 2001. Instead, the union is relying on Democrats in the state legislature to provide $20 million for such pay at a later date, “a policy that’s already failed twice,” according to Stokely–once under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and again under the current mayor, Michael Bloomberg. The result, said Stokely, will be no compensation for a four-year wage freeze.

Meanwhile, day care centers are closing because low pay means they can’t retain the ratio of qualified teachers for the kids. “Our day care centers were the first to be organized in the country,” Stokely told Socialist Worker. “This came out of the African American struggle as a demand. That’s one of the reasons we are raising this up” in the union and the community.

With new union elections coming up in May, George was acting to “clear the decks” of potential rivals–and critics of the concessionary contract put before the membership, Stokely said.

To silence her, George used his powers as executive director–an administrative position in the AFSCME structure that allows officials to remain in office for years. George got the DC 1707 delegates to vote to increase his pay from $70,000 to $100,000–and used patronage to get the votes to remove Stokely, she said.

George claimed that Stokely is a union employee, and is therefore ineligible to hold the presidency under union rules. In fact, Stokely had been given a stipend from the union after being laid off from her job in 2003–and in any case cannot be removed without facing charges.

On February 14, Stokely, Jackson and Mohan filed a federal lawsuit to try to overturn George’s actions in removing them under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.

The following day, according to Stokely, George intervened in a contract ratification meeting of AFSCME Local 205, which represents about 7,000 day care workers. Witnesses say that George took over the meeting from Local 205 President Glen Huff to call for a stand-up vote on the contract–violating union procedure that calls for a formal ballot.

Stokely and her supporters vow to continue the fight. “I am a delegate of Local 215, and I will be at the next meeting,” she said.

Labor Activists File Suit to Fight McCarthyism in DC1707 AFSCME

Media Advisory
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Dustin Langley 917-293-1138

Labor Activists File Suit to Fight McCarthyism in DC1707 AFSCME

Leaders targeted by union executive for fighting against concessions and speaking out against the war

PRESS CONFERENCE Monday, Feb. 14
12 Noon On the steps of U.S. District Court
500 Pearl St.

On Monday, February 14, at 12 Noon, Brenda Stokely, Gloria Jackson, and Chuck Mohan will file suit in U.S. District Court against District Council 1707 and against Raglan George, Jr., Executive Director for violations of the Labor Management Reporting & Disclosure Act of 1959 and the constitution of DC 1707. Jackson and Mohan were fired from their positions with the union just days before Christmas, while they were on vacation, and Stokely was removed from her position in January as president of DC 1707. They allege that they were removed because of their opposition to a flawed day care contract and because they have been outspoken against the occupation of Iraq.

“Raglan George removed us in an attempt to silence rank and file voices in the union,” said Brenda Stokely. “We were removed for opposing a concessionary day care contract. We have also been outspoken in our opposition to the war and occupation in Iraq. All three of us were organizers for the Million Worker March at a time when it was opposed by the AFL-CIO and AFSCME because they wanted to tie everyone to the failed tactics of devoting all of our resources to the Kerry campaign.”

Stokely opposed the firing of Mohan and Jackson, saying that they are widely respected by the members because they fight for justice in the workplace, support free speech and encourage participation by the rank-and-file.

Brenda Stokely, who was removed from her position as President of the 23,000-member DC 1707 on January 14, alleges that her ouster and the firing of Jackson and Mohan were politically motivated. “Raglan George wants to silence us because we have been outspoken critics of the contract he is pushing that would give up 5 years of retroactive pay, while he requested a raise for himself from $70,000 to $150,000, retroactive for 3 years. Meanwhile, the average day care worker makes $24,000 a year and home health aids make between $6 and $10 an hour. Raglan George is pushing for a rush ratification of the day care contract at the Hilton on Tuesday. We are also being targeted because we have been vocal and active in our opposition to the war in Iraq. This is an attempt to silence dissent, squash free speech, and shut out participation by rank and file members.”

They are represented by Daniel E. Clifton, of Lewis, Clifton & Nikolaidis, P.C.

