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A.F.T. Sues D.C. Affiliate in Effort To Force New Elections

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The American Federation of Teachers last week took the unusual step of going to federal court to force its District of Columbia affiliate to hold new leadership elections.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, the A.F.T. alleges that Jimmie C. Jackson, the president of the Washington Teachers Union, and her executive board have deliberately stonewalled efforts to hold new elections for officers following the invalidation of the local's elections held last summer.

In failing to assist efforts to hold a new round of voting, the suit claims, the local's leadership has defied both the national organization, which has been pushing for new elections since last fall, and the local's own membership, which last month passed a resolution demanding that its officers promptly cooperate with the A.F.T.

"These officers continue to benefit from their unlawful conduct, remaining in office by virtue of an improper election, while time is running out on the duration of the term of office for which the 1993 election was held,'' the suit asserts.

The suit asks the court to order the local to cooperate with efforts to hold a new round of voting by providing membership lists and other documents and by assisting the independent agency retained by the A.F.T. to oversee the elections.

If the court does not act, the suit warns, members of the local will be denied voting rights guaranteed under the A.F.T. constitution.

Ms. Jackson did not return phone calls asking for comment.

The suit follows months of effort by the national union to persuade the local to act on its own.

Election Irregularities

Ms. Jackson, who was elected in July 1991, won re-election last summer with 747 votes--124 more than her closest rival.

Soon afterward, however, an arbiter invalidated the entire election, citing numerous irregularities. Candidates were left off the ballot, for example, and members were unable to independently verify the validity of voter rolls.

When the local's leadership refused to abide by the arbiter's decision, members called in the national organization, which affirmed the arbiter's findings in late October and has been calling for new elections ever since.

A.F.T. officials said Ms. Jackson requested election postponements, failed to provide membership lists needed to conduct an election, and did not return calls.

The A.F.T. executive council authorized the suit after concluding that the local's officers "had no intention'' of complying with its directives.

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