Association for Union Democracy

Disappointing conclusion to Title 1 case in Bath, ME

In 2008, International Association of Machinists Local S6 in Bath, Maine was a “problem local” for the international. Local President Michael Keenan, first elected in 2001, was outspoken and an occasional critic of IAM district officials; he had complained that one official was receiving improper double pension payments and another was using union funds to finance a personal affair. In accordance with a member vote, he refused to pay out money from the local’s treasury to a fund covering the administrative costs of the union’s political action committee.

The international apparently considered him a thorn in its side and in the 2007 election supported an opposition slate. Keenan was reelected anyway, prompting the IAM to send investigators to look into the election process. These investigators found various technical violations even though, according to Keenan’s supporters, the same rules had been followed as in previous years with no objections. Despite additional IAM oversight, Keenan handily won the rerun in February 2008.

But in March 2008 the international imposed a trusteeship, citing a variety of alleged misdeeds that would likely have been overlooked had they not wanted to oust Keenan from office. Keenan and his slate were replaced with the IAM-supported losing slate and Keenan was hit with a variety of disciplinary charges. Without access to union representation, he was found guilty of a majority of the 15 charges levied against him and barred from holding office for four years; because terms are three years long, this meant an effective ban of two terms.

AUD Director Leon Rosenblatt agreed to take on Keenan’s LMRDA Title 1 case against the IAM, despite the difficulties in challenging trusteeships imposed by international unions on locals. Rosenblatt asserted that Keenan was subjected to retaliatory discharge and denied procedural due process in the disciplinary proceedings for several reasons: the charges had no connection to Keenan’s official duties; he was not allowed reasonable opportunity to confront his accusers; the charges were so vague as to make it impossible to prepare an effective defense; his trial lacked mandated impartiality; and the trial board ignored much of the procedural due process to which he was entitled as a matter of law by the union’s own internal documents.

In a disappointing turn of events, a federal district court granted the union’s motion to dismiss before any proceedings could begin. Rosenblatt and Keenan, acknowledging the difficultyof winning appeals against international unions, do not plan to appeal.

The third election since Keenan’s disciplinary sentence was put in place is coming up soon and he hopes to run again. Just last month, however, the court awarded legal costs to the IAM. IAM is now claiming that Keenan is delinquent in repaying the legal expenses and cannot run because of the deliquency. Rosenblatt and Keenan are attempting to contest the alleged “deliquency” on several grounds. Keenan believes that, should he be allowed to run, his chances of winning are very high.

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