-30-

2005.02.11: Declaration of Brenda Stokely

[Original Format: Stokely.dec]

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
————————————————————–x
BRENDA STOKELY, CHUCK MOHAN
and GLORIA JACKSON,
Plaintiffs,

-against-

DECLARATION OF
BRENDA STOKELY

RAGLAN GEORGE, JR., individually and as
Executive Director of District Council 1707,
AFSCME, AFL-CIO, and DISTRICT COUNCIL
1707, AFSCME, AFL-CIO,

Defendants.
————————————————————–x

BRENDA STOKELY, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746, declares under the penalty of perjury that the following is true and correct:

1. I am a plaintiff in this action, and I am familiar with the facts set forth below.  I make this Declaration in support of plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction.

2. I am currently, and since 1990 have been, a member of District Council 1707, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (“District Council 1707” or “the Union”).  District Council 1707 has seven constituent local unions which represent employees of non-governmental social service agencies in New York State and New Jersey.  The District Council, which has approximately 23,000 members, is affiliated with the international labor organization, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (“AFSCME”).

3. In the District Council election of officers held in May 2002, I was part of a reform slate which ran against the incumbent officers.  I had held various union offices in the past – Local 215 Executive Board member, delegate to the District Council, and President of Local 215.  Our reform slate won the election, and I was elected to a three year term as President of the District Council.  My term of office was supposed to expire on May 17, 2005.  However, in January 2005, I was removed from office in by Raglan George, Jr., the Executive Director of District Council 1707.  George’s action in removing me from office was politically motivated and, as explained more fully below, it violated the District Council constitution, the AFSCME constitution, and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (“LMRDA”).

4. District Council 1707 has four officers who are directly elected by the entire membership – President, Secretary, Executive Director, and Treasurer.  The presidents of the constituent local unions are elected by the members of their own locals, and also serve as Vice Presidents of the District Council.  The Executive Board of the District Council thus consists of the four officers elected by the entire membership and the Vice Presidents (local union presidents).  The District Council is governed by a Delegate Assembly which is made up of approximately 60 delegates.  The delegates are elected by the local unions affiliated with the District Council in accordance with the size of their respective memberships, i.e., the larger locals have a greater number of delegates.

5. The only officer who is paid a full-time salary by the District Council is the Executive Director.  The other officers are employed by various agencies with whom the District Council has collective bargaining agreements.  I have been an employee of the New York Association for New Americans (“NYANA”) and a member of Local 215 since 1990.

6. On December 3, 2003, I was laid off from NYANA.  The Union filed a class action grievance against NYANA challenging my layoff and the layoff of approximately 60 other NYANA employees.  The Union is seeking the reinstatement of all the laid off employees.  The last arbitration hearing in this matter was held in September 2004, and a decision is pending.  The Union also filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (“the Board”) concerning the layoffs.  The Board deferred its investigation of the charges pending the outcome of the arbitration.

7. At an Executive Board meeting held on January 6, 2004, a motion was made to grant me a stipend while the arbitration concerning my layoff at NYANA was pending.  According to the motion, I would be given an allowance equal to three days’ pay per week.  As reflected in the minutes of the meeting, George advised the Executive Board that he had discussed this issue with the General Counsel of AFSCME and the District Council attorneys, and that he made sure that the action was “legal and proper” and was not in violation of the constitutions.  The motion was passed by the Executive Board.  A copy of the minutes of the January 6, 2004 Executive Board meeting is annexed hereto as Exhibit A.

8. The resolution passed by the Executive Board on January 6, 2004 is entitled “Brenda Stokely Allowance for Service on the Board.”  A copy of the resolution is annexed hereto as Exhibit B.

9. After the Executive Board meeting, George sent a memorandum to David Ocasio, the Financial Director of District Council 1707, advising him that I was to receive an allowance of $47,000 per year with monthly and weekly expense allowances, effective January 7, 2004.  A copy of this memorandum, dated January 8, 2004, is annexed hereto as Exhibit C.  Pursuant to the vote of the Executive Board and George’s memorandum, I began receiving an allowance from the District Council, and I continued to perform my duties as President.

