Over 6,000 members of Utility Workers Union of Am. Local 1-2 in N.Y.C., have signed a petition protesting their ousted leader, Joseph Flaherty, and imposition of trusteeship by UWUA’s parent in D.C.. Flaherty’s supporters, claim that Donald E. Wightman, president of the national UWUA engineered a crude power play to push aside an outspoken critic and potential challenger for the presidency. Flaherty intends to renew efforts for a U.S. Dist. Judge to end the trusteeship this month.
Wightman said UWUA took over Local 1-2 and removed Flaherty to rescue it from insolvency and from a leader who was stifling dissent and democracy. Wightman also alleged Flaherty wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on excessive legal fees and inflated payroll. According to Wightman, Flaherty paid a $4,000 weekly retainer to the local’s general counsel, more than $2 million a year for wages and benefits for the local’s 20 full-time officers and more than $200,000 a year for leased cars and auto insurance. Further, Local 1-2 assets have fallen $2.5 million.
Flaherty admitted that the finances were in trouble, but he claimed that they were no worse since he was elected. The main reasons for the local’s financial woes, according to Flaherty, were the drop in membership and the million dollars a year in dues sent to the national UWUA. Flaherty claims he’s frugal. He cut his salary to $95,000 from $100,000 and had officers trade leased luxury cars for Ford Tauruses. He said the staff was smaller than when he started and claimed that when he had the bylaws amended to allow him to reduce the number of officers, the national UWUA union attacked him for trying to force out officers who disagreed with him. “This trusteeship is an outrage. It’s purely political. They could have trusteed me any time, but they only did it after I criticized the national president. If I was a good boy and kept my mouth shut, I’d still be there,” said Flaherty. [N.Y. Times 1/10/99]