TWU Progressive Change

HOPING TO HOLD THEIR GROUND: Members of the Progressive Change Slate, seen here after a Jan. 5 campaign rally, are hoping to prevail in eight Transport Workers Union Local 100 contests which they originally won but the union's election monitor ordered rerun based on evidence of cheating that included ballot-harvesting. 

Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Tony Utano's Stand United slate and the Progressive Change challengers are back campaigning for the rerun of eight down-ballot races in the union's Brooklyn Bus Division that were ordered last month by its election monitor.

Ballots went out Jan. 3 and must be returned Jan. 25, with the count scheduled for the next day. Members who didn't receive the mail ballots by Jan. 10 should call the American Arbitration Association at 1-800-529-5218.

Challengers' Gains

Mr. Utano last month won re-election by a comfortable margin, although it was narrower than three years earlier. While his slate swept all the top offices, Progressive Change's Canella Gomez won the race for Rapid Transit Operations vice president and slate members picked up several executive-board seats.

Just over 30 percent of the union's roughly 38,000 members returned mail ballots.

Following challenges to some of the results, election monitor Barbara Deinhardt substantiated charges brought by TA Surface Vice President, J.P. Patafio, who alleged that Progressive Change partisans had "engaged in ballot-harvesting and voter fraud" in the Brooklyn executive-board contests.

Progressive Change slate has appealed her ruling to Local 100's international union and vowed to go to the U.S. Department of Labor if a reversal did not come earlier.

Monitor Found Collusion

Ms. Deinhardt found that Progressive Change members violated the union's prohibitions against soliciting, collecting or marking the ballots of other members. She cited a "large number of two distinct and unusual patterns of voting and the large number of those ballots that were distinctly marked, combined with the testimony of several witnesses about ballot solicitation, collection and/or marking of another member's ballot" by those aligned with Progressive Change.

As a result, Stand United TA Surface executive-board candidates Shawn Greves, Justin Skerritt and Rocky Veltri got rematches against PCS hopefuls Nasar Abdurrahman, Robert Chico and Ronald L. Springer. The other races being rerun are for TA Surface's division chair, 1st vice chair, 2nd vice chair, 3rd vice chair and recording secretary.

In a letter to this newspaper, Car Inspector Joe Campbell with the Progressive Change Slate, called the rerun of the election a "fraud" based on "manufactured" evidence that including witnesses who "appeared anonymously."

In a phone interview, he also questioned the forensic evidence Ms. Deinhardt used to throw out ballots.

'Progressive' Protest

Jan. 5, dozens of Progressive Change boosters protested in front of Local 100's Brooklyn Heights offices, carrying posters that read "our democracy was denied."  

"I am hoping that the margin of victory this go round for my Progressive Change slate is so great it will send a clear message that the members are yearning for the change that set this once proud union in the right direction," said Bus Operator Roberto Martinez, who was narrowly defeated by Mr. Patafio.

"It's important that the members be heard in this re-run election," Mr. Patafio said during a Jan. 7 phone interview. "Last time there was cheating that the neutral monitor found 'contaminated the process.' I urge members to not give their ballot to someone. Execute it in the privacy of your home. Don't encourage cheaters."

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