10. Payment of such an allowance to a District Council officer is specifically provided for in the District Council constitution and has been done on a number of occasions in the past.  Article VIII, Section 2 of the District Council constitution expressly provides that “such payments shall not bar them from their respective offices.”  Article VIII, Section 2 in pertinent part provides:

Except as specifically provided in this constitution, the  acceptance of any full-time salaried employment with the council or with the International Union by any board  member shall automatically and immediately vacate such office.  Reimbursement of lost time, stipends or per diem allowances for functioning on any council or International Union instrumentality shall not be deemed salaried employ- ment but must be promptly reported to the executive board and recorded in its minutes.  The executive board may make such allowances to the board members for their service on  the board as it deems proper and pay compensation to the executive director as authorized in this constitution and such  payments shall not bar them from their respective offices. A copy of the District Council constitution is annexed hereto as Exhibit D.

11.  At least two former officers of District Council 1707 were given allowances by the Executive Board and continued to serve in their respective offices.  Bettye Roberts, who became president of the District Council in the 1970’s, was employed by a day care center.  When the day care center closed, Roberts lost her job.  She was then given a five-day per week allowance by the Executive Board which she continued to receive until the mid-1990’s.  In or around 1996, Roberts became ill and was unable to perform her duties.  The Executive Board voted to discontinue her allowance, and at some point thereafter, she resigned as president.  The minutes of the January 6, 2004 Executive Board meeting, and the written resolution granting me an allowance, both indicate that the Executive Board was using the allowance previously given to Roberts as a guide to determine the amount of the allowance that I would receive.  See Exhibit A, p. 3 and Exhibit B.  A former District Council treasurer, Michael Melrod, was also given an allowance by the District Council in the 1990’s after he retired from his employment.  Melrod, like Roberts, received a five-day per week allowance while serving as treasurer.

12. On January 14, 2005, I was given a memorandum from George in reference to the “President’s Position.”  In the memorandum, George stated that it had “been brought to [his] attention that we are in violation of our constitution.”  Pointing specifically to Article VIII, Section 2 and Article X, Section 12 of the District Council constitution, George stated that by “accepting employment” with the District Council, I had “automatically vacated the office [of president].”  A copy of the January 14, 2005 memorandum is annexed hereto as Exhibit E.  I asked George who it was that brought this alleged violation to his attention, and he responded that it was not important for me to know.

13. George is plainly incorrect in his assertion that Article VIII, Section 2 requires that I vacate the office of president.  In fact, as explained above, that section of the constitution expressly provides that officers may be granted an allowance by the Executive Board and that such payments “shall not bar them from their respective offices.”  George’s citation to Article X, Section 12 is disingenuous.  That section pertains to staff members or employees of the District Council who receive a salary – not to officers who are granted allowances by the Executive Board.  Because acceptance of an allowance by an officer is expressly permitted by the District Council constitution, because it has been a practice of the District Council to provide such allowances to officers, and because I had been receiving the allowance and performing my duties as president for the previous year – based on the Executive Board resolution – I refused to vacate the office of president.

14. On January 19, 2005, I received a memorandum from Jeannette Pringle, the District Council secretary, stating that a “special Executive Board Meeting” had been called for January 22, 2005.  The memorandum set forth just one agenda item for the meeting:  “Vacancy in the position of President.”  A copy of the memorandum is annexed hereto as Exhibit F.  The Executive Board meeting was convened at 9:00 a.m. on January 22, 2005 at the District Council offices.  A number of officers and delegates from various locals were also in attendance. Those individuals asserted that (a) Pringle’s calling of an Executive Board meeting was itself a violation of the District Council constitution because the constitution provided that only the president could call special Executive Board meetings, and (b) that George’s attempt to remove me from office was unconstitutional as well.  George sought, unsuccessfully, to have everyone who was not an Executive Board member leave the meeting.  The meeting ended within an hour; a  number of Board members went into George’s office and others went to either a treasurers’ or shop stewards’ training, both of which were being held at the District Council that day.  No action was taken at the meeting.  Subsequently, George attempted to re-convene the Executive Board meeting in his office.  I could not be present because I was leading the shop steward training.  However, I am advised by Board member Elizabeth Studdivant that there continued to be dissension on the Board over my purported removal, and that no motions were made and no action was taken by the Board.

