The longtime president of the nation’s largest Federal-employees union, J. David Cox, after four months under a cloud of denial, was charged with sexually harassing a subordinate, has resigned and forfeited his “right to hold or run for any AFGE-elected office in perpetuity,” according to a statement issued Feb. 28 by the American Federation of Government Employees.
In announcing Mr. Cox’s permanent departure after being on paid leave since late October, the union confirmed it had concluded processing internal charges against Mr. Cox in November but that his resignation would “not affect the investigation being conducted by Working IDEA” nor “alter AFGE’s commitment to process… any future charges filed against Cox pursuant to the AFGE Constitution.”
Kelley to Carry On
National Secretary-Treasurer Dr. Everett B. Kelley, who assumed the post of national president on an acting basis when Mr. Cox went on leave, is now serving out the remainder of his term, which runs through the summer.
The union forced Mr. Cox to step down last fall in response to allegations to which Bloomberg News sought a response.
Its initial story last October involved charges made by former AFGE Communications Director Brett Copeland that in April 2017, at a union get-together in Palm Springs, Ca., Mr. Cox invited him to his hotel room "to check out his Jacuzzi" and repeatedly professed his love for the aide, who was 35 years younger than him.
Mr. Copeland resigned his position and lodged a complaint with union officials including General Counsel David Borer, but later decided not to follow through out of concern that the publicity would damage the union, which had been gearing up for a battle with the Trump Administration on behalf of its members that is still continuing.
Last Nov. 14, Bloomberg News published an in-depth article entitled “Harassment, Culture of Fear Flourished at Federal Union, Staff Say.”
“People in positions of power at AFGE have failed for years to deal with complaints about inappropriate behavior, bullying or bias, leaving workers and union members frustrated and anxious, dozens of current and former staff and members say,” the story reported.
It asserted that “the alleged misconduct by Cox was just the highest-profile example of the yawning gap between the organization’s public persona as a champion of worker rights and the way it treated its own people.”
Justyn Brown a sergeant at arms for AFGE Local 2094, which represents U.S. Veterans Administration workers in Manhattan, said he was happy about Mr. Cox’s departure.
“This does clear the air for us,” he said in an interview. “It makes it hard when you are out there trying to organize, and these kinds of things are floating around.”
He continued, “I want to say 2014 to 2016 there were always allegations around about improprieties, but we didn’t have the actual evidence or the proof behind it so it was a situation where we felt maybe there were people who were influencing from the outside as another way to bring down the labor movement and we will throw allegations up against your leaders and that will discredit you in the public eye.”
“Once news reports started officially coming out, I think it created an atmosphere where more people felt like their veracity would be trusted as far as things that were coming out,” he said.
Mr. Brown said, that despite the Cox affair, the union had made substantial gains thanks to the union’s national and regional leadership, which included 12 weeks of paid family leave and a 3.1-percent pay increase.
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