Union leaders defeat first challengers in more than 20 years -- Gazette.Net


Top leaders of a prominent Montgomery County labor union easily survived a challenge on Wednesday — the organization’s first contested election in more than 20 years.

Gino Renne kept his position as president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994 Municipal and County Government Employees Organization, receiving 860 votes. His opponent, Kevin Becka, had 180 votes.

Two other MCGEO incumbents also won their races.

Secretary-Treasurer Yvette Cuffie had 818 votes, beating Teresa Bennett, who had 200. Nelvin Ransome, who will remain recorder, received 813 votes, compared to 199 for Steven Young.

Becka and Young are correctional officers at Montgomery County Correctional Facility. Bennett is a correctional officer at Montgomery County Detention Center.

They offered different reasons for their runs for union office.

Becka said the union has done well for its members, especially with benefits, but top officials need to have “more of a physical presence.” Until last week, he hadn’t met any of them, he said.

Bennett, though, said she doesn’t think the union does as much as it can for correctional officers — yet it recently raised dues.

During negotiations, the union “doesn’t fight for their people,” she said.

Young criticized the union’s finances. He questioned line-item credit-card expenses and loans listed on a publicly posted annual report, calling for “financial responsibility.”

“It doesn’t pass the smell test to us,” Young said.

But Renne said the challengers’ jabs and allegations are misguided.

Correctional officers in Montgomery County are paid, on average, 25 percent more than the national average, have an excellent pension plan and work in safe facilities.

Renne said the union increased its dues about 35 percent this year to replenish itself after expensive legal battles with Montgomery County over wages and benefits.

A body of 45 members spent two months scrutinizing union finances. Comprehensive financial reports were mailed to all members. At least 16 “revenue enhancement” meetings were held before the membership voted to increase dues, Renne said.

The opposing candidates did not participate in the process, he said.

He said union financial records are reviewed by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service and at the international level of the union.

Insinuations of impropriety are “both bogus and malicious,” Renne said.

Renne called some of the campaign rhetoric against him slanderous. Still, he said, the election was valuable. “It’s healthy every once in a while to engage in the Democratic process,” he said.

The union is required to have an election every three years.

Renne said he became president of an earlier form of the union in 1983.

Members voted in 1993 to break away from a local in Landover and form their own. That year, Renne said, was the last time he faced a contested election.

About 6,000 MCGEO members in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and in Cumberland — where police officers are represented — were eligible to vote in the election.