15. A meeting of the Delegate Assembly was held on January 25, 2005.  At that meeting, a motion was made by Zela Scott, a delegate, that I remain in office because my removal as president was illegal and unconstitutional.  The vote on this motion was 18 in favor, 21 against, with 2 abstentions.

16. George subsequently directed Ocasio to remove me from payroll.  This is reflected in a January 25, 2005 memorandum from Ocasio to George.  A copy of the memorandum is annexed hereto as Exhibit G.

17. By letter dated January 26, 2005, George informed me that my status as a “paid staff person with DC 1707” was being terminated that day.  A copy of this letter is annexed hereto as Exhibit H.

18. By letter dated January 26, 2005, George advised me that the Executive Board, at a meeting on January 22, 2005, and the Delegate Assembly, at a meeting on January 25, 2005, had “declared that the office of President is vacant.”  Accordingly, George stated, I was “no longer President of the Council and no longer a member of the Delegate Assembly.”  In addition, George advised me that I was “not to be involved in any negotiations for any agency except for those pertaining to NYANA” and that I was “not to represent to any organizations that [I had] the authority to represent DC 1707.”  A copy of this letter is annexed hereto as Exhibit I.

19. The reason for my removal from office had nothing to do with the District Council constitution.  The pertinent provisions of the constitution have not changed for decades, and the District Council officers, including George, are familiar with them.  As reflected in the minutes of the January 6, 2004 Executive Board meeting, George and the other members of the Executive Board were well aware that previous officers had been granted an allowance by the Executive Board and continued to serve as officers.  By his own admission, George checked the constitutions, and reviewed the matter with counsel for the District Council and counsel for AFSCME prior to the January 6, 2004 vote by the Executive Board.  He assured the Executive Board that it was “proper and legal to do.”  See Exhibit A, p. 3.

20. My removal from office is based solely on politics.  As president of District Council 1707, I have been very outspoken and I have questioned actions taken by George as Executive Director.  Prior to my removal as president, speculation had arisen that I was going to run against George in the May 2005 election.  Removing me from office was a preemptive act on George’s part to harm me politically and make me a less effective candidate in the 2005 election.  Some of the matters on which George and I have clashed are the following:

a. The matter of George’s salary.  At one point in 2003, George proposed to increase his salary from $70,000 per year to $150,000 per year, and to make it retroactive to May 2002.  I openly opposed this increase – particularly since the union was in debt at the time and many of our members were without a contract.  The Executive Board ultimately agreed to raise his salary to $100,000 per year.

b. More recently, in September 2004, I was critical of George for his “inaction” at an AFSCME Executive Council meeting in Washington, D.C.  I went to the Executive Council meeting in Washington, D.C. in order to urge the Council to endorse the Million Worker March (“MWM”), an event with which I was very actively involved and for which I served as co-Northeast Regional organizer.  District Council 1707 had previously endorsed the MWM, and had submitted a resolution for the International Union to endorse the march at the AFSCME convention in June 2004.  That resolution, among others, had been sent to a committee and was to be dealt with at the Executive Council meeting.  George, who as an International Vice President is a member of the Executive Council and is therefore allowed to speak at Council meetings, was supposed to speak in support of the endorsement when it came up for discussion.  However, at the time the matter was raised George was asleep in his seat.  The Executive Council effectively voted against an endorsement of the MWM (by voting to uphold all of the AFSCME committee recommendations which included a recommendation against an endorsement).  I woke George and explained what had occurred, and he subsequently raised an objection as to how the vote was handled.  The matter was reopened, and I was allowed to speak on it.  The Executive Council voted against an endorsement anyway, but I believe that George was embarrassed by the incident.

c. In November 2004, George called a special meeting of various officers and delegates, without my prior knowledge, to discuss bringing charges against me for making “inappropriate” credit card charges in connection with the rental of buses for the MWM.  I learned of the meeting from another officer who was invited.  When I was “summoned” to the meeting over the Union’s public address system, I brought documentation demonstrating that nothing inappropriate had been done.  No charges were ever brought against me.

