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Labor Council tackles recall force

Letter to supporter of the RVTD recall effort says building owners act unfairly to union

An arm of the powerful AFL-CIO union has threatened to blackball a Medford business that it says is aiding recall efforts against board members of the Rogue Valley Transportation District.

The Southern Oregon Central Labor Council, in a letter dated Dec. 11, says InTransit, Inc. of Medford is allowing a property at 3661 Lear Way to be used as the recall headquarters.

The letter says the company risks being placed on list of businesses that have acted in an unfair manner against the union. The list contains the names of companies such as Wal-Mart and Bi-Mart.

Written by Jim Alexander, president of the council, the letter says the recall effort is being directed against two members of the RVTD board who are also affiliated with the labor council.

The RVTD board members ' Mary Wooding and Carol Bennett ' are two of five board members who are the subject of the recall.

Recall supporters say they have about 4,000 of the 6,810 signatures required by Jan. 13 to force a vote.

In the letter, Alexander says, You will be required to answer the charges and show cause why the Southern Oregon Central Labor Council should not put you on the Oregon AFL-CIO Unfair List.

Recall supporter Gwen Johnson, whose husband is president of InTransit, fired a letter back to the labor council on Dec. 13 denouncing the threatening letter.

Johnson, who said she wasn't aware until Tuesday that InTransit was still listed as the owner on the county's tax records, said the company hasn't been at the Lear Way address for about a year and a half. She said she believed the owners of the building are her husband, John Johnson, Sara Sennet and herself.

In her letter to the labor council, Johnson said the letter should have been directed against the appropriate parties.

I am not surprised at your letter as current board members of RVTD seem to operate on the basis of lies and threats to taxpayers who ask them to account for their behavior and spending of taxpayer's dollars rather than honest open answers, the letter said.

Dennis Heil, in-house corporate counsel for InTransit, was surprised that his company was still listed as owners of the Lear Way parcel. I really don't think that that's accurate, he said.

Heil says he believes the labor council will place his company on the unfair list regardless of what we do or might say.

In conversations with other affected companies in the state, Heil said that getting on the list has had no noticeable impact on business.

InTransit, which brokers loads for the trucking industry, doesn't do any business with RVTD, according to Heil.

This is Gwen Johnson's fight, not InTransit's, he said.

The letter to InTransit is the latest attempt to protect union interests since many of RVTD employees are in the Amalgamated Transit Union, according to Alexander.

In August, the union asked the Oregon Secretary of State's Office to investigate, among other complaints, mismanagement at RVTD over failure to receive a performance bond for a software program, resulting in the loss of &

36;350,000.

There should be an investigation by the state of Oregon, rather than everybody running off in different directions, said Alexander.

Brian Wilson, an auditor with the Secretary of State's office, said a meeting will be held Thursday with the Oregon Department of Transportation, which oversees RVTD, to discuss the allegations before determining whether an investigation is warranted.

RVTD board member Wooding said charges made by Johnson that there was a conflict of interest because of her union connection and her seat on the RVTD board were far-fetched.

She also disputes Johnson's claim that RVTD wants to bring Valley Lift, a federally mandated program that provides rides to the disabled, in house at RVTD because it would increase union membership.

Local taxi companies handle the bulk of the ridership for the program.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail