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Court Orders New A.F.T. Elections in D.C.

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A U.S. District Court judge last week ordered the District of Columbia affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers to hold new, federally supervised elections for its officers.

Siding with the national union, which had abrogated the previous Washington Teachers Union elections after finding pervasive voting irregularities, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ordered the local to hold new voting for its officers for the 1993-95 term.

The elections are to be supervised by the U.S. Labor Department, with the court retaining jurisdiction until their completion. At the request of lawyers for the Labor Department and the A.F.T., Judge Jackson ordered the voting to be held as soon as possible, with every effort made to complete the elections by the June 24 end of the school district's current year.

The decision marked a turning point in a long struggle by the A.F.T., which took the unusual step of filing the suit against its local after months of seeing its decisions and orders on the matter largely ignored by the president of the W.T.U., Jimmie C. Jackson, and her executive board. (See Education Week, March 23, 1994.)

The disputed elections, held last July, were invalidated last fall after an arbiter found numerous irregularities, such as candidates' names being left off the ballot and members being prevented from independently verifying the validity of voter rolls.

Due-Process Rights 'Waived'

Affirming the arbiter's findings, the national union began calling for new elections in October. But officials said they were stonewalled by the W.T.U. in their efforts to get new voting under way.

In rendering his decision, Judge Jackson contended that the W.T.U. "never formally denied'' that the irregularities in its 1993 election occurred. Moreover, he said, the local failed to demonstrate why it should not heed its parent union's demands.

The judge rejected assertions by lawyers for the W.T.U. that the local was still entitled to hearings on the alleged election irregularities. Observing that the W.T.U. opted to "remain aloof'' from several A.F.T. proceedings offered to allow it to refute the allegations, the judge held that the local "has waived its right to further due process.''

Officials of the W.T.U. were unavailable last week for comment.

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