d. In the fall of 2004, Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union (“TWU”) was involved in a battle to prevent the Metropolitan Transit Authority from closing fare booths and laying off transit workers.  At my invitation, a representative of the TWU spoke at the November meeting of the Delegate Assembly, and over half the delegates volunteered to assist the TWU by distributing fliers, attending rallies and organizing community meetings.  In December 2004, the MWM organizing committee distributed a flier calling for informational picketing in support of the transit workers and general riding public at the office of the MTA Chairman.  The leaflet indicated that people could contact District Council 1707 about the picketing.  Although I had been involved with the MWM organizing committee, I was out of town at the time and unaware of the leaflet, but George believed that I had approved it.  On December 15, 2004, without ever asking whether I was involved with the leaflet, George sent me a memorandum “instructing” me to remove 1707’s name and phone number from any literature to be distributed by the MWM or any other organization unless it received Executive Board approval.  A copy of the December 15, 2004 memorandum is annexed hereto as Exhibit J.  I advised George that I was not his employee and he was not my boss, and that he was not to write letters “instructing” me to do anything.  George responded that he was indeed my boss.

e. In December 2004, George terminated two staff employees, including the Assistant Director in charge of research.  Such actions would normally be reported to the Executive Board.  However, at the January 4, 2005 Executive Board meeting, George said nothing about these terminations.  I asked him several times if he had anything to report and he responded that he did not.  I finally raised the matter myself, indicating that I had concerns about the discharges.  George responded that he fired them and did not need to explain why.  (George also made no mention at the January 4, 2005 Board meeting of there being any problem with my serving as president at the same time that I received an allowance – as I had been doing for the previous year.)

21. My removal as president will be detrimental  not just to me, but to the entire union.  It deprives the members of the services of the individual who they freely elected as president – without a vote by the members who elected me, without any misconduct on my part, without any disciplinary charges, and without any due process at all.

22. My removal from office will also have a deleterious effect on the specific matters in which I was involved as president.  For example, I was deeply involved in the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement with the Federation of Employment Guidance Services (“FEGS”), a multi-purpose non-profit social services agency with approximately 1,900 Union employees.  FEGS is the largest agency with which Local 215 has a contract, and its contract sets the precedent for the industry.  I was part of the Union negotiating committee and, as the former president of Local 215, I was heavily relield on by the negotiating team and the District Council staff representative.  We had held six bargaining sessions with FEGS since November 2004, and a bargaining session was scheduled for January 31, 2005, the day the contract expired.  However, after I was removed from office George cancelled that session.  It is my understanding that George now intends to lead the negotiations, despite the fact that he has not attended any of the previous sessions.  Although as Executive Director he has the right to lead the negotiations, George has no particular knowledge of this agency or the members’ concerns or the key issues involved in the negotiation.

23. My removal from office will undoubtedly have the effect that George intended.  I will have far less ability to communicate with the members, I will no longer be in the “public eye” with respect to the District Council, and, in the eyes of many members, my image will be tarnished as having been summarily “removed” from office.  Nominations for the May 2005 election are going to be held on March 22, 2005.  I have already been harmed as a prospective candidate by my removal.  Every day that I am not allowed to serve as the duly elected president of District Council 1707 will hurt my candidacy more.

24. George’s action in removing me from office should be overturned by the court because it violates the District Council constitution, the AFSCME constitution and the LMRDA.  It violates the District Council constitution because Article VIII, Section 2 expressly provides that officers may be granted an allowance by the Executive Board, as I was, and such payments shall not bar them from their respective offices.  It violates the LMRDA because that federal law prohibits a union from infringing a member’s right of free expression.  George took action against me because of my perceived criticism of him and his concern that I was going to run against him in the upcoming election.  His action violates my LMRDA rights and the rights of the union members who elected me to a three year term of office.  Finally, it violates the constitution of the International Union because the AFSCME constitution has adopted a “Bill of Rights for Union Members” which, like the LMRDA, provides that members “shall suffer no impairment of freedom of speech concerning the operations of this union.”  Removing me from office before the end of my term solely because of my political opposition to the Executive Director constitutes a flagrant impairment of my freedom of speech.

