CLEVELAND (TDB) -- A labor organization claiming 230,000 members when it endorsed Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy two months ago -- and called itself a "newly formed labor powerhouse" -- doesn't actually exist. U.S. District Judge John R. Adams has extended until Feb. 8 a restraining order that halts an Ohio union that represents 84,000 of the nation's bus drivers, railroad and air transit workers from merging with a larger labor organization, the Sheet Metal Workers. There are allegations that some officers of the United Transportation Union in Cleveland withheld data and made misleading statements about the new organization, which was to be known as SMART, an acronym for Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation.
The Daily Bellwether viewed federal court documents on file in the Northern District of Ohio. One of the issues being aired: Details about the merger were distributed over the Internet but the union's bus drivers -- who include large numbers of African Americans -- don't surf the 'net or use home computers. Apparently, railroad and air transit workers are more wired than bus drivers. Dissidents have filed suit contending UTU members didn't receive complete details when a merger referendum was conducted last summer. Arthur Fox, a Washington lawyer who represents UTU members opposing the creation of SMART, contended in a court filing that most of the union's 12,000 bus drivers don't own computers and don't surf the Internet. Thus, they didn't know much about the merger they were asked to authorize.
"As a consequence, only those members who both own computers with high-speed Internet access and who regularly 'surf' that [UTU] website were given access to information, which was not made available to less advantaged members. As as Plaintiff Arnold, the current Vice-President (Bus Division) point out, UTU's 12,000 bus drivers were disproportionately impact since a majority of them do not own computers, much less surf the UTU;s website. Clearly, defendants discriminating between the computer 'haves' and 'have nots' within the union's membership, giving the former group access to merger information while denying to the latter group."