The strange case of AFGE Local 648

Although AFGE Local 648 in Chicago represents employees of the U.S.Department, its recent history is a convoluted story of financial mismanagement and dissent.
In May 1995, Leroy Ratliff was elected local president, defeating the incumbent, Michael Batts. Bill Wheatley was elected chief steward on Ratliff's ticket, but all other incumbents were reelected.
Upon the request of Ratliff, the new president, the AFGE district office intervened to review the local's financial records dating back to 1991. But the former president, Batts, could not furnish the racords essential for such a review: meetings, budgets, expenditure authorizations. He said no such meetings were held, a violation of union rules which forbid exppenditures without such authorization.
Meanwhile, the union officers hostile to Ratliff, initally refused to let him review financial records and issued checks without his knowledge or authorization. In the dispute between the two sides, each called separate meetings, billed as official local meetings.
The national intervened and put the local under trusteeship. Its investigation confirmed that the basic cause of the internal dispute was the financial mismangement unearthed by Ratliff and Wheatley, his sole ally in the leadership.
But, according to Wheatley, no disciplinary action was ever taken against the offending office holders who were releected in an election in June after the trusteeship was lifted.
Ratliff and Wheatley, in an appeal to the national office, have challenged the election, charging that they were denied the right to mail campaign literature. In a separate action in federal court, they charge that the natinal has failed to take action      those charged with financial improprieties.

September 98