WHEREFORE, your declarant requests that the court issue an order directing Raglan George and District Council 1707 to reinstate me to the office of President of District Council 1707 pending a final determination of this action.

Dated:     February 11, 2005
New York, New York

______________________________
Brenda Stokely

2005.02.04: Stokely v. George Complaint

[Original format: Stokely.complaint]

LEWIS, CLIFTON & NIKOLAIDIS, P.C.
Daniel E. Clifton, Esq. (DC 0632)
275 Seventh Avenue, Suite 2300
New York, New York 10001-6708
Telephone:   (212) 419-1500
Attorneys for Plaintiffs

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
————————————————————–x
BRENDA STOKELY, CHUCK MOHAN
and GLORIA JACKSON,

Plaintiffs,

-against-

                                                                                                                                                                                                                         COMPLAINT

RAGLAN GEORGE, JR., individually and as
Executive Director of District Council 1707,
AFSCME, AFL-CIO, and DISTRICT COUNCIL
1707, AFSCME, AFL-CIO,

Defendants.

                                                                                                   JURY DEMAND

————————————————————–x

Plaintiffs Brenda Stokely, Chuck Mohan and Gloria Jackson, by their attorneys, Lewis, Clifton & Nikolaidis, P.C., as and for their Complaint against defendants, allege as follows:

NATURE OF ACTION

1. This is an action for injunctive relief and damages.  Plaintiff Brenda Stokely is a member of District Council 1707, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (“District Council 1707” or “ the Union”) who was summarily removed from her elected position as president of District Council 1707 by reason of her political opposition to the policies of the Executive Director of District Council 1707, in violation of the District Council constitution, the International constitution and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (“LMRDA”), 29 U.S.C. § 411 et seq.  Plaintiffs seek the immediate reinstatement of Stokely to her position as president.

JURISDICTION

2. Jurisdiction is conferred on this court pursuant to Section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 185(a) and Section 102 of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 412.  Venue lies in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York because the principal office of District Council 1707 is located in New York County.

PARTIES

3. Plaintiff Brenda Stokely is a member in good standing of Local 215, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (“Local 215”), which is affiliated with District Council 1707.  Stokely resides at 116 Cambridge Street, Brooklyn, New York.

4. Plaintiff Chuck Mohan is a member in good standing of Local 253, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (“Local 253”), which is affiliated with District Council 1707.  Mohan resides at 1245 Park Avenue, New York, New York.

5. Plaintiff Gloria Jackson is a member in good standing of Local 205, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (“Local 205”), which is affiliated with District Council 1707.  Jackson resides at 620 Lenox Avenue, New York, New York.

6. Defendant District Council 1707 is a labor organization as that term is defined in Section 2(5) of the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. § 152(5) and Section 3(i) of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 402(i).  The principal office of District Council 1707 is located at 75 Varick Street, New York, New York.

7. Defendant Raglan George, Jr. is the Executive Director of District Council 1707, and resides in New Jersey.

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

8. District Council 1707 is comprised of, and oversees the operation of, seven local unions which represent employees of non-governmental social service agencies in New York State and New Jersey.  The District Council and its seven local unions are affiliated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (“AFSCME” or “International Union”).

9. District Council 1707 is governed in its operations by the District Council constitution and the constitution of the International Union.  The District Council constitution and the International Constitution are both “contracts between … labor organizations” within the meaning of Section 301(a) of the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a).

10.  Pursuant to Article VI of the District Council constitution, four District Council officers are directly elected by the entire membership – President, Secretary, Executive Director, and Treasurer.  The presidents of the constituent local unions are elected by the members of their own locals, and by reason of their office in the local unions, serve as Vice Presidents of the District Council.  The Executive Board of the District Council consists of the four officers elected by the entire membership and the Vice Presidents (local union presidents).  The District Council is governed by a Delegate Assembly which is comprised of delegates who are elected by the seven local unions affiliated with the District Council.

