U.S. Attorney say’s Port police union, Local 1456 must hold a fair election

The U.S. Attorney’s Office today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey to compel Port Police and Security Guards Union, Local 1456, to hold a fair election under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959.

The lawsuit alleges that Local 1456 established bylaws for the election of union officers that rendered 98 percent of the union’s membership ineligible to be elected to leadership positions.

The suit alleges that any union member who missed the union’s September 2021 meeting – more than a year before the election – was rendered ineligible by that fact alone.

The suit alleges that Local 1456’s officers disqualified at least four individuals who were or sought to be nominated at its nomination meeting on Nov. 1, 2022.

Click to open letter, announcing union elections for 2023.

A slate of five officers – four of whom had voted to disqualify candidates who might have opposed them – was then elected unopposed.

A member of the union, Vincent Rotondo proposed reducing the number of regular meetings at which attendance is required for an individual to qualify as a candidate in a subsequent union election from five to three.

That proposal was rejected by a two to one vote of the membership and Rotondo was subsequently denied eligibility to seek election as a union official.

On October 18, 2022, Rotondo sent an email to ISOPGU’s International Executive Board seeking to appeal Defendant’s denial of his request for an exemption to the Meeting Attendance Requirement, writing in part that he was seeking an exemption due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that the limited number of candidates was undemocratic.

On October 31, 2022, Special Hearing Officer Timothy Hott—whom the International had designated to decide Rotondo’s appeal— sent him a letter denying the appeal and informing him that, “[s]ince you do not meet the eligibility requirements you are not eligible to be nominated or run for office in Local 1456 in the 2022 Local 1456 election.”

In January, Rotondo had complained that the contract negotiated by union officials was inadequate to keep pace with 40-year record high inflation rates.

At the time of the 2022 nominating meeting, Local 1456 had 249 members but only five members were eligible to be candidates in the 2022 election.

The Meeting Attendance Requirement rendered ninety-eight percent of union’s membership—or 244 out of 249 members—ineligible to be a candidate in the 2022 election.

One incumbent officer, Armando Saverino, and three others including Sam Dokus, Kevin Serras, were members in good standing nominated for a union officer position

Five eligible candidates were nominated and, determining that they were unopposed, those five were declared elected by acclamation.

Mohamed Arbab was nominated for President, Matthew Sarrao was nominated for Vice-President, Pedro Sousa was nominated for Recording Secretary, Richard Rossiello was nominated for STBA, and James Valdes was nominated for Sergeant-at-Arms.

Arbab, Sarrao, Sousa, and Rossiello were incumbent union officers.

Federal law requires that voting is to be held by secret ballot and “every member in good standing shall be eligible to be a candidate and to hold office” but the US Attorney’s Office claims the union violated that statute.

The complaint filed by U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger says, “Defendant violated section 401(e) of the Act, 29 U.S.C. § 481(e), when it maintained and applied a meeting attendance candidacy qualification that was unreasonable as applied to members in the 2022 Election, for a variety of reasons, including that: (a) it required candidates to attend a September 2021 meeting over a year before the 2022 election; (b) it required candidates to attend at least five out of ten meetings over a fifteen-month period; (c) it did not permit candidates to attend any five meetings, but required one meeting each quarter; (d) it provided a limited excuse provision that was administered by the incumbent officers; and (e) it rendered ninety-eight percent of its membership ineligible to be a candidate and to hold office.”

The US Attorney’s complaint seeks to void the election of officers, conduct a new election for those offices under federal supervision, and make the union pay the expenses.

It was not clear from information provided by Sellinger if union member Vincent Rotondo is related to Vincent ‘Jimmy’ Rotondo, the reputed capo in the DeCavalcante crime family who was killed on January 4, 1988, in a hail of bullets that tore into his head and neck as he sat in a car parked in the street in front his home in the affluent Bergen Beach section of Brooklyn.

The 58-year-old organizer with the International Longshoreman’s Association for 24 years was shot six times and found slumped over the wheel of his late-model Lincoln.

The DeCavalcante crime family, one of seven familes that are active in New Jersey, operates mainly in Elizabeth, Newark, West New York, and various other North Jersey cities.

Longtime member Charles “Big Ears” Majuri is the current boss of the DeCavalcante crime family, which inspired the HBO series The Sopranos.

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