CLEVELAND (TDB) -- A lawsuit that seeks an injunction blocking the scheduled Jan. 1, 2008 merger of the 84,679-member United Transportation Union with the 150,000-member Sheet Metal Workers International Association is now pending in Cleveland federal court. It was moved last week from Illinois. The UTU represents bus drivers, railroad, and mass transit workers nationwide and is based in Cleveland
There is information about the UTU here. And the Sheet Metal Workers here. The merged organization would be known as SMART and remain in the AFL-CIO. The lawsuit was filed by four UTU members and contends UTU President Paul Thompson did not furnish the rank-and-file "with crucial information with which to evaluate the implications of the merger and were forced to cast their ballots in an informational vacuum."
One of the plaintiffs is Roy Arnold, the UTU vice president in charge of the bus driver's department. The lawsuit says that the merger vote was rushed through last summer, and that only 12,097 ballots were cast, with 8,625 favoring the merger. The plaintiffs contend the UTU will be swallowed up by the Sheet Metal Workers.
"Although President Thompson and his staff have portrayed the proposed merger of the UTU with the Sheet Metal Workers as a genuine merger of two unions to create an all new union known as SMART, in fact it would not be a merger in the traditional sense, but rather an acquisition of the UTU by the Sheet Metal Workers, a crucial and material fact that was withheld from the UTU membership who were bombarded by Thompson with pro-merger propaganda during what amounted to a rushed, quickie referendum ratification . . ."
U.S. District Judge David Herndon transferred the case to Cleveland from the courthouse in East St. Louis because the UTU is located on Detroit Avenue in Cleveland. Herndon said several UTU members live in southern Illinois, but explained that it was clear to him that the alleged violations about the voting process had not taken place in his court's jurisdiction.