11. The only District Council officer who is paid as a full-time employee by the District Council is the Executive Director.  The other officers are employed by various agencies with whom the District Council has collective bargaining agreements.  Stokely has been an employee of the New York Association for New Americans (“NYANA”) and a member of Local 215 since 1990.

12.  In May 2002, Stokely ran for president of District Council 1707 as part of a reform slate which challenged the incumbent officers, and, pursuant to Article VI, Section 1(a) of the District Council constitution, was elected to a three year term of office which was supposed to expire on May 17, 2005.  Plaintiffs Mohan and Jackson supported and voted for Stokely in the May 2002 election.

13. On December 3, 2003, Stokely was laid off from NYANA.  The Union filed a class action grievance against NYANA challenging Stokely’s layoff and the layoff of approximately 60 other NYANA employees.  The Union is seeking the reinstatement of all the laid off employees.  The last arbitration hearing in this matter was held in September 2004, and a decision is pending.  The Union also filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (“the Board”) concerning the layoffs.  The Board deferred its investigation of the charges pending the outcome of the arbitration.

14. At a meeting held on January 6, 2004, the District Council Executive Board passed a motion granting Stokely an allowance while the arbitration concerning the NYANA layoff was pending, in the amount of three days’ pay per week.

15. Commencing January 7, 2004, Stokely began receiving the said allowance from the District Council in accordance with the aforesaid motion, and she continued to perform her duties as president.

16. Payment of such an allowance to a District Council officer is specifically provided for in the District Council constitution.  Article VIII, Section 2 of the District Council constitution provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Except as specifically provided in this constitution, the  acceptance of any full-time salaried employment with the council or with the International Union by any board  member shall automatically and immediately vacate such office.  Reimbursement of lost time, stipends or per diem allowances for functioning on any council or International Union instrumentality shall not be deemed salaried employment but must be promptly reported to the executive board and recorded in its minutes.  The executive board may make such allowances to the board members for their service on  the board as it deems proper and pay compensation to the executive director as authorized in this constitution and such  payments shall not bar them from their respective offices.

17.  Payment of an allowance to officers of District Council 1707 while they continue to serve in their respective offices has been a past practice of the Union.  In the 1980’s and 1990’s, two District Council officers – Bettye Roberts, a former president, and Michael Melrod, a former treasurer – each received a five-day per week allowance from the District Council after they had separated from their agency employment, and they both continued to serve as District Council officers.

18. On January 14, 2005, Stokely was given a memorandum from George advising her that by accepting compensation from the District Council she had vacated the office of president.  In the said memorandum, George incorrectly asserted that Article VIII, Section 2 of the District Council constitution required that Stokely vacate the office of president, when, in fact, Article VIII, Section 2 expressly permits an officer to accept an allowance if granted by the Executive Board.

19. At a meeting of the Delegate Assembly on January 25, 2005, a motion was made by Zela Scott, a delegate, that Stokely remain in office on the grounds that her removal as president was illegal and unconstitutional.  By a vote of 18 in favor and 21 against, with 2 abstentions, the motion was defeated.

20. By letter dated January 26, 2005, George advised Stokely that the Executive Board, at a meeting on January 22, 2005, and the Delegate Assembly, at a meeting on January 25, 2005, had “declared that the office of President is vacant.”  In his letter, George further advised Stokely that she was “no longer President of the Council and no longer a member of the Delegate Assembly;” that she was “not to be involved in any negotiations for any agency except for those pertaining to NYANA;” and that she was “not to represent to any organizations that [she had] the authority to represent DC 1707.”

21. The actual reason for Stokely’s removal from office was based solely on politics.  As president of District Council 1707, Stokely was outspoken and frequently questioned actions taken by George as Executive Director.  Prior to her removal as president, speculation had arisen that she was going to run against George in the May 2005 election.  Removing Stokely from office was a preemptive act on George’s part to harm her politically and make her a less effective candidate in the 2005 election.

