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WGA launches labor-law probe

Gould to investigate formal claims against recent vote

This story was updated on Oct. 27, 2003.

The WGA West board has tapped the former head of the Natl. Labor Relations Board to probe allegations of federal labor law violations in its most recent election.

William B. Gould IV, who headed the NLRB between 1994 and 1998 and is on the law school faculty at Stanford U., will report findings to the board on Dec. 19.

The decision by the board to assign the probe to Gould came in response to a formal protest to the conduct of the election by WGA member Ronald Parker, who had endorsed challenger Eric Hughes in the campaign to unseat incumbent president Victoria Riskin.

“We take this complaint seriously,” said Cheryl Rhoden, assistant executive director of the WGA West, in a statement issued Monday. “The Board held a Special Board Meeting on October 14, 2003 to discuss this matter. The right of any member to challenge the outcome of an election is part of the Guild’s normal democratic process.”

Parker’s complaint listed more than a dozen instances of alleged violations, most of which involved improper use of Guild resources such as affording incumbents campaigning opportunities in union publications or failure to follow rules such as notifying members that they could run for offices.

“I think that an honest assessment of the violations cited in this letter would indicate that the Guild has engaged in, and continues to engage in, a systematic effort to keep power in the same hands,” Parker said in his Oct. 6 complaint to the Guild’s outside counsel.

Hughes did not initially seek the post but was tapped in June by the guild’s nominating committee. During the campaign, he contended Riskin had been in jeopardy of losing her active status earlier this year; Riskin said she took a break from writing before winning the presidency two years ago and contends that serving in the post has taken up much of her time.

After their candidacies were announced in June, Hughes and Riskin agreed subsequently to not engage in negative campaigning and to not send out any mailings. Hughes contends Riskin then violated that pledge by sending out an email listing her endorsers, but Riskin said she told Hughes in advance that she would take such a step.

About 18% of the WGA West’s 7,600 eligible members voted in the election, with Riskin winning by a 2-1 margin.

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