Guild moves to rerun election after DOL cites technical defects


Acting on a recommendation from the Local Elections Committee, the New York Guild’s Executive Committee on Tuesday authorized the union’s attorney to negotiate with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) over terms for rerunning last November’s election of local officers.

The Executive Committee’s decision came shortly after the DOL, following up on a member’s challenge, notified the Guild of two possible administrative problems that had the statistical potential to affect the outcome of the election for president, secretary-treasurer and all other top officers.  Bill O’Meara and Peter Szekely were re-elected as president and secretary-treasurer, respectively, the only paid posts up for election, while all but one of the candidates on their 24-member slate were elected as well.

While the opposition candidates, Grant Glickson of The Times unit and Tony Barone of Thomson Reuters, announced several months ago that they were dropping their challenge of the election results and working with the current leaders “for the good of the Guild,” a challenge was filed, and eventually appealed to the DOL, by a member who was not a candidate or connected to either campaign.

While not specifically addressing the challenge filed by the member, Jeff Blyskal of the Consumer Reports unit, the DOL recently notified the Guild that during its investigation it found two possible defects in the way the election was conducted:

-- That the intended recipients of 87 of the more than 90 mail-in ballots that were returned to the Guild’s Post Office box as undeliverable – apparently because of  outdated addresses – did not request or receive replacement ballots, and

-- That 50 ballots were not counted because they were not enclosed in the inner secret envelope that was provided with each ballot.

During the vote count on the night of Nov. 13, both slates and the Local Elections Committee agreed not to count ballots that were not placed inside the inner secret ballot envelope, since doing so could violate the sanctity of the secret ballot. In addition, balloting instructions made clear that ballots that were not placed in the inner secret envelope would not be counted.

The DOL said that the combination of those two items could have affected the outcome of the races, where most of the victory margins were between two and three dozen votes. Fewer than one-quarter of the 2,870 ballots that were mailed out were actually mailed back, and 63 of those, including the 50 cited by the DOL, were disqualified for various reasons with the agreement of both campaigns.

On Tuesday, the Local Elections Committee notified local leaders that, in light of the likelihood that the DOL would move to overturn the election on the basis of the two alleged defects it cited, it was recommending a DOL-supervised rerun. The alternative would be litigation, a costly and distracting prospect with an uncertain outcome that would drain resources and distract the Guild from its mission as a workplace advocate for its members. O’Meara and Szekely concurred with the recommendation and brought it before the Local Executive Committee for a vote on Tuesday night.

What this means is that, if the DOL accepts the Guild’s offer of a rerun, it is likely that a new election for all of the positions on last year’s ballot will be held in the near future. The Executive Committee also recommended that the administrative functions related to the election, including ballot counting, be outsourced to an independent outside service, approved by the DOL, to reduce the stress on the Guild’s administrative staff.

“It’s important to note that neither of the alleged defects the Labor Department cited were done to intentionally disenfranchise any group of eligible members, nor did they give an advantage to either campaign,” said  O’Meara. “If the department believes these administrative issues are important enough to merit a new election, we don’t want to waste the Guild’s resources in fighting it.”

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