22. With respect to George, Stokely has, among other things:

a. Opposed George’s proposal in 2003 to increase his own salary from $70,000 per year to $150,000 per year, and to make it retroactive to May 2002.

b. Criticized George for his “inaction” at an AFSCME Executive Council meeting in September 2004, at which George was supposed to urge the Council to endorse the Million Worker March (“MWM”).

c. Openly questioned George’s termination of two staff employees, Chuck Mohan and Gloria Jackson, in December 2004; and

d. Challenged George’s mistaken belief that Stokely, as Union President, is subordinate to the Executive Director.

23. With respect to Stokely, George has, in recent months:

Called a special meeting of various officers and delegates in November 2004, without Stokely’s prior knowledge, to discuss bringing charges against her for making “inappropriate” credit card charges in connection with the rental of buses for the MWM.  After Stokely was “summoned” to the meeting and presented documentation demonstrating that nothing inappropriate had been done, no charges were brought against her.

b. Falsely accused Stokely, in a memorandum dated December 15, 2004, of indicating in a flier that District Council 1707 was a contact for the MWM organizing committee, and purported to “instruct” her not to use the District Council’s name and address without authorization.

24. Stokely’s removal as president of the District Council deprives Stokely, Mohan, Jackson and all other Union members of the services of the individual who they elected as president – without a vote by the members, without any allegation of misconduct on her part, without any disciplinary charges having been filed, and without any due process at all.

25. Stokely’s removal from office will have a deleterious effect on the specific matters in which she was involved as president, including the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement with the Federation of Employment Guidance Services (“FEGS”), the largest agency with which Local 215 has a contract, and whose contract sets the precedent for the industry.

26. As a result of her removal from office, Stokely will have far less ability to communicate with the members and, in the eyes of many members, her image will be tarnished as having been summarily “removed” from office.  Stokely’s  removal from office has harmed , and will continue to harm, her as a prospective candidate in officer elections scheduled for May 2005.

AS AND FOR A FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION

27. Plaintiffs repeat and reallege each and every allegation contained in paragraphs 1 through 26 as if fully set forth herein.

28. By removing Stokely from her elected position as president of District Council 1707 prior to the expiration of her term of office, defendants violated Articles VI and VIII of the District Council constitution.

AS AND FOR A SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION

29. Plaintiffs repeat and reallege each and every allegation contained in paragraphs 1 through 28 as if fully set forth herein.

30. By removing Stokely from her elected position as president of District Council 1707 in retaliation for her political views, defendants violated the rights of Stokely, Mohan, Jackson, and the entire membership of District Council 1707, under Section 101(a)(2) of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(2).

31. By their aforesaid actions, defendants acted in wanton disregard of plaintiffs’ rights under the LMRDA.

AS AND FOR A THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION

32. Plaintiffs repeat and reallege each and every allegation contained in paragraphs 1 through 31 as if fully set forth herein.

33. The “Bill of Rights for Union Members” incorporated into the AFSCME constitution provides, in pertinent part, that “Members shall suffer no impairment of freedom of speech concerning the operations of this union.”

34. By removing Stokely from her elected position as president of District Council 1707 in retaliation for her political views, defendants violated the “Bill of Rights for Union Members,” as set forth in the AFSCME constitution.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, plaintiffs pray that this court enter judgment against defendants Raglan and District Council 1707 as follows:

a. Voiding the action taken by defendants in removing Stokely as president of District Council 1707;

Ordering defendants to reinstate Stokely as president of District Council 1707 for the remainder of her three year term of office;

c.  Granting compensatory damages to Stokely for the monetary allowance she lost by reason of defendants’ actions;

d. Granting plaintiffs an award of punitive damages;

Granting plaintiffs an award of attorney’s fees and litigation expenses; and

Granting plaintiffs such other and further relief as the court deems just and proper.

JURY DEMAND

Plaintiffs demand a trial by jury on all issues herein.

Dated:     February 14, 2005
York, New York

LEWIS, CLIFTON & NIKOLAIDIS, P.C.

By: ___________________________________
Daniel E. Clifton  (DC 0632)
Attorneys for Plaintiffs
275 Seventh Avenue, Suite 2300
New York, New York 10001-6708
(212) 419-1500