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Friday, December 15, 2006

Ohio Union Chief Ousted As Dud Claims Retaliation, Slander

CHICAGO (TDB) -- The labor union that represents about 50,000 workers in hotels, restaurants, casinos, airports and sports stadiums across the Midwest has terminated the president of an Ohio local after accusing him of performing his duties in a "grossly incompetent manner." The fired union leader now says he was pushed out of office for attempting to protect his local's pension funds, and calls the attack on his leadership slanderous.

A federal judge has been asked to step in and sort out the dispute between the Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board of UNITE HERE and former Local 12 President Dennis Hyden, who filed suit Nov. 30 in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati claiming he was defamed and shoved aside for asking too many questions. The local represents workers at the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. UNITE HERE has 450,000 active members across the U.S., and was formed by a 2004 merger between the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union.

Hyden said that, in 2005, officials at the international union tried to ''merge the solvent and well-administered pension fund of Local 12 with the pension fund it controlled, which was substantially less solvent." Hyden opposed the change and consulted a lawyer to see what he could do to stop it. He said a trusteeship took over control of the Cincinnati local. Hyden said the ouster violated his freedom of speech "to express his views, make arguments, and/or express opinions."

Meanwhile, the international accused him of failing to fulfill his duties. The charge said Hyden: "Has performed in a grossly incompetent manner and thereby has threatened the welfare of the Local Union and the Regional Joint Board. Brother Hyden has mishandled the affairs of the workers under contract to HMS host at the Cincinnati airport. Brother Hyden has concealed from the regional Joint Board unfair labor practice charges that have been filed against him at the National Labor Relations Board for failure to represent members. He has done this in defiance of the clear policy of the Regional Joint Board that all such charges must be forwarded to the Managers of the Regional Joint Board and the General Counsel of the Regional Joint Board." He was removed from office a year ago.

Hyden says the charge is false and defamatory and exposed him to contempt and ridicule. He said his four-year term was not scheduled to end until May 2007, and that his annual salary was $45,000 plus a $5.400 car allowance. His lawyers are Robert S. Brown and Stephen R. Felson of Cincinnati and the case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel in Cincinnati. (Southern District of Ohio, 1:06-cv-817.) So far, the international union's lawyers have not filed their response to the lawsuit.

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