Local union wants to know how dues are spent; files suit in federal court

Frustrated with the repeated refusal by union officials to provide basic financial information about union operations, two local unions -  one in San Juan County, the other in Bellingham, have filed suit in Federal District Court in Seattle.

The suit was filed today, Monday, April 15, 2019  in the U.S. District Court in Seattle against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union, and its regional affiliate, Council 2, Washington State Council of County and City Employees (WSCCCE), AFSCME.

Two local unions organized under the AFSCME banner, Local 1849 of San Juan County and Local 114 of Bellingham, as well as Union members Colin Maycock, who is the President of Local 1849 and who also serves as a member of Council 2’s Executive Board, and Jael Komac, who likewise serves as President of Local 114, filed suit alleging Union officials have deliberately withheld critical financial information from the Union’s rank-and-file membership.

Council 2’s repeated refusal to provide its members with basic information concerning the Union’s operations appears to be designed to conceal the self-enrichment of and mismanagement by Council 2’s executives and key employees. The lawsuit raises questions about the existence of a systemic culture of secrecy and calls into serious question AFSCME’s financial dealings and fiduciary responsibility. Among other remedies, the lawsuit requests that the Federal District Court order the Defendants to immediately produce the financial information requested by the Plaintiffs pursuant to the Union Constitution and in conformity with federal labor law.

“The Complaint arises from the leadership of Council 2’s repeated refusal to furnish Mr. Maycock with information about the Union’s finances that he, as an elected member of Council 2’s Executive Board, had to evaluate in order to cast an informed vote on the budget. Mr. Maycock repeatedly made clear requests for this information; but, AFSCME just wanted a rubber stamp. It leaves you scratching your head and wondering what is it that they are trying to hide?” said Nick Power one of the Plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Jamie Grifo, another of Plaintiffs’ attorneys, commented, “The AFSCME Bill of Rights is designed to ensure that all Union members are adequately informed. This is so that each of them can provide input about how their dues are to be spent and to be able to decide for themselves whether the Union is working for them. Moreover, the basic principles of democracy and transparency — which the Union claims to be two of its core values — obligate the Defendants to provide the information sought by Plaintiffs in this lawsuit.”

President of Local 114, Ms. Komac, noted “AFSCME collects over $9 million annually in dues from the members of Council 2, yet the annual budget for representing these workers’ grievances during arbitration is just $17,000 – where did all that money go? When we started to notice how many important local grievances were not being pursued, we started to ask if this was happening to other local Unions, or just to us. It turns out other local Unions were having the exact same problem. Council 2’s refusal to give us answers has our members asking just exactly where their dues are going and why.”

Maycock said, “We were shocked when we discovered from IRS records that Dugovich’s total compensation for 2017 was $381,249. So, we asked for current salary data; but, Council 2 has repeatedly refused to disclose information about Dugovich’s salary and benefits and the salaries and benefits enjoyed by other key Council 2 employees.”

“When we asked for this basic information – information to which we have a constitutional right as an AFSCME affiliate -- Council 2 tried to characterize us as anti-employee union busters. But we are not. We believe deeply in our Union and we want our Union to work better for all of its members — not just to serve as a vehicle to enrich the leadership,” Komac said.

Perhaps what is most sinister about all of this is that the Plaintiffs’ requests for information has resulted in retaliation and threats from Council 2’s leadership. Both Maycock and Komac say that they have suffered in response to raising these issues internally. For instance, after Maycock and Local 114 leaders attempted to gain access to Union records, Dugovich sought to ban Maycock from attending a Council 2 Executive Board function and accused him of working on behalf of a right-wing, anti-union organization.

Likewise, Dugovich and other Council 2 staff have disrupted Local 114 meetings, have purposely withheld information about Union election rules and processes, and Council 2 has even threatened to abandon representation of Local 114 altogether. Most recently, Council 2 initiated a retaliatory audit by ironically demanding that Local 114 provide two years’ worth of business records to Council 2 in just two business days.

“I do not understand how a simple request for information about how Union members’ dues are being spent has turned into this situation. Instead of working with Local 114 to ensure that the membership is educated and informed about Council 2’s operations, Council 2 has threatened to terminate our affiliation with AFSCME,” said Komac – adding, “The only thing that is threatening the strength and integrity of our Union is the response that we’ve received from Council 2,”

“Growing up in the United Kingdom, I saw first-hand how important the protections afforded by the labor movement are for its members. I want Local 1849, Local 114, Council 2, and all of AFSCME to thrive and succeed, and my attempts to better understand how our Union operates arises solely from my commitment to make our Union strong and to ensure that it is actually serving each of its members,” said Maycock.

A website with the filings and source documents pertaining to the lawsuit can be found at :www.C2Case.org

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