LAS VEGAS (CN) - The Laborers International Union of North America Local 872 used an ad hoc literacy test to exclude a member from running for vice president, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez claims in Federal Court.
Two days after denying union member Mark Trujillo the right to run for office, the union took away his post as shop steward, which he had held for 5 years, and the next day his employer fired him, the labor secretary says in the Oct. 13 lawsuit.
In fact, the incumbent slate swept the election because all the opposition candidates were disqualified, the labor secretary says.
The 7-page lawsuit does not mention the word "immigration," but clearly indicates that that was an issue.
"Trujillo did not have his green card or certificate of naturalization with him at the meeting, and presented his California driver's license as proof of residence, which the election judge initially accepted," the labor secretary says in the complaint.
Then the judge rejected the driver's license and told Trujillo to go home and get his birth certificate. It was 11:30 a.m., and the judge said he would be there till 5 p.m.
Ten minutes later, as Trujillo was on his way home, the judge disqualified him "for failing to provide proof of legal residency."
The complaint does not state whether Trujillo is a legal permanent resident (green card holder) or a naturalized citizen. Perez indicates that the fix was in even before the residency issue came up.
Trujillo's fellow union members nominated him to run for vice president of Local 872 at their April 18 nominations meeting in the union hall.
After the meeting, the election judges "required Trujillo to read aloud a provision of the union's constitution to determine whether Trujillo was literate. No other candidate was required to read aloud to assess his literacy," the secretary said.
"Defendant's head election judge indicated on Trujillo's candidacy questionnaire that he was disqualified to run for office because he was not literate."
But Perez says that neither the national union nor its local has "standardized, objective criteria for assessing literacy." Nor did the union ever announce that it had disqualified Trujillo for "failing to pass the literacy test."
Two days later, on April 20, the union took away his post as shop steward, and the next day his employer fired him from a job he had held for more than 5 years.
Perez sued the union under Title IV of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (29 U.S.C. §§ 481-484). He wants the election results for vice president thrown out and a new election held.
The incumbent vice president won the election after Trujillo was disqualified. In fact, "The incumbent slate won the election for every office because all three members of the opposition slate were disqualified," Perez says.
U.S. Attorney Krystal J. Rosse, who filed the complaint for Perez, was not immediately available for comment. Nor were officials for the union.